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The biggest humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip puts millions of people at risk

After the heinous Hamas attacks on October 7th that took the lives of more than 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages, the Israeli government responded in a muscular way, leading to an escalation of human suffering, causing the biggest humanitarian crisis in the territory since the beginning of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The incessant bombings of Gaza, as well as the West Bank, have so far resulted in more than 12,000 deaths in Gaza, including more than 5,000 children, 3,000 women, 53 journalists and 100 UN workers, exceeding the number of humanitarian workers killed. annually in other conflicts. In the West Bank, 215 Palestinians were killed by Israeli authorities, including 55 children, plus 7 adults and one child killed by Israeli settlers. Israel's siege on Gaza has left millions of people without access to vital goods and basic needs such as water, gas or electricity. On the Hamas side, rockets continue to be launched with the aim of reaching civilian areas. This conflict is being marked by numerous actions of disrespect for International Humanitarian Law, on both sides.

Humanitarian aid is increasingly needed in Gaza, being practically impossible to provide and extremely unsafe. It is not viable to continue a conflict on this scale and with this intensity, with total disregard for human integrity and the protection of civilians.

Bombings in Gaza. Youssef Massoud/AFP via Getty Images

The intensification of the conflict has led to around 1.7 million Palestinians being forced to flee their homes, with more than one thousand staying in UN shelters as they have nowhere else to go. This number adds to the already 243,000 forcibly displaced Palestinians registered in 2019. For decades, inhabitants of the Palestinian territories have been continually forced to flee their homes, whether through attacks, violence, forced evictions and demolitions of homes, or through coercion. .

The first major Israeli-Arab conflict from 1947 to 1949 (Palestinian War or War of Independence for the Israelis) led to the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their territory (around 85% of their population) and the Six-Day War in 1967 caused around 350,000 people to be forced to flee their homes. These conflicts, together with the increasing violence, the complete destruction of entire villages and refugee camps, persecution by authorities on both sides, coercive expulsion for the installation of Israeli settlements and the subjection to live in inhumane conditions, led to the existence of millions of refugees.

Around 75% of the population of the Gaza Strip are refugees. This is one of the longest stories of forced displacement and refuge ever. There are currently 5.9 million Palestinian refugees, including people directly affected, as well as their descendants, as this status is hereditary only for this population, being already in the 5th generation. The majority of Palestinian refugees live in refugee camps spread across the territory and in neighboring countries such as Jordan with more than 2 million or Syria and Lebanon with around 500,000 refugees. Palestinian refugees continue to live in limbo after more than 70 years of being expelled from theirs and their descendants' homes. The camps do not offer the conditions for a stable and dignified life, leaving them without citizenship and the rights associated with them, whether within the Palestinian territories themselves, given the international non-recognition of Palestine sovereignty, or in neighboring countries that until recently refused to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees.

The deep crisis in Palestine and Israel has already caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people and is exacerbating the already desperate Palestinian refugee crisis in the region. It is urgent to create solutions that protect civilians, managing to deliver the most necessary goods to the population and creating safe ways to remove people from affected areas. The international community must mobilize to develop these solutions, similarly to what happened in the case of Afghanistan or in the conflict in Ukraine. Measures to provide safe passage for those in need must be operationalized whenever a crisis calls for such a response.

ComUnidade stands with all forcibly displaced people and victims of violence and, just as we asked for legal and safe routes to be developed with the serious situations in Afghanistan, Ukraine and so many other places, we are also asking for this now. We join all organizations, institutions and people who stand in solidarity with refugees, wherever they are from and wherever they are, as well as against all forms of discrimination, racism and human rights violations.

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