Ramadan Begins in Gaza, Ceasefire Talks Stall as Fighting and Crisis Continue

Ramadan Begins in Gaza, Ceasefire Talks Stall as Fighting and Crisis Continue

A nurse cares for babies at the premature ward of the Emirati Hospital in Rafah, in southern Gaza, on Friday, March 8. Sixteen premature babies have died of malnutrition-related causes over the past five weeks at the hospital. Fatima Shbair/AP


Religious Holiday and the War:

As Palestinians begin to observe Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims often known for the observation of fasting from sunrise to sunset, bombardment from Israeli strikes and nutritional deficiency due to a lack of meals per day and lack of caloric-rich food continue to heavily impact millions of those living in Gaza, Palestine. Hunger conditions have been reported as continuing to worsen, according to NGO and humanitarian groups. At least 25 people, including 16 premature babies, a 15-year-old, and a 72-year-old man, have been recorded as dying of malnutrition and dehydration in northern Gaza, according to one of the senior doctors at the Emirati Hospital in Rafah, who spoke to The Associated Press.

Hunger Crisis:

Isolated due to the Israeli ground offensive and cutoff from food supplies and medical care for extended periods of time, have made the north deadly for those with pre-existing conditions or vulnerabilities. In this same manner, reportedly similar cases are leading to children succumbing in the south as well, such as in Rafah. Disease has led to difficulty for many to retain calories as they expel their stomach contents due to various symptoms causing frequent diarrhea and vomiting; weakened immune systems due to malnutrition lead to higher infection rates; unclean water and food contribute to the spread of disease and bacteria; and underfed mothers have difficulty breastfeeding children, according to Anuradha Narayan, a UNICEF child nutrition expert; as well, other doctors say premature deaths are rooted in their mothers malnutrition. AP reports that Dr. Husam Abu Safiya, the acting head of Kamal Adwan Hospital, said his staff treat 300–400 children a day and that 75% suffer from malnutrition. Food, water, medicine, and other supplies have been largely prevented from entering Gaza by Israel since Hamas’ October 7th attack. Israel has blamed U.N. agencies for failing to properly distribute supplies that have been allowed in, while U.N. officials say convoys are turned back regularly and that lack of security has lead to the looting of the aid before it gets to designated areas, either by desperate civilians or armed Hamas forces. Airdrops provide a much smaller amount of aid than truck deliveries per transportation effort, but currently appear to be the path decided to be taken by countries outside the conflict over ground aid. Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Monday that 31,112 Palestinians have been killed since October 7th, as well as more than 70,000 wounded. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and non-combatants, but says that two-thirds are women and children.

Inflation and scarcity of supplies in the north have become desperate, according to AP, who spoke to residents, with many reportedly resorting to eating a weed/wild plant that grows in empty lots known as “khubaiza” (Malva parviflora, Mallow common), which is said to taste like kale and contains simple vitamins as well as being known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Others reportedly grind up animal feed to use as makeshift flour or ration food for their younger or elderly family members, who are in higher danger of succumbing to malnutrition. In the south canned goods are among the few main sources of actual food supplies remaining, often from aid packages.

Ceasefire Talks Falter After Proposed Conditions:

Ceasefire talks have continued to largely stall as both the Israeli government and Hamas militant leaders have reached an impasse in brokering the release of hostages and prisoners. Middleman countries such as the U.S., Qatar, and Egypt, which have all sought to negotiate terms between the two sides, have been unable to secure a ceasefire during the holiday period so far, despite efforts made to do so. They had hoped to bring about the simultaneous release of Israelis and Palestinians to each respective side that are being held either after being taken hostage on October 7th or being imprisoned within Israel and the occupied West Bank. An estimated 100 Israelis and other hostages are reported as being held captive by Hamas forces as IDF ground operations continue to divide and strike across the Gaza Strip in an effort to totally eradicate Hamas, Israel says the remains of 30 dead hostages remain in Hamas holding as well. 250 hostages were taken and 1,200 were killed in southern Israel during Hamas’ militant’s attack.

Oppositional Positions:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that the Israeli military will continue its attacks and operations in Gaza as long as Hamas remains in power and as long as hostages are held. Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar, reportedly behind the Oct. 7th attack, is said to be holding onto the hostages with a belief that he can end the war on his terms by waiting out the bombardments and ground invasion and applying pressure for Israel to withdraw and/or release Palestinians in prison en masse, including Hamas militants and political leaders serving long or life sentences. Both sides reject the others’ proposals as unrealistic or untenable. Israel has rescued three hostages since October while also reportedly killing three by mistake, and according to Hamas, several others were killed in airstrikes or failed rescue attempts. Hundreds have been exchanged so far in transfers between Israel and Hamas, facilitated by the Red Cross/Red Crescent.

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