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A brief pause in violence in Gaza

RS363502_Oct 26_ Huwaida - Oxfam's local partner staff member-lpr
Huwaida sits with her sleeping grandson. She works for the Culture and Free Thought Association. She and her family left their home in northern Gaza and are seeking shelter in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Marwan Sawwaf/Alef MultiMedia/Oxfam

Release of hostages is a welcome development, but a four-day pause in fighting isn't enough to provide the food, fuel, and other humanitarian aid people desperately need.

Humanitarian organizations welcomed news of a deal for the release of at least 50 hostages held in Gaza -- but also expressed concerns that a brief pause in hostilities is not adequate to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Only a permanent ceasefire will make it possible to deliver meaningful humanitarian aid to people in urgent need of assistance.

Oxfam’s President and CEO Abby Maxman said in a statement, “We celebrate that fact that a number of the Israeli and foreign national hostages will be released and that this deal allows for families on both sides to be reunited, celebrate the safe return of their loved ones, and mourn those they have lost.”

At the same time, she notes that the “agreed pause in violence and increase in aid allowed into Gaza is miles away from what we need in order to alleviate the escalating humanitarian crisis.”

After more than a month of fighting, there is little food, water, or health care available to people in Gaza.

“Basic humanitarian needs are very scarce and, when available, super expensive,” says one Oxfam staff member (name withheld for security) who was recently able to get a message out to colleagues. “We walk miles to get water and buy it for triple the regular price. We are lucky to be getting half a liter per person per day… Most bakeries are either bombed, or out of capacity. Wheat flour is like gold now … after the last standing flour mill was bombed, so bread is now a rare commodity.”

A volunteer nurse works at a hospital in Gaza during what she calls “the hardest war Gaza has ever seen.” Ibrahim Alotla/Alef Multimedia/Oxfam

Caring for wounded Gazans is becoming impossible as hospitals have run out of fuel to generate electricity, and most other supplies. “This is the hardest war Gaza has ever seen,” says Hind (not her real name), a volunteer hospital nurse. “We ask the whole world to compassionately stand with Gaza, especially the children, because most of the wounded are children.”

Oxfam partners active in Gaza despite conflict

Despite the difficulties of delivering humanitarian assistance in Gaza, Oxfam’s partners have provided cash to about 400 families, and 1,000 food kits and 400 hygiene kits were distributed to families displaced by the conflict and seeking shelter in southern Gaza.

During the four-day pause in hostilities Oxfam intends to continue to assist our partners in Gaza to deliver cash, food (including fresh food), protection services, and hygiene kits. Some of those partners include Palestinian Environmental Friends, Al Bayader, Juzoor, Culture and Free Thought Association, Atfaluna, the Association for Women and Child Protection, and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society.

Oxfam’s partners in southern Gaza have distributed 1,000 food kits to people displaced by the conflict. These food kits contain a variety of staple foods, such as bulgur wheat, dates, powdered milk, tea, cheese, and sugar. Wassem Mushtaha/Oxfam

Oxfam also plans to participate in a joint mission organized by the United Nations to assess humanitarian needs in northern Gaza.

Only an end to hostilities will make it possible for these and other groups in Gaza to provide more and better assistance to survivors.

“We need a full, immediate ceasefire so that families can return to what remains of their homes and communities,” Maxman says. “We need a pathway to a solution that ensures the safety and dignity of Israelis and Palestinians. Oxfam continues to call for a ceasefire and an end to the siege, safe humanitarian access, and the return of all hostages.”

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