Humanitarian Challenges in Gaza and Its Implications for Global Peace


The resurgence of hostilities in the Middle-East was triggered by the attack on Israel, which was perpetrated by members of the Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistant Movement – Hamas) on October 7, 2023. The perpetrators had invaded some Israeli communities located in the southern border that was adjoining Gaza. During the attacks, there were about 1,200 fatalities, 6,900 injured persons and 240 hostages recorded. The hostages included people of non-Israeli nationalities. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reported that the attack was the deadliest terrorist attack recorded in Israel since it became a state in 1948. Israel responded immediately by launching airstrikes on Gaza, with its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declaring that the country was at war with Hamas. The airstrikes were complemented by ground invasion with the mobilisation of close to 500,000 members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). As of December 2023, the IDF claimed it had struck at least 22,000 targets and demolished over 800 tunnel shafts in Gaza, in addition to at least 100,000 buildings that have been destroyed. In November 2023, there was a temporary truce facilitated by Qatar and Egypt, which also entailed the exchange of 240 Palestinian prisoners for 105 of the hostages captured during the attack. Israel has also accused Hamas of committing war crimes such as torture, rape and mutilation during the attack, while Hamas has refuted claims regarding the latter two as false. There have been dire humanitarian consequences during Israel’s retaliation in Gaza with women and children suffering the most casualties. According to official figures from the Gaza Health Ministry, there have been at least 14,500 fatalities, 50,000 injured persons and 1.5 million displaced persons as of December 2023. The humanitarian challenge has led to several calls by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres for a humanitarian ceasefire and the protection of civilians in the Gaza Strip. The focus of the December 14, 2023 edition of the Africanist Scholars’ Forum was to explore the context of the ongoing war of Israel on Hamas and the worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza.


We have observed efforts by the international community towards mediating the ongoing war in Gaza. These include the joint statement released by the African Union Commission and the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States at the beginning of the crisis in October, 2023. The statement included the call for an immediate ceasefire and collective action by the international community to provide urgent humanitarian aid to about 2.2 million Palestinians that were affected by the war. Egypt and the United States have also worked with Israel to create a humanitarian corridor around the Rafah Border Crossing in the south of Gaza. This was specifically to allow foreign nationals escaping the conflict enter into Egypt from November 1, 2023. The tripartite collaboration also facilitated delivery of aid to civilians that were trapped in Gaza. Egypt has also helped in meeting the medical needs of pre-term babies as it received about 28 of them for specialized care in its medical facilities. Similarly, the IDF soldiers created a safe passage through the Salah al-Din highway in Wadi Gaza for about three hours during the first week of November, 2023. This was to allow for the evacuation of civilians who are based in the Hamas-controlled northern area.

We also noted that there have been allegations by the IDF soldiers that Hamas was using civilians as human shields. These include the building of Hamas defense infrastructure below and within civilian territories. The implication of this is the vulnerability of civilians to attacks by the warring parties, coupled with the need for evacuation that has intensified the humanitarian crises in Gaza. There have also been pro-Palestinian protests across the globe to call for a cessation of Israel’s military action in Gaza. The Israeli Prime Minister has, however, insisted that there will be no humanitarian ceasefire until the hostages have been released. There have also been condemnable attacks on medical facilities, particularly the al-Ahli and Al-Shifa hospitals. These attacks have put patients at severe risks, especially those that were undergoing treatments for terminal ailments. To put this in perspective, about 23 of the 36 hospitals in Gaza have been made dysfunctional by the war. The war has also been noted for indiscriminate attacks on journalists, as well as medical and humanitarian aid workers. In November 2023, Doctors without Borders reported the death of three doctors at the Al-Awda Hospital, while about 70 journalists and media workers have been killed as of December 2023, according to documentation by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Gaza crises have also led to the rise in incidents of antisemitism, with terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda requesting followers to target Israeli and American entities. There have been cases recorded in different countries including the United States and United Kingdom, through expressions in mantras like ‘kill Jews’ and ‘stinking Jews’ as documented by Reuters. There was also a viral video recorded in the Dagestan Region of Russia, where a mob invaded the airport to seek out Jews for probable attacks after a flight arrived from Tel Aviv. This expression of hate has also infested the digital media, with expressions associating Jews with snakes, vampires and parasites posted on the Chinese social media. There has also been an increase in cases of Islamophobia, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) documenting a 172% rise during the first two months of the ongoing war in Gaza. The forms of attack include shooting, physical violence, and using Islamophobic slurs on victims, especially pro-Palestinian rights activists.



It is important that the international community continues to work with key stakeholders in the conflict to ensure that there is a cessation of hostilities in Gaza. This is quite important to avert the threats of further spread of the conflict to neighbouring countries, as indicated in the recent escalation of tensions in the Red Sea.

As provided for in Article 4A of the Third Geneva Convention and Article 79 of the Additional Protocol, journalists and media professionals should be guaranteed the same protection due to civilians as noncombatants. This also applies to medical personnel, who must not be subjected to violence or captured, but be allowed to carry on with their duties and guaranteed safety as stipulated by Articles 36 and 37 of the Geneva Convention II.

National governments should work towards the protection of Jews and Muslims who are susceptible to antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks within their territories. It is thus important to provide protection at locations that are associated with both groups, while offenders of these hate crimes should be held accountable. Combatting hate crimes also require the collaboration of big tech companies running different social media platforms, especially regarding the need to revise some privacy policies; so as to reflect the balance between freedom of speech and protection of users from harm.

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