With an end to the intense fighting between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip, the area’s residents now confront what could become a severe humanitarian crisis. The Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with around 1.5 million people living in 360 square kilometers. It has limited natural resources and economic activity, and is almost completely dependent on outside food, medical, and fuel supplies, which are largely imported from Israel. Israel, the United States, and the European Union (EU) refuse to give aid directly to the Hamas rulers, and so organizations such as the United Nations Relief and World Agency (UNRWA), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the World Food Program (WFP) have been acting as intermediaries to coordinate aid delivery.
Those injured during the week of fighting are still being taken care of. According to the ICRC, around 130 Gazans, both civilians and combatants, were killed and 630 injured during the clashes. The area’s hospitals are still overwhelmed by the numbers of injured needing treatment, with staff staying on duty for as long as three days and supplies running short. By 21 June, over 500 patients had received treatment in hospitals, according to the ICRC. Eileen Daly, the ICRC’s medical coordinator for the West Bank and Gaza said, “The staff at Shifa Hospital have been working around the clock since the fighting started. They have been nothing short of heroic." The ICRC has helped coordinate the evacuation of 18 critically ill people to Israeli hospitals as of 21 June, and has identified 50 more that may need to be evacuated in the near future.
On 19 June, nine trucks of food were delivered from Israel in coordination with the UN World Food Program, and on 18 June, eight trucks of ICRC medical supplies were delivered. Representatives from the US, EU, and Israel have all said that they are willing to provide aid to Gaza, though want precautions to ensure that it does not go towards aiding Hamas. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mark Regev stated, "We will work together with the international community to avert a humanitarian crisis." According to ICRC, delivery of gasoline and fuel have resumed, and there have been no interruptions of the water and electricity supply.
The UNRWA returned to its normal level of operations on 18 June, after the violence forced a shutdown of seven of its eighteen food distribution centers and three of its five health centers on 12 June. Two UNRWA employees were killed by stray gunfire on 13 June. The agency provides food and health services to around the one million Gaza residents who are refugees. UNRWA’s Gaza Director, John Ging, said during the fighting, “The violence is compounding an already dreadful humanitarian situation.”
Thus far, the only people who have been able to leave the Gaza Strip into Israel are foreigners, some critically ill, and employees of international organizations; Egypt also allowed in around 200 Fatah members. Some Gazans are petitioning Israel to allow them passage to the West Bank, which had been one of the guarantees of the Oslo accords, yet Israel has not responded.
Gaza residents are collecting food and fuel reserves as much as possible, in fear that shipments will end. Christoph Harnisch, head of the ICRC’s delegation for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories explains, “The almost complete closure of crossing points in and out of Gaza and the lack of contact between the authorities on both sides is aggravating a situation that cannot be dealt with by providing humanitarian assistance alone. Long-term economic aid and commercial exchanges are the only sustainable ways of helping the people of Gaza."