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Gaza six months on: displacement, death, hunger and disease

Gaza six months on: mass displacement, death, hunger and disease
6 min read
06 April, 2024
Famine, massacres and the destruction of hospitals are just some of the atrocities which have been inflicted on the people of Gaza since October 2023.
Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza has displaced the majority of the population and caused untold suffering [GETTY]

Israel's war on Gaza Strip has caused unprecedented levels of devastation to the tiny enclave home to 2.3 million people.

It has dropped more bombs on Gaza – over 65,000 tons - in six months than the weight and power of the three nuclear bombs dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima by the Americans in World War Two.

This weekend marks six months since 7 October and the Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel, which caught the Israeli authorities by surprise and saw Palestinian groups kill and take hundreds captive.

The chaos snowballed into one of the worst wars in modern times as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war and his defence minister ordered a total siege on Gaza, cutting off water, electricity, food and fuel and invading by land, sea and air.

Since then, Gaza has lost more than 33,130 of its people from Israeli attacks day and night, and Israel has faced accusations at the world's top court of genocide.

Over the ensuing months, footage and accounts coming out of Gaza would get worse and worse. Exhausted emergency workers rushing to rescue a girl trapped under rubble, a skeletal old man lying on a hospital bed, hungry little boys picking flour off the ground, and a mother wailing into the shrouded body of her dead child.

The New Arab looks at what the past six months of war have inflicted upon Gaza as the world has watched on and calls for a ceasefire have gone unheeded.

‘War on children’

No one in Gaza has been spared from the invasion and aid agencies have said Gaza's children have been among the most vulnerable.

By February, the number of children killed had exceeded the number of children killed in wars globally throughout the past four years.

By April, 26,000 children have been killed or injured, according to children's charity Save the Children.

The war has normalised death for children, and parents have reported that their children "are seeing things no child should ever see" and cannot imagine a future without war.

In October, British-Palestinian surgeon Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta travelled to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to support the health system, which rapidly became an Israeli target.

Abu Sitta not only provided life-saving medical support but became a frequent English-speaking voice in international media as he shared first hand the atrocities he had witnessed.

Weeks into the war, he told CNN that a new term unique to Gaza had been created: ‘WCNSF,’ meaning "wounded child, no surviving family."

'Systemic' attacks on journalists

The world has depended on the courageous reporting of Palestinian journalists since the Israeli government denied entry to international media teams.

The war has taken a huge toll, as they have risked everything to ensure the Israeli aggression is transmitted across the world, while facing grave difficulties and experiencing loss themselves.


One man has epitomised this: Wael al-Dahdouh, a senior journalist from Al Jazeera Arabic, who became recognised not only for his work but also for his incredible bravery.

Al-Dahdouh continued to report after his wife, daughter, son and nephew were killed in October when an Israeli shell hit their apartment building in Nuseirat.

Months later, Wael's other son, 27-year-old Hamza, was killed in a drone strike alongside freelance journalist Mustafa Thuraya. Al Jazeera Media Network called their killings an "assassination" and a "heinous crime".

Al-Dahdouh was forced to leave Gaza in January to treat his own injuries from an Israeli attack which took the life of his colleague, cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa.

Journalists, like civilians, humanitarian workers, and medical staff, are protected in conflicts under the Geneva Conventions, to which Israel is party.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in April that 95 journalists and media workers had been killed since the war began, including 90 Palestinians, three Lebanese and two Israelis.

CPJ said that 2023 was the deadliest year for the media in almost a decade, due to the Gaza war. Seventy-two of the 99 journalists killed globally last year were Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel's collective punishment and war crimes

"The people of Gaza are not starving, the people of Gaza are being starved," were the strong words of British politician Brendan O'Hara of the Scottish National Party speaking in parliament in March.

"Starving a population to death is a war crime," he went on.

Israel's military has been repeatedly accused of committing war crimes in Gaza.

Forced displacement, destruction of over 60 percent of homes, and turning off access to necessities such as water, electricity, and health care amount to collective punishment on the people of Gaza, which human rights experts have said amounts to a war crime.

Experts have also pointed to the repeated and documented killings of civilians as evidence of war crimes.

One event that prompted global outrage early in the war was the massacre at the Al Ahli Baptist Hospital, when Israeli missiles smashed into healthcare facilities, killing 471 people and injuring over 300.

It was to set the stage for a long list of massacres committed by the Israeli military in Gaza, including the Flour Massacre, when Israeli troops opened fire on hundreds of civilians collecting bags of flour in besieged north Gaza in February.

'Man-made famine'

Israel's control of supplies into the strip and the destruction of agricultural land, crops, animals and factories, has pushed the population to the brink of famine.

A mid-March report by a UN-backed food classification body found that 1.1 million people in Gaza were facing "imminent famine".

Families are reportedly living off 250 calories a day and Gaza's health authorities have said at least 30 people in the north have died from starvation.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization said in March that before the war "malnutrition was a rare occurrence".

"Before this crisis, there was enough food in Gaza to feed the population".

The issue has been exacerbated by Israel's control over aid supplies, which has resulted in piles of aid being turned away the border, while lorries filled with food and medicines wait for weeks to enter Gaza.

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The 'genocidal' nature of Israel's war

At the end of December, in an unprecedented step, South Africa tabled a case of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. South Africa's 84-page application argued that Israel's actions "are genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial, and ethnic group."

A preliminary ruling in January found it plausible that Israel’s acts in Gaza could amount to genocide and ordered Israel to urgently refrain from any acts that could fall under the Genocide Convention.

The ruling was seen as a milestone in the decades long struggle for justice for Palestinians.

But Israel has been accused of ignoring the court and has failed to take the "immediate and effective measures" to protect Palestinians in Gaza as ordered.

South Africa has gained support for its case from Colombia, Nicaragua, and Ireland.

Though Israel called the accusations "baseless", the case brought global attention to the Palestinian cause, while laying out Israel's decades-long violations for all to see.