We are distressed by the rapidly spiraling situation in the Gaza Strip, where more than two million people are trapped as Israeli airstrikes continue to flatten the territory. In retaliation to the deadly attack that Hamas launched on October 7 – in which 1,400 people were killed, per Tuesday’s tally, and many taken hostage – the Israeli government has placed the Palestinian enclave under full siege and has been bombarding it every day in an act of war. So far, more than 2,800 people have been killed in Gaza, with thousands more injured. It is feared that at least 1,000 Palestinians are trapped under the rubble of buildings demolished by Israeli bombing. People have been killed in the occupied West Bank, too.
With food, water and fuel supplies cut off for more than a week due to the siege, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Gaza where people are on the brink of starvation and dehydration. The Israel Defense Forces claims it is “concerned” about the situation, but there is no sign of a ceasefire or the opening of the Rafah crossing at the Gaza-Egypt border for transporting humanitarian aid to the besieged civilians, as all diplomatic efforts to that end have failed so far. While humanitarian workers wait at the border with life-saving aid, people on the Palestinian side continue to languish in despair – with “no food, no water, no electricity, no internet. I feel like I’m losing humanity,” as a 55-year-old Palestinian woman described her experience.
Israel, we must say, has broken international laws by putting the entire population of Gaza under siege in the name of self-defence. Israel’s right to self-defence doesn’t justify its barbaric persecution of innocent Palestinians. It is evident that the Israeli government is subjecting Gaza residents to collective punishment, which is in complete violation of the Geneva Convention.
With an Israeli ground offensive looming, the situation will only get worse if the international community, especially Israel’s long-standing allies, don’t play a more proactive role to protect the Palestinian civilians. We hope that the US president, who is scheduled for a visit to Israel on Wednesday, will remind it of the equal value and dignity of Palestinian lives. World leaders must do everything to spare them from what Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to be a “mighty vengeance” against Hamas. Palestinians deserve the same sympathy, on the same scale, and with the same vigour, as any other persecuted people in the world.