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Smoke rises from explosions caused by Israeli airstrikes in the northern Gaza Strip, Friday, Oct. 27, 2023 Image Credit: AP

For over three weeks, the Israel-Gaza conflict has once again plunged the Palestinian enclave into a vortex of violence and destruction. In its wake, it has left behind a trail of devastation and despair that demands world’s immediate and serious attention. The call for a ceasefire in Gaza is not merely a political matter; it is a moral imperative. The UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly for a resolution calling for immediate humanitarian truce but Israel rejects the call.

Gaza, home to more than 2.3 million people, has been an open-air prison for decades. Since 2006, its residents have been caught between political forces that prioritise conflict over peace. The situation, exacerbated by Israel’s relentless bombing and ground operations since Oct. 7, has now reached a breaking point, and the urgency of a ceasefire cannot be overstated.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as aptly described by the Executive Director of the UN World Food Program, is nothing short of a catastrophe. Basic necessities like food, clean water, and medical supplies have all but disappeared. Hospitals are overwhelmed, and the health care system, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns, is on the brink of collapse. According to the UN Population Fund, 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza lack access to health facilities, as many hospitals have fallen victim to bombings.

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Results are displayed as the U.N. General Assembly voted for a non-binding resolution calling for a "humanitarian truce" in Gaza and a cessation of hostilities in gaza, Friday, Oct. 27, 2023 at U.N. headquarters

One of the most pressing concerns is the dire lack of access to clean water. Even before the conflict began, over 97 per cent of the water in Gaza was unfit for consumption.

The bombing of water facilities and the deterioration of the water situation have turned obtaining clean water into a daily struggle for survival. Children and families are faced with unimaginable choices: drinking contaminated water and risking their health or life.

The health care system in Gaza is teetering on the edge of collapse. More than 7,500 Palestinians have lost their lives, and nearly 20,000 have been wounded in the past three weeks alone.

Hospitals are running out of essential medical supplies, and doctors are forced into agonising decisions about who can receive treatment and who cannot. In Gaza, doctors are even performing surgeries without anaesthesia. More than a dozen hospitals have been forced to stop providing their services.

The ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza have resulted in the displacement of thousands of families. Nearly half of the housing units in the Gaza Strip have been obliterated by Israeli attacks, rendering countless people homeless and destitute.

Over 1.4 million people in Gaza are internally displaced, with nearly half of them sheltering in 150 UNRWA-designated shelters, each hosting almost three times their intended capacity. Schools and other educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed, leading to the deaths and injuries of a significant number of children.

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Flares fired by the Israeli army light up the sky east of Khan Yunis on the southern Gaza Strip on October 27, 2023 as battles between Israel and Hamas continue. The Israeli army on the evening of October 27 carried out bombings of "unprecedented" intensity since the start of the war in the north of the Gaza Strip, particularly in Gaza City

A moral weight

The plight of Gazan children is particularly heart-wrenching. More than 3,000 children have lost their lives, and those who manage to survive are growing up in an environment of constant fear and violence.

Their innocence is being stolen from them at a tender age, and the trauma they experience will have long-lasting psychological effects. It is the world’s moral responsibility to protect their future and provide them with the opportunity to grow up in a safe and stable environment.

The cycle of violence in Gaza causes not only immediate suffering but also perpetuates a cycle of despair. When Palestinians see no hope for a better future, they are more likely to turn to violence as a means of expressing their frustration and despair.

By failing to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and continuing the cycle of violence, the world is inadvertently contributing to the radicalisation of a generation of young Palestinians, which will only fuel further conflict in the region.

The urgency of a ceasefire in Gaza is clear, but achieving it has proven to be challenging. Several resolutions asking for ceasefire in the UN Security Council have been vetoed. On 27 October, the UAE co-co-sponsored resolution asking for a humanitarian ceasefire was passed in the General Assembly with 121 votes in favour, 14 against, and 44 abstained. This General Assembly Resolution has a moral weight but can’t be enforced.

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The UN General Assembly votes for an "immediate humanitarian truce" in Gaza, as the Israel-Hamas conflict raged for a 21st day at the UN in New York on October 27, 2023

Safety of civilians

The Israel-Hamas conflict is deeply rooted, and finding a lasting solution will require diplomatic efforts and concessions on both sides. However, the immediate priority must be to end the suffering of innocent civilians and ensure their access to basic necessities.

The international community can provide the humanitarian aid needed in Gaza to alleviate immediate suffering, but this can only happen if the war comes to an end and a ceasefire is agreed upon.

International diplomacy has a crucial role to play in brokering a ceasefire. The United Nations should intensify its efforts to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire, and the United States, as the only country that can exert significant pressure on Israel, must play a pivotal role in this endeavour.

Regional and global allies of Israel must also exert pressure to prioritise the well-being of civilians and commit to a ceasefire.

This image grab from an AFP TV footage shows balls of fire rising above Gaza City during an Israeli strike on October 27, 2023, as battles between Israel and the Hamas militants continue.
This image grab from an AFP TV footage shows balls of fire rising above Gaza City during an Israeli strike on October 27, 2023, as battles between Israel and the Hamas militants continue. Image Credit: AFP

A protracted conflict

The urgent need for a ceasefire in Gaza is not just a matter of ending immediate suffering; it is a matter of upholding basic human rights and dignity.

It is a matter of preventing further radicalisation and violence in the region. It is a matter of showing compassion and solidarity with the innocent civilians who have been caught in the crossfire of this protracted conflict.

It is important to remember that the call for a ceasefire is not a call for taking sides in a complex political conflict. It is a call for humanity to prevail over violence and suffering.

The suffering of the people of Gaza, particularly the most vulnerable, cannot be ignored any longer. The time to act is now, before more innocent lives are lost, and the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza spirals further out of control.