Displaced Palestinians gather for food in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 28, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. Photo: AFP / LEHTIKUVA

International news

In a recent visit to Gaza, Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, reported dire conditions for the civilian population caught amidst ongoing conflict. Egeland's observations reveal a grim reality of destruction, desperation, and growing famine threats as millions find themselves trapped, facing a continuous cycle of violence and starvation.

Egeland highlighted the acute food crisis, noting the visible malnourishment among Gaza's children, forced to scavenge for food amidst the rubble.

Despite the proximity of aid, severe restrictions at border crossings such as Rafah and Kerem Shalom, along with Karni and Erez to the north, have significantly hindered the delivery of essential supplies, leaving the population in an increasingly precarious situation.

The situation is exacerbated by Israeli entry restrictions, which, according to Egeland, have resulted in widespread hunger and thirst among Gaza's civilians, particularly affecting women and children. He criticized Israel for not fulfilling its obligations as the occupying power to ensure the provision of necessary food and supplies to Gaza's population.

Despite a ruling from the International Court of Justice demanding Israel to allow for the provision of basic services and humanitarian aid, access for aid trucks has decreased, plunging northern Gaza into a particularly severe crisis, with families teetering on the brink of famine.

Egeland also expressed grave concerns over the potential for further violence, noting Israel's threats of a full-scale military offensive in Rafah, an area densely populated with over 1.4 million people seeking shelter. He emphasized the impossibility of conducting war in such conditions without resulting in mass civilian casualties.

Reflecting on the intense and prolonged bombardment witnessed during his visit, Egeland described the civilian population as deeply traumatized, living in overcrowded conditions with a constant fear of an Israeli ground operation. His experiences in Gaza underscored the unprecedented scale of the humanitarian crisis, with the population having no escape from the ongoing conflict.

The international community, including countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany, which continue to support the conflict politically and militarily, was urged by Egeland to reconsider the consequences of their actions. He called for an immediate ceasefire, full humanitarian access, and the lifting of the siege on Gaza, emphasizing the urgent need to end the war on civilians and address the human suffering that has escalated beyond belief.