By Yasmin Turner, MSc International Development
On October 7th, Hamas – a Palestinian organisation which is proscribed a terrorist group by the UK, Israel and other countries – led an unprecedented attack on a music festival, towns and other locations in Israel. Hamas killed around 1,200 people and took about 240 hostages, according to the Israeli government.
Following the attack, Israeli officials vowed to destroy Hamas. Israel has launched one of the most intense bombing campaigns of this century, killing over 14,000 Palestinians, including about 5,500 children*, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Blocked aid access
One of the greatest impacts of the bombing campaign has been on the delivery of humanitarian aid into the region. During the first two weeks of Israel’s bombing campaign, Gaza was placed into a state of siege which completely blocked any access for aid to enter.
Aid organisations working in Palestine and Israel have played a large role in calling for a humanitarian pause or a ceasefire, with some aid trucks being allowed into Gaza. The 1,479 aid trucks allowed entry during the period before the four-day truce represented just 14% of the monthly volume of humanitarian aid and commercial goods that were being delivered to Gaza before this latest conflict, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
This has led to a devastating situation in Gaza, as widespread hunger envelopes those who remain. The World Food Programme (WFP) reported that fuel shortages have resulted in bakeries being forced to close, making food staples like bread almost impossible to buy. Food prices are also continuing to rise significantly.
Western donors cut funding
Further fuelling the tensions between the international communities and aid organisations operating in Palestine and Israel are some Western donors who withdrew financial support for human rights groups, Arab media and think tanks.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Hossam Baghat, the Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said: “We don’t know how or if we can interact with some of these Western governments or partners ever again.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) have since shown that Austria, Denmark, Germany and Sweden suspended their bilateral development aid programmes in Gaza and the West Bank just days after the attack on October 7th. This pause in funding amounts to £110 million and has affected UN agencies, the Palestinian Authority which governs the West Bank, and several civil society organisations.
On October 11th, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) suspended millions of dollars of funding to six Palestinian and five Israeli civil society organisations.
“In view of the new situation that has prevailed since the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October and the resumption of hostilities in the Middle East, the FDFA has decided to suspend its financial support to eleven local NGOs,” the Foreign Ministry has said. The organisations are primarily involved in human rights and are recipients of support from the department’s Middle East cooperation programs, it added. There is likely to be increasing distrust and scepticism between aid organisations in Palestine and Israel and the wider international community.
The UK will provide an additional £30 million of humanitarian aid for civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, more than doubling the existing aid commitment for this year, of £27 million.
United Nations aid worker fatalities
Another notable concern for relations between aid organisations in Palestine and Israel and the wider community is aid worker deaths. Since the beginning of the siege, 104 aid workers from the UN’s Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) have been killed. More UN aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October 7th than in the organisation’s 78-year history.
It is unclear to what extent the impact of the four-day pause in fighting will have on the ability of aid toreach the entire Gaza region, especially in the North where conditions are reported to be dire. With winter coming, the situation in Gaza and relations between aid organisations and the international community are set to remain fragile unless a permanent ceasefire can be agreed.
*All statistics were accurate at the time of writing.