By Girish Linganna
The world was awakened a month ago to the deadliest attack Israel has ever faced. Operationally, Israel was responding to an attack by Hamas, the organisation that governs the Gaza Strip, by conducting operations within the Palestinian territory. The second month of the Israeli-Hamas confrontation is about to begin. According to Israeli data released on October 7, the massacre in Israel claimed 1,400 lives – in a nation of slightly over 9 million people. The majority of the victims were civilians, killed at a rave in the desert and their homes close to the Gaza Strip border. The country was split between grief, rage, and protests. Regarding the 240 persons, not just Israelis, who were abducted and carried into the Gaza Strip by terrorists, there hasn’t been any news for a month. A female soldier was freed during a raid, and four hostages have been set free.
The number of people dying every day in the Palestinian enclave, which was home to almost 2.2 million people before the conflict, keeps rising. Under the Hamas administration, the Ministry of Health in Gaza updates it every day, and international media outlets also cover it. It is nearly hard to independently confirm the casualty reports from the fighting between Israel and Hamas, at least for the time being. Since October 7, over 10,000 people have died in Gaza, including over 4,000 children, according to the most recent report.
The BBC emphasised a statistic that surpasses the UN estimates by over 5,400 deaths in Gaza during all prior wars between Israel and Hamas since the latter group seized control of the Strip in 2007. Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General who has been the target of Israeli ire in recent weeks, said that Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children in recent weeks. Thirty-seven journalists and media professionals have also perished since October 7, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists – 32 were Palestinians, 4 were Israelis, and one was Lebanese. The World Health Organisation reports that over 160 medical personnel have lost their lives while providing care in Gaza. According to data released by the UN, 14 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals are no longer in operation.
Based on its sources and historical accuracy, many experts believe the casualty data provided by the Gaza Ministry of Health to be trustworthy, as The Washington Post wrote in a recent piece. “On occasions when we have verified the numbers for specific attacks, I’m not aware of cases where there have been significant discrepancies,” Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir said, as reported by the newspaper. Richard Brennan, the leader of the World Health Organization’s emergency response team in the area, stated last week that he thought the information supplied by the Gaza Ministry of Health was trustworthy. In remarks obtained by the BBC, he stated, “We are confident that the information management systems that the ministry has put in place over the years withstand scrutiny,” he said in statements relayed by the BBC, adding that “the data over the years have been quite robust.”
Any information emanating from a terrorist organisation should be taken with caution, according to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). On October 25, U.S. President Joe Biden declared that while he had no faith in the numbers offered by the Palestinians on the casualties, he is positive that innocent individuals have been killed in Israeli bombings in Gaza. Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder stated, “We know that the numbers are in the thousands,” in reference to civilian casualties. As for the data from the Gaza Ministry of Health, Vedant Patel, the deputy spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, said it should be noted that it is “a ministry managed by Hamas,” which he claimed has a history of inflated and inaccurate figures on casualties.
On the other front, in the West Bank, since October 7, there have been 163 deaths, with accusations against Israelis for their killing, according to data from the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported this morning by the Wafa news agency.
After a month, according to UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestinian refugees), a “colossal-scale humanitarian tragedy” is unfolding in Gaza. Seventy per cent of Gaza’s population has been displaced, and the agency reported this on social media after denouncing the killing of 88 of its staff members since October 7. It’s described as a “daily struggle to find bread and water” in “inhumane living conditions for nearly 1.5 million people,” with civilians suffering “forced displacement and collective punishment.” For days, and even today, the Israeli military ‘urges’ Palestinians to leave the northern areas of the Gaza Strip and move to the southern areas of the Palestinian enclave, even though those areas are not spared from bombardments.
According to the UN, Gaza needs 100 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies every day. The Rafah crossing along the border with Egypt has reopened, and since then, 33 assistance trucks, on average, arrive in the Gaza Strip every day, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. As of last night’s update, 569 relief vehicles had crossed this border overall since October 21.
Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in neighbourhoods close to the border with Lebanon and the Gaza Strip barrier were compelled to abandon their homes. After the evacuation of Sderot, which is located near the Gaza Strip, started on October 15, The Times of Israel estimated on October 22 that around 200,000 Israelis had been relocated. After what has been called the Israeli version of September 11, the conflict has now lasted for more than a month. President Biden has been pleading with Israelis not to commit mistakes motivated by anger. (IPA Service)
(The author is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru.)