Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Fears of Famine Grow as Food Aid to Gaza Is Impeded

Palestinians wait for food from a charity kitchen amid a shortage of food in Rafah. (Reuters)
Palestinians wait for food from a charity kitchen amid a shortage of food in Rafah. (Reuters)
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Fears of Famine Grow as Food Aid to Gaza Is Impeded

Palestinians wait for food from a charity kitchen amid a shortage of food in Rafah. (Reuters)
Palestinians wait for food from a charity kitchen amid a shortage of food in Rafah. (Reuters)

Only 10 percent of Gaza’s food and medical needs find their way to the Strip through a very narrow window, following the closure of the Rafah crossing after Israel took control of the Palestinian side of the border on May 7.

Along with the ongoing military operations, Israel is waging a different kind of war against civilians, obstructing international Arab supplies of aid, and threatening more than a million people with death and famine by mid-July, according to international estimates.

“The war machine is the only side that benefits from the current situation, while the people of Gaza are starving due to Israeli restrictions on the entry of food aid,” Dr. Bashar Murad, Executive Director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in the Gaza Strip, told Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt.

His remarks were echoed by media advisor to UNRWA Adnan Abu Hasna, who called for “urgent solutions to stop the specter of famine in the Gaza Strip.”

He called for “an end to the war, for Israel to open crossings and humanitarian corridors, and increasing the volume of aid...”

The International Emergency Response Conference for Gaza, which was held in Jordan earlier this month, reviewed the catastrophic situation on the ground after eight months of war. It noted the destruction of 60 percent of buildings and at least 80 percent of commercial facilities in Gaza. Educational and health institutions have also been turned to rubble.

The conference highlighted “the displacement of more than 1.7 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, or 75 percent of the population, since the beginning of the war.”

In addition to food scarcity, the residents of Gaza are facing a severe shortage of potable water as sewage and seawater have seeped into the coastal enclave’s underground reservoir, Abu Hasna noted.

“The continuation of the current conditions... makes the situation in Gaza the worst in history, and an unbearable hell,” he underlined.

On June 12, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke about famine-like conditions facing a large segment of Gaza’s population, noting that 8,000 children under five “suffer from acute malnutrition.”

These estimates are consistent with warnings issued in early June, in a joint statement by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Program, along with the UN Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, predicting that half of the population of the Gaza Strip “will face death and famine by mid-July.”

Bashar Murad told Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt: “Signs of famine appeared in northern Gaza, and deaths were recorded there, as well as in the city of Deir al-Balah, due to the severe shortage of food aid.”

He also noted a government report, last Friday, that confirmed the death of 33 children due to famine, and the appearance of signs of malnutrition in 85,000 children.

“Despite the Arab and international airdrops of aid, quantities are insufficient, and the food shortage is increasing,” he said, adding: “Israel is using food as a weapon in violation of international law, and is exposing the residents of Gaza to famine by preventing the entry of aid.”

Regarding the obstacles facing supplies, Murad believes that the best solution is for Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, which he described as “the main artery of the Gaza Strip.”



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Israel-Hezbollah War... More Severe than ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’

An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
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Israel-Hezbollah War... More Severe than ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’

An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

In conflicts, both sides often set traps for each other. Yet today, in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, it appears both sides are falling into their own traps.

In the current Israel-Hezbollah conflict, despite denying interest in widening the war, both are moving towards escalation.

Israel continues military drills for expansion, supported by polls showing public backing, though decreasing recently. This support concerns Tel Aviv’s military leaders, who fear the public underestimates the war’s consequences.

Former Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata warns such a war could devastate parts of Lebanon and cause significant harm in Israel, potentially resulting in around 15,000 deaths.

The Terrorism Research Institute at Reichman University conducted a study with 100 military and academic experts on potential war scenarios with Hezbollah.

Their findings were alarming: they warned that such a conflict could quickly escalate across multiple fronts, involving Iranian militias in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, alongside Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank.

The study predicted that Hezbollah could launch a daily barrage of 2,500 to 3,000 rockets for 21 days, targeting military bases, cities like Tel Aviv, and critical infrastructure such as power plants, gas fields, desalination plants, airports, and weapon depots.

This onslaught would likely cause widespread chaos among Israelis.

Furthermore, Hezbollah might employ its strategy of sending “Radwan” units to infiltrate Israeli borders and occupy towns, similar to Hamas’ actions during operation Al-Aqsa Flood on Oct. 7.

The “Gaza-style destruction” scenario was initially floated to dampen calls for the army to invade Lebanese territory.

The Israeli military, wary of right-wing political pressures and their own hesitations about war, countered by publicizing plans indicating serious readiness.

Leaked drills suggest they are preparing for a large-scale ground invasion, aiming to occupy southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, possibly further to the Zahrani River.

They state that if Hezbollah rejects a political deal to stay away from borders, the military will enforce this with force.

They detail that the war could start with intense airstrikes, similar to Gaza, followed by a ground invasion.

Military sources reveal Israel has received delayed US weapons, including smart bombs, set to be used in airstrikes on southern Beirut suburbs and the Bekaa region at least.

The Litani River lies four kilometers from the border at its closest and extends 29 kilometers at its furthest, covering 1,020 square kilometers. It includes three major cities: Tyre (175,000 residents), Bint Jbeil, and Marjayoun, housing half a million people, with over 100,000 displaced.

Occupying this entire area won’t be easy. Hezbollah is stronger than Hamas, with a more extensive tunnel network and advanced weaponry. They’ve long been prepared for this war.

If Israel plans a short 21-day war, nothing guarantees that timeline, risking entanglement in Lebanon’s challenges once again.

The Israeli military is gearing up for a long war, preparing emergency reserves in hospitals, factories, government offices, and shelters.

They fear Hezbollah could launch thousands of rockets and drones, targeting key infrastructure like power plants, water desalination facilities, and gas wells.

Recent drills also factor in possible direct Iranian involvement, which could disrupt Red Sea shipping and possibly lead to strikes on Cyprus. This means all of Israel could face serious threats.

The Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies reports that Hezbollah has already fired over 5,000 projectiles from Lebanon, causing 33 deaths and extensive damage to both civilian and military targets in Israel.

There’s growing concern about the future of northern Israel, including 28 evacuated settlements and the city of Kiryat Shmona, whose residents are uncertain when they can safely return home.