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Opinion Israel's actions in Gaza have weakened our humanity — a ceasefire must come now

Karol Balfe of ActionAid says pressure must remain on Israel for an immediate ceasefire.

EVERY DAY, IT’S like waking up to a never-ending nightmare. Some mornings it’s possible to forget for a second, then feel shameful guilt that I could forget. That’s never an option in Gaza.

The news headlines bring me right back, maybe 50 people dead overnight, maybe 100. More bombings, more strikes, and now aid drops which kill people, or they drown trying to reach the aid that has landed in the sea.

My four-year-old daughter has heard so much about Gaza, she sees pictures and automatically says ‘’is that Gaza”? I’m torn between wanting her to know — this is the worst violence I hope we’ll ever know, its scale so huge — and wanting her to be part of the fight to stop it. Then I remember that no four-year-old should know this horror. Just like no child in Gaza should face starvation. No child in Gaza should die from the lack of food and water. At least 27 children have died from malnutrition due to lack of food in Gaza, and probably many more.

Unspeakable violence

The violence, the starvation and the horror are at such a scale we almost can’t comprehend it. More than 32,500 Palestinians killed and 74,700 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7th. The entire 2.4 million population in Gaza faces extreme food insecurity, 70% of the north of Gaza faces imminent famine, 1.1 million will face it by July unless things change course.

Thousands of children in Gaza are slowly fading away and dying from thirst and acute malnutrition. If starvation doesn’t get them – with very limited food aid getting into the region — disease and illness will. According to the UN, one in three children in northern Gaza under the age of two is now suffering from acute chronic malnutrition. That is a dramatic increase in the space of a month, where one in six were affected.

Just at a time when needs grow, health services have been devastated due to horrific daily bombardments, and there is limited sanitation and almost no clean water supply now in the besieged enclave.

Weekly, I hear the stories from ActionAid Palestine colleagues about how our partners are supporting mothers giving birth on the ground in filthy shelters, with no medical support or pain relief. They tell of amputations taking place in the limited health facilities that remain, without anaesthetic. They tell of Gazans traumatised, injured, grieving, and asking why the world has stopped caring.

Yet around the world, people look on in horror and wonder when it will all stop.

International community

We all see the distressing images on television and social media of emaciated, skeletal-like children not far from death. After a shameful almost six months of political wrangling, there is finally a UN Security Council Resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. This is welcome and long overdue, but will it stop this madness?

The need for this to happen could not be more compelling. Palestinians in Gaza are experiencing the fastest growing and most intense famine developing anywhere in the world in recent history.

This week, the head of UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinians said that Israel was deliberately denying access to food convoys to the area. The only possible explanation that can now be given for Israel’s actions is that it has manufactured and created this starvation. And Israel has been enabled by failed global politics, despite strong efforts by some. The role of the US in supporting Israel with arms and political support is a major reason why we are here almost six months in.


The UNSC Resolution is only worth the paper it is written on unless it is acted upon as a matter of urgency. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, delivered a shocking report this week that stated: “Israel has destroyed Gaza”. Four words, a lifetime of horror.

She said there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that Israel is carrying out three of the five acts defined as genocide: killing Palestinians, causing them serious bodily or mental harm, and “deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction” of the population in whole or in part.

“The overwhelming nature and scale of Israel’s assault on Gaza and the destructive conditions of life it has inflicted reveal an intent to physically destroy Palestinians as a group,” she said. The report recommends that UN member states immediately implement an arms embargo on Israel.

This damning report follows the case taken by South Africa to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a world court that confirmed it is “plausible” Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. It issued provisional measures to limit the risk and called for action against Israeli politicians using genocidal rhetoric, and urged the large-scale delivery of humanitarian assistance. The Israeli government has clearly not complied with the measures.

In the face of mounting evidence of genocide, this cannot continue. It is despicable that the US continues to provide – and increase — military aid to Israel in its onslaught on the Palestinian people. It is despicable that the US has cut funding to UNRWA for a year, the only agency that could provide aid at the scale needed, creating a $350 million deficit to a starving population.

This whilst starting humiliating and deadly aid air drops, and using the rubble of Gaza soaked with blood to build a port that will supposedly bring aid at some point. It is despicable that the US has questioned if the UNSC Resolution on the ceasefire is binding.

southern-israel-israel-10th-mar-2024-what-is-believed-to-be-a-united-states-air-force-c-130-drops-humanitarian-aid-by-parachute-over-the-northern-gaza-strip-as-seen-from-inside-southern-israel-on Southern Israel, Israel. 10th Mar, 2024. What is believed to be a United States Air Force C-130 drops humanitarian aid by parachute over the northern Gaza Strip. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

This violence is eroding our humanity. With a Rafah ground invasion and intense famine looming, pressure must remain on Israel and its allies for an immediate ceasefire — and for unlimited food, water and medical aid to get into the region as a matter of urgency.

Palestinians, but also the world, need this UNSC resolution to work. But it cannot just be a temporary pause in fighting, it has to be lasting. It is beyond time to stop the horror and reclaim humanity.

Karol Balfe is CEO of ActionAid Ireland which is part of a global federation with a presence in over 71 countries working for a world free from poverty and injustice.