No more protected places
For Christophe Garnier, MSF emergency coordinator who arrived in Khan Younès, south of the coastal strip, on November 14, “in the last two cases mentioned here, it is impossible to know who is responsible. In my opinion, this is more a case of collateral damage than a deliberately targeted attack against MSF, the humanitarian workers or the hospital. » But the observation is clear, there are no longer any protected places. Hospitals, schools, journalists, humanitarian workers, all can be victims. “A reality not specific to this conflict, it is even more and more frequent,” explains very calmly this fifty-year-old who has worked for MSF for ten years. We saw the same thing in Yemen, where not a single school was left standing. But they were located several kilometers from each other, whereas here, in Gaza, the very dense population is concentrated in a small territory. The risks of collateral damage are therefore inevitably very significant. »
The Palestinian civilian population is the first victim. After fifty days of war, there are some 15,000 dead according to Hamas, not counting the bodies still buried under the rubble. The living, for their part, lack everything: a roof, water, food, medicine and fuel to run the generators which allow water treatment and the operation of hospitals. Israel allows supply trucks to enter the Gaza Strip only sparingly: around fifty per day, instead of 300 to 400 before the war.
A terrifying siege
Another specificity of Gaza, the impossibility, or almost, of leaving it. “This territory is experiencing a situation of almost total siege; it creates a deep, terrifying feeling of helplessness and inevitability. Even in Mosul, in Iraq, which had to endure a very long and very harsh siege, escaping remained possible,” underlines Michaël Neuman, director of studies at the MSF think tank in Paris. Only a few handfuls of Palestinians working for NGOs or foreign structures have been able to leave the Gaza Strip – those under contract with the European Union, in particular, the last of whom were evacuated on November 20 and transferred to Romania. All transit through Egypt, but only for a few days, because no Arab country wishes to receive the Palestinians for the long term. Not even Jordan, whose population is 60% of Palestinian origin, starting with Queen Rania.
The United Arab Emirates, which normalized relations with Israel in September 2020, however chartered one of its planes on November 18 to transport nine injured Palestinian children to a hospital in Abu Dhabi, their capital. Mohammed Al Kaabi, of the Emirates Red Crescent, says he hopes to “carry out daily evacuations”. Are the United Arab Emirates thus outlining a new path, that of a parallel relationship with the Palestinians and the Israelis? This would make this country, close to Saudi Arabia, an essential player in possible peace negotiations.
The truce gave humanitarian organizations a little leeway. “This allowed us to breathe a little, sleep better and move around to assess needs,” comments Christophe Garnier. What will happen at the end of this break: will the fights resume as before? Everything indicates this, according to each of the belligerents.