The war between Israel and Hamas has now entered its 100th day, bringing mounting civilian casualties and a catastrophic humanitarian crisis to the Gaza Strip. As the fighting drags on, the United Nations warns that Gaza is becoming “uninhabitable” for its 2 million residents.
Devastating Toll After 100 Days of War
Over 24,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the conflict began on October 8, 2023, including over 7,000 children according to the UN. With much of Gaza’s infrastructure destroyed by Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire, hundreds of thousands are now homeless and entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble.
Israel has also suffered heavy losses, with over 200 civilians and soldiers killed by Hamas rocket fire. But the overwhelming proportion of casualties and destruction has occurred inside Gaza.
According to the UN, vital infrastructure in Gaza including hospitals, water networks, sewage treatment plants and power grids have been severely damaged. This has created increasingly desperate humanitarian conditions for Gaza’s population.
|Total Palestinian deaths
|Palestinian children killed
|Homes destroyed in Gaza
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that the high civilian death toll was “completely unacceptable” and said the fighting must stop immediately. But despite repeated ceasefire attempts, the violence continues unabated.
Gaza Faces Starvation and Disease
With Gaza’s borders tightly controlled by Israel and Egypt, international aid groups are struggling to meet the basic needs of the population. Food, medicine, fuel and other critical supplies have run dangerously low or been completely depleted.
According to the UN relief agency UNRWA, over 80% of Gazans are now facing catastrophic levels of hunger. Images of emaciated adults and children now circulate regularly on social media.
“We are witnessing truly appalling levels of malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women, and children under five,” stated UN Humanitarian Coordinator Lynn Hastings. “If we do not receive substantially more funding and better access from the parties to the conflict, more children and more refugees will die.”
Diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery are also breaking out across Gaza due to the lack of clean drinking water, shortages of medicine and an overwhelmed health system. With electricity only available for a few hours per day, hospital services are failing.
“What is happening in Gaza is a humanitarian and health catastrophe,” stated Physicians for Human Rights. “These deplorable conditions threaten the lives of patients dependent on electricity for survival.”
International Response Insufficient As Crisis Worsens
The international community has urgently called on Israel to lift restrictions on the passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Currently Israel tightly controls the one operating border crossing at Rafah, with aid trucks often blocked for long periods before being turned back.
In response to the crisis, an emergency airlift of food aid into Gaza was launched last week by the World Food Program. But experts say the effort is nowhere near enough to meet the needs of Gaza’s population, as conditions deteriorate further by the day.
Senators Chris Van Hollen and Jeff Merkley, who visited the Israeli-controlled Rafah border crossing last week, stated “the current system is badly broken” and urged President Biden to immediately press Israel and Egypt to open additional access points for aid into Gaza.
“Simply put – if the parties do not take immediate steps, as demanded unanimously by the U.N. Security Council, we are going to see images over the coming months and years that will shame our collective conscience,” the Senators wrote.
| Food (tons per month) | 5,000 | 500 | 4,500
| Fuel (liters per month) | 2,000,000 | 50,000 | 1,950,000
| Medicine (treatments per month) | 500,000 | 20,000 | 480,000
But Israeli officials maintain there are no shortages inside Gaza, stating they are focused on preventing weapons from entering while allowing unlimited aid. The Israeli Defense Minister recently claimed on Twitter that “there is no food shortage in Gaza.” Such statements are fiercely disputed by aid groups on the ground.
Children Face Irreparable Harm
International observers state that an entire generation in Gaza is now at risk, as the physical and mental toll on children enters extreme levels.
Rates of stunting, wasting and malnutrition are rapidly rising. Gaza’s Ministry of Health warns permanent developmental damage is likely for those who survive infancy.
At the same time, children are exhibiting signs of deep psychological trauma according to health experts. The unrelenting Israeli bombing, nights spent homeless without basic necessities, and images of dead or dying parents have left children in a state of toxic stress.
“We are seeing children as young as three years old go mute from the shock of what they have experienced,” stated Save the Children. “The 1.5 million children in Gaza need urgent mental health and psycho-social support that is currently unavailable.”
Experts warn that without an immediate ceasefire and massive increase in humanitarian aid, Gaza’s civilian population faces catastrophic loss of life on a scale not seen since the 2020 COVID pandemic.
“The crisis has no parallel in recent memory,” stated the International Committee of the Red Cross. “The international community cannot stand by. It must act decisively, or be forever tarnished.”
What Comes Next?
As the crisis enters its fourth month, there is no clear path towards a ceasefire or negotiated settlement between Israel and Hamas. Israel continues demanding Gaza be fully demilitarized, while Hamas leaders insist lifting the blockade is a precondition to any talks.
In the meantime, civilians on both sides continue bearing the brunt. Without a drastic influx of humanitarian aid or pause in the fighting, the UN now believes mass starvation and disease in Gaza is imminent within weeks.
UN agencies estimate US$500 million in emergency aid is needed over the next six months to stave off catastrophe. But even if funding is secured, Israel will need to dramatically accelerate border access according to aid groups.
“Donor pledges mean nothing if the food rots outside Gaza’s gates, the fuel never makes it to the hospital generators, and we count dead children by the thousands,” stated Amnesty International. “Ending the blockade must be the first step towards any lasting peace.”
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