After Hamas terrorists slaughtered 1,400 Israelis and kidnapped more than 220 civilians held as hostages on Oct. 7, Israel’s military responded with wave after wave of missile and bombing attacks on Gaza. The Palestinian health ministry reports that as of Oct. 24 more than 5,791 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli bombs since Oct. 7, including 2,360 children.
With Israel’s blockade of food, water, medical supplies, fuel and electricity into Gaza, international aid agencies report that 2.3 million Palestinians are now suffering through a humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished territory, one of the most densely populated places in the world. Although several dozen aid trucks have been permitted to enter Gaza with emergency supplies in recent days, aid organizations complain it’s wholly inadequate.
The Biden administration has thus far resisted worldwide calls for a ceasefire and de-escalation of the war, vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution on Oct. 18 that condemned all violence against civilians in the conflict and urged humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Zeiad Shamrouch, executive director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, whose organization has helped to provide Gaza’s residents with potable drinking water over the last 14 years. Here he describes the humanitarian crisis people in Gaza now are facing and what can and must be done to alleviate their suffering.
ZEIAD SHAMROUCH: Every day they speak about this day as the worst day. And later on the second day, we find out the day before it was easier than the new day because the amount of houses bombed. The amount of numbers that the people that are killed and injured or people that already left left their homes, evacuated. And according to what’s going on in the hospitals in the Gaza Strip, too — so even if the people stay, this is the worst day. And they speak about that in the detail that they are missing the basic needs. No water. Can you imagine people living without water, especially with families without water and children without water.
For example, my colleague Wafa, she’s living in the Nuseirat refugee camp. Her house, it’s usually there are like five to six people in this house right now, over 60 people in her house, most of them children. And they decided, We are not going to leave our house. So they opened the door and they welcomed people that left from northern Gaza. They are living with them. They were seeking a secure place and in fact, actually there is no secure place in Gaza because these people, even they were evacuated. And according to United Nation, 1.4 million, more than half of the people in Gaza Strip already left their houses and most of their houses actually destroyed. And they are living in shelters and United Nations or with their relatives, families, friends, etc.
I know in your introduction you say the war between Hamas and Israel, but in fact the people in Gaza, they said, “Oh, this kind of attack is not on Hamas. It’s on Palestinian people.” And they describe it as a genocidal attack because they are targeting people. They are in their homes or people in their road leaving their houses.
Even the people that reached the south area for secure places they thought, they reached them and they killed them. And many families, you have over 500 families already erased where the father and the mother and the children killed. And in some cases the parents, the grandparents and the children, all of them. And you spoke of 5,000 people. Over 5,000 people, they were killed. But actually there is more than 1500 people reported missed. And the people they think they are already killed. They are under the rubble of their homes after it was destroyed. So the number, actually, it’s not accurate in any case. The only way to find the accurate numbers is after the ceasefire and the people, they’ll be able to reach the houses and find these bodies.
SCOTT HARRIS: Zeiad, Israel’s government has announced that a ground invasion is imminent. What are your concerns about how an Israeli ground defensive into Gaza — their stated goal being to destroy Hamas’ leadership and military capacity — how in your view, will this impact an already dire situation for Gaza’s civilian population?
ZEIAD SHAMROUCH: It means for me as a person, as a Palestinian or as an organization, to try to help the people. This will complicate more the services. It means that more people will die. We speak about 15,000 people injured, more than 15,000 people injured. There is a danger on them because the ground troops, when they enter, it’ll be impossible for all the relief teams or medical teams to do their jobs. It means that these numbers will increase more and more and we’ll find ourself in tens of thousands of victims killed in Gaza Strip. What we are asking, what we are calling all the international human rights and all the relief, we need a ceasefire right now at least to be able to support the people to survive, these children who are injured to make it to survive. If the ground troops will go in, this is something the catastrophe will be doubled, tripled and maybe more in the future.
And who knows what will happen. It’s hard to predict what will happen there. But I know for organization like us, we are worried about our staff and our partners. And every day, even when they go do the distribution, take the streets, try to help — after the ground troops, it’ll be very hard to do any kind of work. It’ll be very hard. This is another disaster coming and it’ll be doubled or tripled on the head of the people of Gaza Strip. And this is happening in front of all the world. This is the sad part. Even you have governments that support that. And this is the sad part. I know that a solidarity movement is expanding with the Palestinian people, but this is the most dangerous thing that could happen in the front of us in 2023.
For more information, visit Middle East Children’s Alliance at mecaforpeace.org.
Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Zeiad Shamrouch (25:19) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.
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