Aid organizations said Thursday a full ceasefire is needed between Israel and Hamas to meaningfully help civilians in Gaza, with one announcing the death of a doctor in the fighting.
Maysara Rayyes, a 28-year-old emergency doctor with Medecins du Monde (Doctors Without Borders), was said to have been killed with his family on Sunday when their Gaza apartment building was bombed, the French group said.
Scores of aid workers are thought to be among those killed since the outbreak of war on October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed the border with Israel, killing some 1,400 people and taking at least 240 hostages.
In response to the deadly onslaught, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas from the Gaza Strip, where the terror group has ruled since 2007. The Israeli Defense Forces pounded the terror group’s strongholds with airstrikes for three weeks prior to launching a ground operation in northern Gaza.
The Hamas-run health ministry in the enclave says that more than 10,800 people have died since the start of the fighting, although these numbers cannot be independently verified and are thought to include the terror group’s own members, as well as Gaza civilians killed by misfired rockets.
About 10 non-governmental organizations told a press conference on the sidelines of a humanitarian summit hosted by France that a simple pause in the fighting would not alleviate what they called a humanitarian “catastrophe.”
Their appeal came as US President Joe Biden said there was “no possibility” of a ceasefire, although Israel had agreed to daily four-hour pauses in fighting.
Several Western governments have called for a “humanitarian pause” in Israel’s offensive, but not for an immediate ceasefire. For its part, Israel has maintained the stance that no humanitarian pause or ceasefire can be permitted to take place without the release of the hostages held by Hamas.
“We don’t know what a humanitarian pause means concretely,” Isabelle Defourny, president of the Doctors Without Borders NGO, told a joint news conference.
Unless safe areas are created on the battlefield, “it’s impossible to work,” she said. “Hospital staff are dealing with massive arrivals of wounded people, are working in horrible hygiene conditions, can’t rest and are under constant stress.”
“Our colleagues tell us: We cannot wait a minute more. End these bombardments, lift this siege,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “It’s heartbreaking to see that it continues.”
Oxfam France director Cecile Duflot said staff were reporting “the worst, the most tragic situation that they have ever seen” in Gaza.
“Our health carers are exhausted, trying to survive,” said Jean-Francois Corty, vice president of Medecins du Monde.
Aid trickling in
The aid organizations also expressed frustration at being unable to transport crucial aid to the 2.4 million people living in Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated territories.
They said Gazans were getting only one liter of water per person per day, compared to a need of 10 liters.
About 500 aid trucks have been allowed into the territory from Egypt over the past month, a number that had been the daily average before the war.
Aid deliveries that reach Gaza include food, water, relief supplies, medicine, and medical equipment, but not fuel, amid concerns that Hamas will use the fuel to further protect itself and attack Israel.
Israel says it painstakingly inspects the shipments before they are allowed to enter Gaza via Egypt, checking for weapons or other contraband that Hamas or other groups may be trying to smuggle in.
“There is something obscene about aid being available, and so difficult to access,” Corty said.
International organizations have reported suffering heavy losses in the war, and UNRWA, the United Nations aid body for Palestinian refugees, has said that 100 staff members have died, including teachers, doctors and nurses.
The Defense Ministry unit responsible for facilitating the passage of aid into the Gaza Strip said on Tuesday that there is no lack of food, water, or other humanitarian supplies in the territory and that inventories of critical supplies are being monitored daily.
In a press briefing to reporters, IDF Col. Elad Goren of the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit insisted that amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, the levels of humanitarian assistance being supplied to Gaza were well above the minimum levels required by international law and that the humanitarian situation is being constantly reviewed.