On Monday 9 October 2023, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip. This was in response to an on-the-ground threat by Hamas, the militant group that launched a widespread attack on Israel on Saturday 7 October. Hamas stated that they would execute a civilian hostage every time an airstrike hit Gazans “in their homes without warning.”
Gaza has a population of roughly 2 million people (with sources differing on the exact number) and makes up the Palestinian territory of Israel together with the West Bank. The Israeli military is currently carrying out an intense campaign of airstrikes in the area. Furthermore, Gallant initiated a shutdown of water, electricity and fuel in a territory that is already overcrowded and impoverished.
As a result, hospitals reported that they would soon be unable to function, due to an overflow of patients. Paramedics also noted they would need bulldozers, which they don’t have, to pull more people from the rubble of the air-stricken buildings.
Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a surgeon at Gaza City’s main hospital Al-Shifa told The Guardian: “The hospital is completely full and things have started to run low. And this is only day four.”
“The situation continues to deteriorate, the number of patients, especially kids, that are coming in with horrendous injuries,” the doctor continued.
For this reason, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated yesterday, on Wednesday 11 October, that he is “deeply distressed” by Israel’s complete siege of the Gaza Strip, which will worsen living conditions in an area where these are already abysmal.
“While I recognise Israel’s legitimate security concerns, I also remind Israel that military operations must be conducted in strict accordance with international humanitarian law. Civilians must be respected and protected at all times. Civilian infrastructure must never be a target,” Guterres noted.
“We already have reports of Israeli missiles striking health facilities inside Gaza, as well as multi-storied residential towers and a mosque. I am deeply distressed by today’s announcement that Israel will initiate a complete siege of the Gaza Strip, nothing allowed in—no water, electricity, food, or fuel. The humanitarian situation in Gaza was extremely dire before these hostilities, now it will only deteriorate exponentially.”
The Secretary-General also emphasised that this war did not arise in a vacuum, but is the result of a decades-long occupation of the territory with no end in sight.
According to the New York Times, the Israeli government has reported that 1,200 Israelis have so far been killed. Almost 3,000 others have been wounded and roughly 150 people are believed to have been kidnapped. The strikes on Gaza have killed at least 1,127 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,300, as reported by Gazan health officials.
Gaza has an unusually high population of children. The median age in the coastal strip is 18, compared with a world average of 28. This is due to high fertility and birth rates, as well as a low proportion of Palestinian women holding jobs. Consequently, nearly half of the people living in Gaza are children being affected by this war.
“This morning there was a child, a young girl, with indescribable facial injuries whose mother is a doctor at Al-Shifa who was killed when their home was targeted. Last night, another 10-year-old boy with also devastating facial injuries was taken out from the rubble of his home in Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood,” Abu-Sittah stated.
At the current rate, the hospitals will run out of fuel powering vital generators within three days.