Gazans starve, aid groups retreat in Israel’s war against Hamas rule

JERUSALEM – There is no drought in northern Gaza. No natural disasters or crop failures. Yet in less than six months of war it had been pushed to the brink of famine, a process that usually takes years to unfold.

“We have never seen widespread famine worsening so quickly before,” Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said last month.

While the enclave fell into starvation, Israel also destroyed Hamas’s de facto state. Israel’s inability to establish an alternative system of civilian rule and its attacks on local grassroots initiatives have led to the breakdown of Gaza’s typically close-knit society, making it almost impossible for aid organizations to operate safely.

This week, Israeli airstrikes further hit international aid efforts killed Seven workers at World Central Kitchen. Israel called the attack “a mistake” and vowed to launch a swift investigation. WCK and at least two other humanitarian organizations have now pause Their actions in Gaza.

The Washington Post spoke with Palestinian businessmen, residents, tribal leaders and aid officials about the deepening security crisis – which leaves Israel with few options to restore order, aid groups unable to protect its workers and desperate families left to fend for themselves A way to make a living.

More than 1 million people face Hunger and starvation reach catastrophic proportions between now and July, according to the world’s leading food emergency agency.Doctors and health officials say the children have start to die Malnutrition.

Israel denies restricting aid flows and downplays the hunger crisis. “There is no hunger; there are challenges in terms of accessibility,” Elad Goren, head of the civil affairs department of COGAT, the Israeli agency that oversees the Palestinian territories, told reporters on March 14. He blamed Hama for the food shortages Sri Lanka has been slow to transfer aid and humanitarian agencies.

After the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on October 7, Israel imposed a full siege on Gaza. Under U.S. pressure, aid groups were allowed to resume work, but cumbersome inspection procedures and chaos on the battlefield have made it impossible to continue. Difficult and dangerous work. On the best days, about 200 trucks enter Gaza, compared with about 500 trucks entering the area every day before the war. On some days in February, truck numbers dropped to single digits.

Getting aid across borders is just the first step. Distributing supplies to those in need has become a bigger challenge.breakdown of civil order accelerated In February, Israel carried out a series of attacks on Gaza police forces. Police stopped escorting aid convoys, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by criminal gangs and increasingly desperate civilians.

“When we talk about the police in the Gaza Strip, the police is Hamas,” said COGAT spokesman Shimon Friedman. “We will not allow Hamas terrorists to protect the convoy.”

Hamas has ruled Gaza for nearly 17 years and controls every aspect of municipal life, from security to garbage collection. The Israeli military said it had “disbanded” 20 of Hamas’s 24 armed battalions; rebuilding a new civilian power system poses completely different challenges.

“Israel’s intensified behavior against the police is part of an effort not to allow Hamas to return as a civilian institution that rules Gaza,” political analyst Mustafa Ibrahim said by phone from Rafah in southern Gaza.

Israel says the final battle of the war will be fought along the Egyptian border in Rafah, home to 1.4 million displaced Palestinians and Gaza’s most important aid crossing.

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“We will find an alternative to Hamas so that the IDF can fulfill its mission,” Defense Minister Yoav Galante vowed before meeting senior officials in Washington last week.

Israel has sidelined and is seeking to eliminate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the East (UNRWA), which has decades of experience distributing food, medicine and basic services to Palestinians in Gaza. Israel accuses UNRWA of conspiring with Hamas and claims that 12 of its employees were involved in the October 7 attack. The United States, UNRWA’s largest donor, suspended funding to the organization in January.

Israel last approved UNRWA to deliver aid to northern Gaza on January 29. On March 24, Israel told the organization that it would be forbidden Organizing any future convoys to the north.

Other aid agencies have also tried to fill the gap, but the prospects of those efforts are now in doubt after Monday’s attack on a WCK convoy in central Gaza. More than 200 tons of aid arriving by sea have returned to Cyprus.

President Biden says: ‘This is not an isolated incident’ explain A strongly worded statement was issued late Tuesday. “Israel is not doing enough to protect aid workers trying to provide desperately needed help to civilians.”

According to the United Nations, at least 196 rescue workers have died on site and at home since October.Israel attacks humanitarian convoy storehouse.

