Why is Israel against refugees

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is coming to a head

The Israeli Air Force sometimes sends out warnings when it bombs targets in Gaza so that civilians can protect themselves in good time. But when the army attacked a Hamas tunnel network last Friday, this was not possible, said a spokesman for the IDF. Because it was a "city under the city" - large parts of it under residential areas.

The Islamic terrorist organization Hamas, which has politically controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, consciously interweaves its structures with civilian institutions - probably also to drive up the price of Israeli attacks. Most of the 2,000 or so rockets that fell on Israel since Monday were also fired from residential areas in the Gaza Strip. So there can be little doubt that Hamas will accept great suffering from the retaliatory attacks on its own civilian population.

Ten thousand people on the run

As in the previous violent clashes between Israel and Palestine, the situation for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip has deteriorated again this week: According to UN figures, around 10,000 people have already left their homes for fear of an imminent Israeli ground offensive.

What distinguishes the refugees in the Gaza Strip from those in all other conflict regions of the world: A border fence blocks the escape route, so that there is no escape from the 360 ​​square kilometer area without a permit from Israel or its southern neighbor Egypt.

16 schools of the UN relief agency UNRWA, which is responsible for the Palestinian territories, were also converted into emergency shelters without further ado. First of all, the task is to support the local people, said the UNRWA director responsible for Gaza, Matthias Schmale. "We will do what we can to give the internally displaced people the support they need," Schmale told DW.

Eight dead children from one family

Around 140 people have been killed and 1,000 injured in the Gaza Strip since the Israeli air strikes began. According to Palestinian aid workers, ten members of a single extended family died early on Saturday morning in the attack on a house in the Shati refugee camp - including eight children.

"They carried no weapons, they did not fire any rockets," said the father of four of the children. They were killed "while they were wearing their festive clothes for Eid al-Fitr," the sugar festival with which Muslims celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

According to the UN children's aid organization UNICEF, a total of 40 children have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Monday; another two in Israel.

Many goods are in short supply

The attacks also make the work of aid organizations, on which large sections of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip depend, more difficult: According to a list by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) from 2019, 75 percent of the 1.6 million inhabitants were dependent on food supplies at the time , every third standard drug was not available.

Electricity and drinking water are permanently scarce goods. And because the border crossings have been completely closed on the Israeli side since May 10, no more fuel deliveries are arriving at the moment. Diesel is already in short supply - which is urgently needed, for example, for ambulances, but also for the operation of electricity generators.

At least the supply of basic food seems to be sufficient, UNRWA-Gaza director Matthias Schmale told DW (video above): He fears that this could change "if people flee their homes and find shelter or with relatives . " Water could also quickly become a scarce commodity.

Apart from acute care, after 14 years of blockade, the 2018/19 border protests and the corona pandemic, the need for psychological help will also grow: "We must not lose sight of that. When thousands find shelter in emergency accommodation, it becomes more gender-specific Violence comes and pressure is exerted on children. So we have to think about it and look at people's mental health. "

Second corona wave is only just subsiding

To make matters worse, there is also the latent threat from Corona for the population: Variant B.1.1.7, which first appeared in England, had led to a second wave in the Gaza Strip. Vaccinations have also started in the Gaza Strip - but while 62 percent of the population in Israel have already received at least one dose, the vaccination quota in the Palestinian territories is just five percent.

Corona is also not over for the people in the Gaza Strip

According to the organization Doctors Without Borders, in early May more than 60 percent of active cases in the Palestinian Territories were in the Gaza Strip - which is smaller and has fewer inhabitants than the West Bank. In the meantime, there were more than 1,000 newly infected people per day - and a correspondingly high occupancy rate in the hospitals.

So the new military escalation closely followed signs that the second wave might have broken. "It began to become manageable," says Matthias Schmale about the situation in the hospitals. "As far as I know, they can take care of the injured. But of course, if this continues and there is a ground offensive, the hospitals will very quickly reach their capacity limits and that would be a serious humanitarian problem."