I would rather write this story in the Gaza Strip than in Jerusalem. After years of covering wars since the war in El Salvador in 1989, I believe there is nothing better than first-hand reporting.
Unfortunately, in this terrible war, international journalists cannot do the same.
Israel and Egypt, the two countries that control Gaza’s borders, don’t want us to report freely there. Israel allows its troops to make some closely monitored visits. I’ve only been to one of them, in November.
Since we don’t have access, we rely on Palestinian journalists who can’t leave. I greatly admire your courage and dedication to truthful information.
Fortunately, in the modern world it is impossible to completely conceal what happened in war. This is because ordinary people can take photos with their phones and post them online with a few clicks.
If communications are not interrupted, we can still talk to them.
Israel and Hamas uploaded their own videos. Everything has to be verified and verified, especially now that artificial intelligence is easier to use.
Considering all these limitations, This is what the war looked like from Jerusalem on a February day.
Just after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, Israeli Defense Minister Yov Galant announced: “We are conducting a total siege of Gaza… No electricity, no food, no water, no gas. Everything is closed. “.
“We are fighting against the human animal,” he added, “and we will act accordingly.”
Under pressure from U.S. President Joe Biden, Israel is now allowing limited supplies of food, water and medicine to Gaza.
but Continued restrictions on aid entering Gaza and the movement of humanitarian convoys within the Gaza Strip.
Israel confirmed that what it received was sufficient. International aid groups say blocking aid from entering would starve civilians already suffering massive casualties from the explosions and deprive them of necessary medical care.
The Geneva Conventions provide for retaliation against civilians for crimes they did not commit This amounts to collective punishment and constitutes a war crime.
Since October 7, Americans have been urging Israel to respect the laws of war in Gaza, stressing that they must stop killing so many Palestinian civilians.
The fact that U.S. officials, starting with President Biden, have repeated and emphasized their criticisms suggests they believe Israel is ignoring them.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a speech during his visit to China in early February It was his most outspoken public criticism yet of Israel’s handling of the war.
He said Hamas’ brutal attacks on Israel cannot justify brutal treatment of Palestinians.
“On October 7, Israelis were dehumanized in the most horrific way,” he told a news conference in Tel Aviv. “Since then, hostages have been dehumanized every day. But this cannot be License to dehumanize others.”
“The vast majority of Gaza’s population had nothing to do with the attacks on October 7,” Blinken continued.
“Families in Gaza depend on Israeli aid for their survival, just like our families. They are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who want to live a decent life, send their children to school and live a normal life. This is That’s who they are. That’s what they want.”
Even so, The United States has chosen not to set conditions on its massive military and diplomatic support for Israel.
It continues to supply weapons to Israel, although it does not approve of how the weapons are used.
Filippo Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, the U.N. agency that leads humanitarian operations in Gaza, issued his own warning about the long-term consequences of the war for Gaza’s young people.
I spoke to him this week and he said: “I’m very worried.” “Everyone is deeply traumatized by this unprecedented war. “Their living conditions are absolutely miserable.”
“If the war ended tomorrow, our first priority should be to find ways to get these children back into the education system… (or) we would just sow more seeds of resentment and hatred in the future.”
Lazzarini’s comments will not impress Israel. His government has leveled serious accusations against UNRWA, accusing it of inciting and aiding Hamas.
Lazzarini has been trying to save the agency since Israel submitted a dossier to the United States saying about a dozen UNRWA staff members were involved in the Oct. 7 attack.
UNRWA has fired the employees accused and is trying to appease 16 major donors that have suspended funding.
Lazzarini said he took the accusations very seriously and was determined to root out any sympathizers of Hamas. But Israel has still not delivered the documents it sent to the United States.
Israel considers UNRWA to be corrupt. The crisis surrounding the agency is undoubtedly another obstacle to aid operations.
The United Nations and other aid organizations have virtually no access to northern Gaza.
Word has spread, with locals living in the ruins reporting widespread famine and widespread malnutrition among children, which can have lifelong health consequences for survivors.