Aid routes have also become deadly flashpoints. February 29, over 100 people killed Thousands of civilians gathered on a truck convoy in Gaza City and Israeli forces opened fire, wounding 700 people, according to Palestinian officials. The Israel Defense Forces said they fired warning shots and attributed most of the deaths to least two weeks later 20 people died While waiting for help. Witnesses said an Israeli helicopter and drone opened fire on the crowd; the Israel Defense Forces blamed Palestinian gunmen at the scene.

By then, a pattern had emerged, according to interviews with northern residents. Word spread that a convoy was coming and hundreds of people would gather around the Kuwait and Nablusi traffic circles, just outside the Israeli checkpoint that separates the north from the south. Those closest to the truck were most likely to grab a bag of flour and most likely to die.

Israeli authorities deny shooting at civilians and say security is the responsibility of organizations providing aid. But at least in some cases, the convoys were arranged by Israel.

The owner of a trucking company involved in the February 29 convoy said COGAT called him asking him to deliver the cargo to northern Gaza. The agency told him it would create a “secure channel” with “multiple distribution points.”

“This doesn’t work when you’re hungry,” he said by phone from Egypt, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize future jobs. “And then disaster struck.”

COGAT declined to comment on the companies it works with.

On March 12, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator James McGoldrick convened a meeting at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to bring together community leaders and organizers to discuss the delivery of food, health and medical support to northern Gaza.

“The idea is to try to involve some of the community leaders and some of the local NGOs that we meet and try to get them to help us facilitate” deliveries, he said.

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McGoldrick said he then met with the Gaza police chief in the north. “I tell them what we’re trying to do and try to get their support to help with safe crowd control.”

It seems to work temporarily. Two shipments made it north after another deadly night in Kuwait Circle, according to witnesses and residents. It is unclear who paid for the aid and oversaw its delivery. Residents reported seeing plainclothes police officers in the area.

Yahya Kafana said: “One of the steps we took after these meetings was that we spoke to some of the families who were organizing gangs, attacking aid convoys and stealing aid, and we agreed with them that there was a need to stop Its members do this.” 60-year-old, northern tribe official. “This has brought about some improvements, but unfortunately the military is still targeting people.”

On March 18, Israeli forces attacked Shifa Hospital for the second time.them Kill Faike MabhuThe Israel Defense Forces said a police officer was involved in military activity. Hamas said it was coordinating and protecting aid deliveries. The Washington Post could not independently confirm his role.

“All of them [police] “They work in a Hamas-led government,” said Bassem Naim, head of Hamas’ political and international relations department. “But not all of them are Hamas.” He could not be reached because of the security situation. Police commented.

Two weeks of fierce fighting around Shifa left Gaza’s largest medical center in ruins. A brief agreement between police and local tribes broke down.

“The situation in Gaza right now is full of security chaos,” Adham Shuheiber, the owner of a trucking company that delivers aid to the north, told The Washington Post by phone from Rafah. “We don’t feel safe while we’re at work.”

Israeli officials have been trying to build relations with Palestinian tribes and businessmen who have clashed with Hamas in the past. But the extent of their coordination is unclear — Israeli authorities will not reveal names and details — and there has been no apparent progress in securing the enclave.

The efforts are part of a broader post-war strategy outlined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, which calls for replacing Hamas with “local entities with management experience.”

Netanyahu has spoken out against the Biden administration’s future plans, which envisage the restoration of a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority, the Ramallah government that was violently ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007.

Abu Salman al-Moghani, chairman of Gaza’s Supreme Tribal Council, told The Washington Post that it was impossible for the tribes to cooperate with the Israelis.

“Israel says it wants these tribes to be an alternative to Hamas, which of course does not satisfy Hamas because the fact is that Hamas is still present on the ground and we cannot claim that we can be an alternative,” he said in Rafah said on the phone.

Without a strategy to ensure aid delivery, humanitarian officials fear the worst is yet to come.

“In the absence of political will, reversing man-made famine in Gaza is a huge challenge,” said UNRWA Director Filipe Lazzarini. release Tuesday X. “Time is not on our side.”

Harb reported from London, and Balousha reported from Amman, Jordan. Susannah George and Sufian Taha in Dubai contributed to this report.

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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