Rescue teams search rubble of Gaza building

Residents and civil defense teams conduct a search and rescue operation among the rubble of demolished buildings after Israeli attacks in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on December 12, 2023.

(Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Global Aid Leaders to World: 'We Have Seen Nothing Like the Siege of Gaza'

"We are no strangers to human suffering—to conflict, to natural disasters, to some of the world's largest and gravest catastrophes," reads a joint op-ed calling for a cease-fire.

The leaders of some of the world's top humanitarian organizations wrote in a New York Timesop-ed Tuesday that the spiraling humanitarian disaster created by Israel's blockade and incessant bombing of the Gaza Strip is more devastating than anything they've witnessed in decades of relief work across the globe.

"We are no strangers to human suffering—to conflict, to natural disasters, to some of the world's largest and gravest catastrophes," wrote the heads of CARE USA, Mercy Corps, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam America, Refugees International, and Save the Children U.S. "We were there when fighting erupted in Khartoum, Sudan. As bombs rained down on Ukraine. When earthquakes leveled southern Turkey and northern Syria. As the Horn of Africa faced its worst drought in years. The list goes on."

"We have seen nothing like the siege of Gaza," they continued. "Most of our organizations have been operating in Gaza for decades. But we can do nothing remotely adequate to address the level of suffering there without an immediate and complete cease-fire and an end to the siege. The aerial bombardments have rendered our jobs impossible. The withholding of water, fuel, food, and other basic goods has created an enormous scale of need that aid alone cannot offset."

The group of aid leaders, which includes a former Biden administration official, argued that a cease-fire is necessary to begin the arduous work of providing emergency relief to nearly two million displaced Gazans and rebuilding the territory's infrastructure, much of which has been demolished in what's been called "one of history's heaviest conventional bombing campaigns."

"A significant change in approach from the U.S. government is needed today to pull Gaza back from this abyss."

Singling out the Biden administration for vetoing a cease-fire resolution at the U.N. Security Council last week, the humanitarian leaders wrote Tuesday that "a significant change in approach from the U.S. government is needed today to pull Gaza back from this abyss."

"Among leaders in Washington, there is constant talk about preparing for the 'day after.' But if this relentless bombardment and siege continues, there will be no 'day after' for Gaza. It will be too late," they warned. "To stop Gaza's apocalyptic free fall, the Biden administration must take tangible measures like it does in other conflicts to up the ante with all parties to the conflict and bordering countries."

The aid leaders' plea comes as the death toll from Israel's U.S.-backed bombing campaign continues to rise and the cascading impacts of the assault—including widespread hunger and the alarming spread of infectious diseases—intensified over the past several days.

"Bloody diarrhea, jaundice, acute hepatitis, and respiratory infections. These are just some of the diseases spreading in the Gaza Strip, where the World Health Organization (WHO) says the health system is 'on its knees and collapsing," CNNreported Tuesday.

The U.N. estimates that nearly 85% of Gaza's population has been displaced by Israeli bombing, which is currently concentrated in southern Gaza. Fewer than a dozen of the territory's 36 hospitals are functioning.

"The harrowing events unfolding before us are shaping a global narrative that if unchanged, will reveal a legacy of indifference in the face of unspeakable suffering, bias in the application of the laws of conflict, and impunity for actors that violate international humanitarian law," the aid leaders wrote Tuesday. "The U.S. government must act now—and fight for humanity."

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