We have received more information from southern Gaza, home to 2 million people They are trying to survive.
Some 1.4 million people are in desperate conditions in Rafah, near the Egyptian border.
Most live in tents made of plastic tarps next to sinkholes.
Unlike journalists, aid workers from organizations involved in relief efforts have access to and from Gaza.
I spoke with several U.N. officials with decades of experience in war zones. Everyone said it was the worst thing they had ever seen. I was told: “I’ve never seen anything this big, this big, this deep.”
Another said Gaza was the most dangerous and difficult place he had ever been, not just because of Israeli bombing but because law and order had disappeared.
“There are a lot of weapons in Gaza, but most importantly, there are a lot of angry big men with sticks,” he added.
The United Nations moved aid convoys in the early hours to prevent them from being attacked.
Palestinians in Rafah are in panic as Israeli forces launch ground attacks on the city.
A colleague from BBC Arabic spoke to Jabr al-Burdini, a middle-aged man from Rafah who had just rescued dead children from the rubble of his neighbor’s house.
“If Israel operates here, thousands of people will die. Children are scared, adults are scared. Look at the children. They can’t sleep.”
Lazzarini told me that a massive Israeli attack on Rafah would “increase the chaos in Gaza.”
He said that in the past four months, about 5% of the population – about 100,000 people – They were dead, injured or missing, probably under the rubble.
“Then our remaining population is almost concentrated in the open areas of Rafah. A military operation in this place would only add an additional layer of catastrophic tragedy. And this must be completely avoided.”
Air strikes have killed many people in Rafah, but despite U.S. calls for restraint, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered troops to attack the city if there were plans to clear Rafah of Palestinian civilians.
Since no part of Gaza is safe, residents do not feel reassured. Perhaps Netanyahu is trying to appease Biden.
Another possible recipient of the message is the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which ruled that Israel faces genocide charges because what happened in Gaza is “plausible.”
Israel has set the bar very high for what it sees as victory, so high that it may not be achieved even months later.
He wants to eliminate Hamas, restore security to Israel and release the hostages kidnapped on October 7.
Many families of Israelis held in Gaza and their supporters are unconvinced by the prime minister’s argument that only force can free the hostages.
They want a ceasefire because they fear the longer the war goes on, the less likely they are to appear again.
Israel has done considerable harm to Hamas But this did not diminish his fighting ability.
A senior Western intelligence official told me that Israel has killed about a third of its troops and destroyed about a third of the tunnel network that has supported Hamas resistance in recent years.
Netanyahu also said Israel wants to kill Hamas leaders, starting with Yahya Sinwar, who is believed to have incited and directed the Oct. 7 attack.
So far, Sinwar and his closest lieutenants are believed to be alive, possibly living in a network of tunnels protected by Israeli hostages.
The protracted war in the Middle East
In four months, the seismic waves of the war in Gaza have spread throughout the Middle East. Iran’s network of allies, the so-called axis of resistance, is embroiled in a wider war.
The U.S. has launched a sustained program of air strikes in Syria and Iraq after three U.S. soldiers were killed in Jordan in an attack by Iranian-trained and funded militias.
It has also joined Britain in bombing Yemen’s Houthi rebels who have attacked ships in the Red Sea.
Hard-liners in the United States and Israel want U.S. troops to bomb Iran.
The Houthis and other allies of Iran said they acted in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.
Iran’s most powerful ally is the Lebanese Hezbollah. Its border war with Israel is becoming increasingly serious and fierce. There is growing pressure within Israel to send troops to southern Lebanon.
Americans are working hard to carve a path toward a peaceful future in the Middle East.
Secretary of State Blinken has laid out a plan for Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel if Israel allows the Palestinians to have their own independent state.
But Prime Minister Netanyahu says Palestinian independence will not happen. He insisted that Israel would continue until “total victory” was achieved.
The war continues, with no immediate prospect of a ceasefire. The longer it goes on, the harder it will be to control the consequences of the situation in Gaza.