Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Gaza war deepens protracted humanitarian crisis

CITY OF GAZA – The nine-day battle between Hamas militants and the Israeli army damaged 17 hospitals and clinics in Gaza, destroyed its only coronavirus test laboratory, sent greasy wastewater into its streets and broke water pipes serving at least 800,000 people, and ‘ a humanitarian crisis affecting almost every citizen in the overcrowded enclave of about two million people.

Sewage systems inside Gaza have been destroyed. A desalination plant that helped supply fresh water to 250,000 people in the area is offline. Dozens of schools were damaged or closed, forcing 600,000 students to miss classes. Some 72,000 Gazans have been forced to flee their homes. And at least 213 Palestinians were killed, including dozens of children.

The level of destruction and loss of life in Gaza underscored the humanitarian challenge in the enclave, which had suffered even before the latest conflict under the weight of an indefinite blockade by Israel and Egypt.

As the crisis deepened, there were increasing international demands for a ceasefire on Tuesday.

President Biden, who has publicly supported Israel’s right to defend himself, has privately warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he can no longer deter the growing pressure from the international community and American politicians, according to two people familiar with the matter. with the call. The private message indicates a time limit on the ability of Mr. Pray to provide diplomatic coverage for Israel’s actions.

And all but one member of the European Union, Hungary, called for an immediate ceasefire in an emergency meeting on Tuesday. They support a statement condemning Hamas rocket attacks and supporting Israel’s right to self-defense, but also warn that it ‘must be done in a proportionate manner and respect international humanitarian law’, according to Josep Borrell, head of foreign policy at the block. Fontelles.

Israel and Hamas have been embroiled in ceasefire talks mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, but no progress has been reported on Tuesday as Israeli planes continue to hit missiles in Gaza, and Hamas and its Islamic affiliates have fired rockets into Israel. has.

At least 12 Israeli residents were killed in the conflict; the last were two Thai civilians who were hit by a rocket attack on a food packaging site on Tuesday afternoon, Israeli police said.

Within Israel and the Occupied Territories, Palestinians held one of the largest collective protests in memory. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians began a general strike in Gaza, the West Bank and within Israel, protesting against the war in Gaza, the Israeli occupation, discrimination and violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem.

The protests began peacefully, but led to clashes in some places in the West Bank. Outside Ramallah, a group of Palestinians who had gathered separately from the protesters opened fire on a large doorway and later exchanged gunfire with Israeli soldiers. Three Palestinians are dead.

Rockets fired by Palestinian militants also damaged Israeli infrastructure, damaged a gas pipeline and disrupted operations at a gas installation and at two major Israeli airports.

But the damage was incomparable to that in Gaza.

Until Monday night, the Al Rimal Health Clinic in central Gaza City housed the only coronavirus laboratory in Gaza. Doctors and nurses there administered hundreds of vaccinations, prescriptions and screenings daily to more than 3,000 patients.

But on Monday night, an Israeli airstrike hit the street outside, sending grenades to the clinic, smashing windows, smashing doors, furniture and computers, smashing rooms into rubble and destroying the virus lab.

Vaccinations were canceled and doctor appointments were postponed. The pharmacy was closed and the delivery of medicine was interrupted.

More than 1,000 Gazans were wounded in the Israeli offensive, so the damage to hospitals and clinics was particularly dangerous.

“In times of war, people need more treatment than usual,” Mohammed Abu Samaan, a senior administrator at the clinic, said on Tuesday. “Now we can not give people medicine.”

The humanitarian situation in Gaza was dire before the war. Unemployment was about 50 percent. The Israeli and Egyptian governments control what comes in and out of the strip, as well as most of its electricity and fuel. Israel also controls Gaza’s birth register, airspace, maritime access and cellular data, and restricts Palestinian access to agricultural land outside the strip’s perimeter.

A spokesman for the Israeli army, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, did not deny that Israel’s airstrikes damaged civilian infrastructure, but he said that Israeli military leaders had done their best to avoid it.

“Obviously, yes, healthcare facilities, mosques, schools, water facilities and the like are marked in our system as sensitive infrastructure that should not be targeted and affected by our fire,” he said. “Of course we take precautions.”

The high civilian death toll and damage to civilian infrastructure have raised questions about Israel’s compliance with international war laws, which obstructs the target of purely civilian areas and limits acceptable collateral damage to what is in proportion to any military advantage.

However, William Schabas, an international law professor and former chairman of a United Nations commission that investigated allegations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza in 2014, said: “Proportionality is a subjective concept.”

Hamas fighters operate from an extensive network of tunnels under Gaza. While Israeli warplanes drop bombs aimed at destroying that network, it is the people who are captured who suffer the most disastrous losses.

Legal experts believe that Hamas, which has fired more than 3,000 rockets at Israeli cities and towns, is committing war crimes, although its weapons are far less effective and their toll is much lower.

In southern Israel, schools within the scope of the Hamas rocket fire were closed and many families left the border areas. The constant howling of sirens warning of the incoming rocket fire punctures daily life in Israel, especially in the south, causing Israelites to repeatedly run to shelters.

But the Hamas attacks also contribute to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

When a convoy of 24 trucks with much-needed international aid from Israel tried to enter Gaza, they shot Palestinian militant officials under mortar, according to Tuesday. Only five of the trucks came through the intersection before the rest were turned back.

The trucks contain medical equipment, animal feed and fuel tanks for use by international organizations in Gaza, Israeli officials said.

Since 2007, Hamas has had three major conflicts with Israel and several smaller skirmishes. After each outbreak of violence, Gaza’s infrastructure was destroyed.

The wars and the blockade, according to a report by the United Nations last year, has left Gaza with ‘the world’s highest unemployment rate’ and more than half of its population lives below the poverty line.

According to Gaza’s housing ministry, Israeli bombs destroyed 132 residential buildings and made 316 residential units uninhabitable by Monday.

One airstrike essentially destroyed the Hala al Shawa clinic in northern Gaza, which also provides primary health care services and vaccinations, while another damaged four ambulances in the area, the Ministry of Health said.

The blast of a third air strike broke windows in operating rooms and forced the clinic to transfer surgery patients to other hospitals, said Abdelsalam Sabah, the hospital’s director. A separate air strike has caused structural damage to the nearby Indonesian hospital, he added. A piece of shrapnel flew to the emergency room in the Gaza eye hospital and nearly wounded a nurse.

The strike at the Al Rimal Clinic in the city of Gaza also damaged the administrative offices of the Hamas-run health ministry, Dr. Majdi Dhair, director of the department of preventive medicine, said.

One ministry employee was admitted to hospital and in a serious condition after shrapnel hit him in the head, Dr. Dhair said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“This attack was barbaric,” he said. “There is no way to justify it.”

Reporting was contributed by Patrick Kingsley and Myra Noveck from Jerusalem; Gabby Sobelman of Rehovot, Israel; and Irit Pazner Garshowitz of Tzur Hadassah.

Gaza war deepens protracted humanitarian crisis
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