Conditions in Gaza

Life in Gaza has changed dramatically and permanently since October 7, 2023 when Palestinians, held captive for the past 17 years in Gaza under an illegal Israeli blockade, broke through the walls of what many describe as “the world’s largest open air prison.” On that date, Israel launched a massive military campaign that continues to this day. Israel has murdered more than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza (mostly civilians, including more than 14,000 children) and injured and displaced more than one million people. Israel also declared it was locking down the Gaza strip, preventing food, water, fuel, and electricity from entering Gaza.  The World Health Organization has warned that the population is starving to death. Israel continues to defy a January ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) requiring the admission of adequate humanitarian aid to Gaza. The ICJ found it “plausible” that Israel’s acts violate the Genocide Convention. See Al Jazeera’s ongoing live tracker for current casualty, displacement and death counts, as well as relevant maps.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has identified multiple serious violations of international law and war crimes in Israel’s acts. “Israeli airstrikes have incessantly pounded Gaza, hitting large residential buildings, schools, shelters, and hospitals and reducing large parts of neighborhoods to rubble, in unlawful attacks that must be considered war crimes. Israeli forces have also unlawfully used white phosphorus in Gaza” (HRW, February 2024). HRW has condemned as collective punishment and war crimes the cutting off of essential services, prevention of delivery of fuel and aid, and starvation of civilians for military purposes. 

There is no justification for Israel’s genocidal actions. Its unrelenting murderous campaign is a significant escalation, but part of its continuous violence against Palestinian civilians since 1948. This ongoing repression became more systemic for Gaza once Israel established a blockade over the territory in 2007, following elections which Hamas one, severely limiting access by land, air and sea.

Even before October 2023, the ongoing blockade created a humanitarian crisis by depriving Palestinians in Gaza of fundamental human rights including health (food, clean water, medicine and medical equipment, electricity and fuel), education, safety, and freedom of movement. Global organizations and human rights groups recognize it as collective punishment, which violates international law.

These horrific, unlivable conditions in Gaza are not a natural catastrophe: they are Israeli made and must be understood in political context. For over 75 years global powers have stood by as Israel has perpetrated gross violations of individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people; they have never enforced UN resolutions or international law, including General Assembly Resolution 194 and its derivatives, or Security Council Resolution 242 and its successors. In fact, the United States, the UK, Germany, and other countries have protected and supported Israel in committing these war crimes – and continue to do so by funding Israel’s military action in the billions of dollars. U.S. funding has enabled bombing, shelling, destruction of hospitals, schools, universities, residential areas, water supplies, electrical networks, and sewage networks. The unrelenting bombardment has purposely made return to their homes impossible for virtually all Gazans.

As extensively documented in past conflicts, Israel intentionally targets humanitarian aid workers, children, journalists, paramedics, and people with disabilities. There is no safe place left for these people or anyone in Gaza under Israel’s attacks under the guise of eliminating Hamas. The massive loss of life, and the wholesale destruction of medical, academic, residential and commercial areas is a textbook case of genocide and it must end now. 

The continued collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza deepens the already tragic psycho-social and health situation. Ongoing violation of every human right has devastated Gaza psychologically and socially. Post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide are extremely common.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that “nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people… Lives are shattered. Respect for international humanitarian law is in tatters.” He added that “veteran humanitarians” have told him “the crisis and suffering in Gaza is unlike any they have ever seen,” and said “When the gates to aid are closed, the doors to starvation are opened. This is incomprehensible, and entirely avoidable.”

The description here reflects a horrific heightening of the already unlivable conditions that have existed for years. See Life in Gaza Before October 2023 for details.”

For more information and background, see Information Sources.