'Sustainable aid' urgently needed in Gaza as Israel keeps blocking critical supplies

Dina Samak , Sunday 22 Oct 2023

During the Cairo Summit held on Saturday, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi emphasized his call for a sustainable opening of the Rafah crossing, a lifeline for humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza. On the other side of the border, the Palestinians demand aid, with no strings attached.

Gaza
Workers from the Palestinian Red Crescent unload lorries carrying humanitarian aid after they entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt via the Rafah border crossing on October 21, 2023. AFP

 

A convoy, delayed for nearly two weeks, finally arrived in Gaza on Saturday, bearing a glimmer of hope amidst the relentless chaos. However, the contents of this convoy left much to be desired despite bringing water, food, medicine, and medical supplies.

UNICEF said it contributed 44,000 bottles of drinking water, proclaimed to be "just enough" for 22,000 people for a single day. A staggering figure, yet only a mere drop in the parched desert that is Gaza's current reality. Water production in the Strip is a mere shadow of its former self, operating at a mere five percent of capacity, condemning 2.3 million residents to exist on just three liters of water daily.

The World Health Organization chimed in with a bleak assessment, warning that the aid received over the weekend would "barely begin to address the escalating health needs" in Gaza.

“20 trucks of aid is nowhere near enough. The blockade of Gaza means people are running out of food, water, and fuel. People are facing intolerable suffering and need aid. Demand a ceasefire, now.” Oxfam International wrote on X.

This pitiful volume of assistance merely scratches the surface of the medical catastrophe unfolding within the Strip, but what is conspicuously missing is fuel, which is crucial to keep generators humming in Gaza's hospitals, where the wounded and critically ill await care.

Nebal Farsakh, a spokeswoman for the Palestine Red Crescent Society, underscored the dire need for fuel, declaring it "crucial to allow the fuel to get in as soon as possible", because many hospitals will not be able to function within the coming days.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says that the fuel in Al-Shifa hospital will only last another 24 hours at most. Al-Shifa is the main hospital in Gaza, and it now hosts thousands of people who went there looking for protection from the constant bombing.

“Without electricity, many patients will die – especially those in intensive care, neonatology, and on respiratory support machines.” Guillemette Thomas, MSF medical coordinator for Palestine warns.

Fuel, oxygen, and many medical supplies are withheld, at a time when seven hospitals, along with 25 health centres in Gaza, have shuttered their doors due to the shortage of fuel, accentuating the dire healthcare crisis. Even as medical facilities struggle to stay operational, the Israelis persist in their threats to bomb hospitals demanding their swift evacuation, and thus worsening an already grim situation.

But what is more alarming is the active obstruction by Israel.

Israeli officials are offering a perspective that sharply contrasts with the dire humanitarian situation on the ground.

As trucks passed through, an Israeli security official seized the moment to inform reporters that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. There are hardships in moving people within days to the south of the Gaza Strip, but the population is getting along"!

The official continued to assert, "There is no shortage of water in Gaza, there is enough food for the coming weeks, this is in addition to the supply of medicines which, as far as we know, there is no shortage in the hospitals."

Israeli army spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari went as far as saying “Fuel will not enter Gaza." Israel justifies its stubborn refusal to allow fuel into Gaza on the pretext that the fuel could fall into the hands of "terrorist groups" who could use it to produce weapons.

Israel’s claims about the humanitarian situation in Gaza directly contradict reports of acute water scarcity, dwindling food supplies, and a healthcare system teetering on the brink.

Conversations with UN officials reveal the stark limitations on humanitarian deliveries, with no relief convoy on the horizon, despite the escalating urgency. The next glimpse of hope, in the form of a UN consignment, is expected on Monday.

The landscape of uncertainties surrounding the situation is nothing short of bewildering. Despite the supposed deal brokered by Joe Biden, the specifics remain hazy, and no clear mechanisms are clear.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on all parties involved to keep the Rafah crossing open for the continuous flow of essential aid, according to a statement.

Blinken says the reopening of Rafah crossing followed days of “exhaustive” diplomatic engagements by the US with Israel and Egypt, and he called on the sides to do their part to keep Rafah open so that more aid can get into Gaza.

“Hamas must not interfere with the provision of this life-saving assistance,” Blinken says. “Palestinian civilians are not responsible for Hamas’s horrific terrorism, and they should not be made to suffer for its depraved acts.”

There are no guarantees that Israel will not find any excuse to stop the flow of aid to Gaza; aid that has just started to drip.

The United Nations is embroiled in negotiations over verification procedures for aid shipments, seeking to appease Israeli concerns about potential weapons or contraband.

Israel clings to the notion that it must scrutinize aid cargo itself. This goes against the international community's preference for neutral parties, such as United Nations staff, to oversee inspections and prevent the politicization of aid distribution.

Gaza's current predicament is not merely a crisis, but an impending catastrophe. The aid trickling into the region is woefully insufficient to address the mounting healthcare and basic needs of its inhabitants. Diplomatic negotiations continue, but time is running out for the people of Gaza.

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