IDF strikes and blockades plunge Gaza into humanitarian catastrophe: Aid deliveries ‘virtually impossible,’ Oxfam warns

Humanitarian efforts in Gaza are crippled by relentless Israeli military strikes and border closures, leaving millions without essential aid.

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Image Credit: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images

The relentless bombing campaign by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the ongoing blockade have pushed Gaza into a dire humanitarian crisis, making the delivery of essential aid “virtually impossible,” according to a statement from Oxfam International. The humanitarian organization highlighted the catastrophic impact of these actions, which have severely hindered efforts to provide food, medicine, and other critical assistance to the besieged population of Gaza.

Two-thirds of Gaza’s population, approximately 1.7 million people, are now crammed into less than a fifth of the occupied enclave. These areas often have little to no access to the limited humanitarian aid that Israel has allowed to enter in recent months. The situation has been exacerbated by the closure of key border crossings and continued military assaults.

Recent figures from the United Nations indicate that the amount of aid entering Gaza has dropped by 67% since Israeli forces launched their ground assault on Rafah last month. More than a million people have fled Rafah since early May, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The World Food Program (WFP) reported on social media that families displaced from Rafah are now in areas with insufficient clean water, medical supplies, fuel, and limited food assistance. The WFP has been forced to provide reduced rations to ensure that aid reaches as many Gazans as possible.

Oxfam’s statement on Tuesday painted a grim picture of the challenges faced by aid organizations operating in Gaza. “A lethal combination of closed border crossings, ongoing airstrikes, reduced logistical capacity due to evacuation notices, and a failing Israeli permission process that debilitates humanitarian movement within Gaza have created an impossible environment for aid agencies to operate effectively,” the organization said.

The closure of Rafah’s border crossing with Egypt, a critical entry point for humanitarian aid, nearly a month ago has further hampered efforts to prevent famine conditions from spreading. Oxfam noted that “Kerem Shalom is the only crossing that thousands of humanitarian aid trucks queued at Rafah could be rerouted to use, but inside is an active combat zone and extremely dangerous.”

“Despite Israeli assurances that full support would be provided for people fleeing, most of Gaza has been deprived of humanitarian aid as famine inches closer,” Oxfam added. “Last week, Israeli attacks killed dozens of civilians in tents in areas it had declared ‘safe zones.'”

The impacts of Israel’s massive bombing campaign, ground attacks, and blockade on Gaza’s population have been catastrophic. More than 36,500 people have been killed, and the territory is facing a nightmarish humanitarian crisis. Oxfam pointed to recent survey findings showing that 85% of Gaza children included in the study “did not eat for a whole day at least once in the three days” before the survey began. Living conditions are so appalling that in Al-Mawasi, there are just 121 latrines for over 500,000 people—forcing 4,130 people to share each toilet. Only 19% of the 400,000 liters of fuel needed daily for humanitarian operations in Gaza is being allowed in, and it is not delivered every day.

Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam’s Middle East and North Africa director, warned that “by the time a famine is declared, it will be too late.” She added, “When hunger claims many more lives, nobody will be able to deny the horrifying impact of Israel’s deliberate, illegal, and cruel obstruction of aid. Israel claimed weeks ago that they would provide full humanitarian support and medical assistance to civilians it had told to move. Not only is this not happening, its ongoing impunity, bombardment, and deliberate obstruction have created unprecedented and impossibly dangerous conditions for humanitarian agencies to operate.”

An Oxfam staffer currently in Al-Mawasi—the area to which Israel ordered Rafah residents to flee—described the unbearable conditions. “There is no access to clean water, people are forced to rely on the sea,” said the staffer, identified as Meera. “These people deserve so much better. Children should be in school, not worrying about how to support their families. Babies should be sleeping in warm beds, not exposed to insects.”

The Guardian reported that at least 30 child deaths from malnutrition have been recorded in Gaza in recent months. Two Palestinian children died of starvation at a hospital in central Gaza last week, according to the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, condemned the situation and called for immediate action. “Despite the Biden administration’s long-awaited expression of support for a permanent cease-fire, it continues to fund the Israeli government’s daily genocidal war crimes against Palestinians in Rafah and the rest of Gaza,” Hooper said. “The Biden administration must take concrete action to force the Israeli government to stop the slaughter and starvation in Gaza. The genocide must end now, without delay.”

Adding to the humanitarian catastrophe, tens of thousands of Palestinians in dire need of medical evacuation or care are trapped in Gaza. Since May 7, Israel has been blocking all medical evacuations while escalating its bombing and displacement campaign. “Egypt has been hosting a significant number of the patients, but the needs are between a minimum of 7,000 to over 11,000 patients that require evacuation and treatment and support,” said Hanan Balkhy, Eastern Mediterranean regional director for the World Health Organization.

Nearly every hospital in Gaza has been besieged by Israeli forces, ordered to evacuate, or deprived of essential resources. This has left many patients without treatment, including over 10,000 Palestinians with cancer and at least 2,000 with other diseases. Border agents have been blocking Palestinian cancer patients from exiting the region, even if they have obtained permission to do so.

The personal stories emerging from Gaza are heartbreaking. Siraj Yassin, a 10-year-old leukemia patient, cannot receive necessary treatment due to the blockade. “Two weeks ago, I stopped being able to walk. Every day my condition gets worse and I lose something,” Yassin said. “My bones hurt and everything hurts. I wish to leave Gaza so I can receive the treatment and be able to play like I used to.”

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