B’Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights: A humanitarian disaster in Gaza must be averted
Ever since the horrifying war crimes perpetrated by Hamas on Saturday, Israel has been bombing Gaza relentlessly and indiscriminately. Thousands of tons of bombs have been dropped, and residents have nowhere to flee. So far, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 500 teens, children and babies have been killed, as well as more than 276 women and dozens of families; more than 6,600 have been injured; entire neighborhoods have been wiped out, essential infrastructure has been destroyed, and more than 423,000 people have been displaced.
At the same time, Defense Minister Yoav Galant ordered all the crossings hermetically closed and announced that “there will be no electricity, no food, no fuel – nothing.” Infrastructure Minister Israel Katz said Israel would cut off water and electricity supply to the Gaza Strip. Katz said, “Without fuel, local electricity will be shut down within days, and pumping stations within a week.” Rafah Crossing has also shut down after Israel told Egypt it would strike any truck shipping goods through it. To prevent goods entering from the area, Israel bombed a road near the crossing too, and bombed it again after it was repaired.
For several days now, no food, goods, medicine, medical equipment, fuel and diesel have entered the Gaza Strip. The results are already seen on the ground. Gaza residents are completely dependent on supplies from the outside world, and a shortage of foodstuffs is starting to be felt and expected to grow worse within days. If Israel realizes its plan for a ground invasion, as the media reports, the situation will immediately deteriorate exponentially.
Gaza’s power plant has stopped operating, and residents now get power for only three to four hours a day. Desalination plants, water pumps and sewage treatment plants, all of which depend on electricity, have also been shut down, and residents have also lost access to potable water.
Hospitals are on the brink of collapse due to the large number of wounded. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, medicines and surgical equipment supplies will last for only two more weeks. After that, it will no longer be possible to provide medical care for the wounded and the sick. Diesel for generators is expected to last no longer than a week, at which point, hospitals will no longer have power. The lack of electricity is expected to affect care for 1,100 dialysis patients and 100 premature babies, as well as 58 laboratories and the blood bank. On top of that, if the refrigerators currently used to store hundreds of bodies stop working, there is a danger of diseases and serious harm to public health.
Two million people live in Gaza. Not “human animals,” as Minister Gallant cursed, not “a nation of murderers and butchers of children,” as Minister Katz incited. The desire to take revenge on everyone, to starve them, deprive them of drinking water, keep them in darkness, reflects a criminal policy that defies international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crime: It is forbidden to deny a civilian population basic humanitarian aid and medical treatment. It is forbidden to cut it off from infrastructure critical for its survival.
The terrible pain over the atrocities committed by Hamas on Saturday, which continue to be exposed every day, cannot justify such harm to the civilian population. Two million people will not be able to survive in such circumstances, and a humanitarian crisis, entirely human-made, is at the door.
It can still be prevented.