Over 650,000 Gazans are at risk of running out of water amid the territory’s siege by the Israeli military, the United Nations humanitarian office said early Thursday.
The escalating war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has resulted in a complete blockade of the territory, preventing energy, food, water and medical supplies from relieving the region’s dwindling stocks.
More than 2.3 million people live in Gaza, with about 40 percent of them younger than 14. The blockade and a massive airstrike campaign from Israel which has leveled entire neighborhoods have sparked calls from humanitarian groups to allow assistance into Gaza.
The Israeli energy minister said early Thursday that the country will not allow aid into Gaza, despite calls from organizations including the United Nations.
“Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home,” Israel Katz said on X, formerly Twitter. “Humanitarian for humanitarian. And no one will preach us morals.”
Gaza’s only power station ran out of fuel and shut down Wednesday, and medical supplies became more and more rare in the territory’s hospitals. The United Nations said dozens of the area’s hospitals are running at reduced capacity due to lack of power and supplies.
The Red Cross warned Thursday that those hospitals could soon turn into “morgues” without immediate aid.
“As Gaza loses power, hospitals lose power, putting newborns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC regional director for the Near and Middle East, wrote in a statement. “Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues.”
Over 2,500 people from both sides have been killed in the conflict.
A group of independent UN humanitarian experts denounced Israel’s attacks on Gaza on Thursday, directly calling them “collective punishment” and a “war crime.”
The group called out “indiscriminate military attacks against the already exhausted Palestinian people of Gaza,” citing rights violations in previous conflicts with Israel which “remain unaccounted for.”
“This amounts to collective punishment,” the UN experts said. “There is no justification for violence that indiscriminately targets innocent civilians, whether by Hamas or Israeli forces. This is absolutely prohibited under international law and amounts to a war crime.”
It is also difficult for Gazans to leave the territory, as the only border with Egypt was closed again Thursday due to Israeli airstrikes in the area. The crossing was previously closed on Monday due to strikes. The Egyptian government has now urged Israel to stop the strikes so aid can enter Gaza.