The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reports on the casualties caused by the Israeli armed assault on a Palestinian march at the Gaza border:
As of 22:00 today, 30 March, 15 Palestinians were killed and 1,416 were injured by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza. Of all injuries, approximately 750 were hit by live ammunition, including twenty, who are reported to be in a critical condition [bold mine-DL].
Medical facilities in Gaza, which have already been overstrained by the longstanding shortages of medical supplies, electricity and fuel, are struggling to cope with the overwhelming number of casualties.
Israeli forces fired upon unarmed protesters and killed over a dozen while wounding hundreds more. Gaza was already under a suffocating blockade. The humanitarian disaster that the blockade is causing in Gaza is enormous, but has received very little outside attention. The Los Angeles Times reported on the situation last month:
Deficit and desperation define life these days in the Gaza Strip. Residents make do with four hours of electricity a day. Most people don’t have access to clean water because the supply system is contaminated with sewage. Breakfast for some schoolchildren is a cup of hot water flavored with a dash of salt.
“Despair isn’t even the right word to describe what’s going on here because things are getting worse and worse,” said Omar Ghraieb, 31, a journalist and digital media manager living in Gaza. “We wake up to a world of struggles each day.”
For more than a decade Palestinians living in Gaza have endured major escalations of violence and an air and sea blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt, that has decimated the infrastructure, stifled economic growth and made living conditions so dismal that United Nations officials say a humanitarian disaster is unavoidable.
“We really are seeing a collapse in place,” said Matthias Schmale, director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, which provides humanitarian assistance to more than 1.3 million refugees in the self-governing Palestinian territory.
Frida Ghitis provides more details in her recent WPR column:
After more than a decade under Hamas rule and following two brief wars with Israel, living conditions are dismal. Electricity service is limited to six or seven hours a day, potable water is in short supply, and unemployment afflicts about half of the population. While Gazans blame both Israel and Hamas for their troubles, some in Israel say the blame rests fully with Hamas and that it is not Israel’s responsibility to help. But that is very much a minority view among security experts.
These are the conditions that are driving many people to join the protests. When people protest against these conditions, they are shot with live ammunition. That is disgraceful, and there is no excuse for it. Gaza is now likely to suffer even more in the days and weeks to come in order to further “punish” the people that Israel has been blockading for more than a decade.
The shooting of unarmed protesters is being described in Western media as the eruption of “clashes,” but the use of lethal force was entirely on the far more powerful side. Using lethal force against an unarmed crowd like this is obviously excessive and should be condemned in no uncertain terms. The larger issue is that the ongoing blockade of Gaza is likewise excessive and cruel to the millions of people affected by it. The blockade needs to be lifted as soon as possible.