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This Week in Gaza: Escalated Despair, Devastation and Disease

Driven to Seek Shelter AGAIN, “Feels Like a Death Sentence”

On July 2, the Times of Israel told its readers that “Some 1.9 million Palestinians of the 2.3 million Gazan population are currently in the Israeli-designated humanitarian zone—located in the al-Mawasi area on the Strip’s coast, in western neighborhoods of Khan Younis, and in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah.”

“Israeli-designated humanitarian zone” is a euphemism (a “nice”—or rather, “sanitized”—way to say something) for driving people to an overcrowded camp where they will find only disease, starvation, despair, and death. Nine out of ten people in Gaza have been driven from their homes by Israeli bombs, missiles and tanks. First, over a million were driven out of Gaza City, forced to flee to the south of Gaza. Then people were forced to flee to Rafah at the very south on the Egyptian border. Then a million refugees were driven out of Rafah—many going to Khan Younis. And now Israel is pummeling Khan Younis and people are forced to flee from there.

Map showing Gaza, and border crossing points into Egypt.


(click to expand)   

On the same day of the bullshit claim by Israel that there was an “Israeli-designated humanitarian zone,” July 2, Sam Rose, planning director at the UN relief agency (UNRWA), said for those recently ordered once again to relocate, it was “yet another day, week, chapter of misery.”

Rose said that for the 250,000 people now driven to join over a million people packed into al-Mawasi, there is no space to pitch a tent, no water, no infrastructure, no sanitary services. People cannot survive without shelter or water, and the situation is extreme in the blazing hot Middle Eastern summer. Without sanitary services, with nothing approaching bathrooms, diseases will spread like wildfire among exhausted, starving people packed together. 

And the emotional toll is devastating. Sigrid Kaag, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Gaza said “Palestinian civilians in Gaza have been plunged into an abyss of suffering. Their home lives shattered, their lives upended. The war has not merely created the most profound of humanitarian crises. It has unleashed a maelstrom [literally a terrible, violent whirlpool] of human misery.” 

An Al Jazeera reporter in Gaza wrote that “people have lost hope and the sense of being responsive to these evacuation orders.” And that the orders feel like a “death sentence for people” as they are “herded from one place to another and only end up being killed.”

Israel Forces European Gaza Hospital to Close

On 1 July, as Israel ordered the evacuation of areas in Khan Younis near the European Gaza Hospital, the staff and patients were forced to evacuate. Some patients were able to be taken in ambulances from the European Gaza Hospital to Nasser Hospital, but many, including people sheltering in the hospital, as well as severely wounded and sick people, were forced to walk over six miles. 

The situation at the European Gaza Hospital before the evacuation was desperate, as described to by Dr. Majed Jaber. And Nasser Hospital is on the verge of collapse as Israel has  limited fuel needed to run generators (Israel has destroyed Gaza’s regular electric grid). Patients at the hospital and those in surrounding field hospitals that aid agencies have set up near concentrations of refugees are at risk of losing lifesaving care, as Nasser Hospital serves as a hub for these.

On July 3, Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials MSF) reported that Israel stopped it from bringing in trucks with desperately needed medical supplies.

Dangerous Skin Diseases Spreading Among Children

More than 150,000 people have contracted skin infections in the densely packed, unsanitary conditions in the places people have been driven into by Israel. Children in packed, hot tents are tormented by skin infections, ranging from scabies to chicken pox, lice, impetigo (painful, reddish skin sores) and other debilitating rashes. 

The mother of a five-year-old told Al Jazeera, “We sleep on the ground, on sand where worms come out underneath us.” There are no sources of clean water to wash, or medicine to treat skin diseases. The al-Mawasi area where Israel has forced most of the population of Gaza to flee to is along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and parents used to send their children to bathe in the salt water there. But now, with so many people forced into an area with no waste disposal structure, the sea is so choked with sewage that bathing there spreads disease.

On June 21, Doctors Without Borders/MSF reported seeing “a surge of patients with skin diseases, such as scabies, over the past month, while our stocks of drugs to treat them are running dangerously low.” 

That is not because those drugs are unavailable. Even with all the horrific conditions Israel has imposed, treatment for skin diseases could be reaching al-Mawasi and other areas in Gaza but Israel is preventing that! Doctors Without Borders reported in late June that they have 37 tons of medical supplies sitting at the border of Gaza where Israel has closed off entry of supplies from Egypt, and another 1,200 trucks waiting to enter Gaza. But, MSF declared, “Our medical supplies are critically low due to the limited flow of aid that is being allowed into Gaza by the Israeli authorities. If we don’t manage to get medical supplies into Gaza very soon, we may have to stop our medical activities. This is an unthinkable reality given the desperate medical needs of thousands of people in Gaza.”

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