Smoke rises over Gaza despite Israel-Hamas cease-fire
IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner joined ‘FOX & Friends First’ to discuss the latest on the cease-fire with Hamas as they work to secure the safe release of additional hostages.
More people in Gaza could die from health problems such as infectious disease than from aerial strikes during the Israel-Hamas war, a World Health Organization spokesperson warned on Tuesday, pointing to Gaza’s collapsed health system and unlivable conditions in the territory.
The World Health Organization said the war has caused a public health crisis in the Gaza Strip that could drive up the death toll — more than 13,300 Palestinians have already been killed, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry — if the territory’s health system is not restored, if running water is not provided and if shelters are not reconstructed for displaced Palestinians.
“Eventually we will see more people dying from disease than we are even seeing from the bombardment if we are not able to put back (together) this health system,” the WHO’s Margaret Harris said at a U.N. briefing in Switzerland.
The lack of potable water supplies, sanitation and medical access is a recipe for epidemics as displaced Palestinians have been forced to take shelter in cramped homes and camps, she said: “(There are) no medicines, no vaccination activities, no access to safe water and hygiene and no food. We saw a very high number of cases of diarrhea among infants.”
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Palestinians inspect the destruction caused by Israeli strikes on their homes in the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Yunis near the border fence between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip on November 27, 2023, amid a truce in battles between Israel and Hamas. (SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images)
Palestinians, especially those in northern Gaza, remain in the crossfire of the wider conflict between Israel and Hamas, the terror group that governs the territory, which Israel has sworn to annihilate.
In its pursuit of the terrorists responsible for the deadly Oct. 7 attack, the deadliest in Israel’s history, Israel has shelled Palestinian homes and apartments, schools and restaurants, and hospitals and other care facilities. Hamas often uses these civilian sites for their operations, including rocket attacks and to cover their tunnel networks.
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Because of the collapse of this health infrastructure, WHO’s Harris expressed concerns about a rise in outbreaks of infectious diseases, particularly diarrheal diseases.
Palestinians pass destroyed buildings on the second day of the truce at the refugee camp in Nuseirat, Gaza, on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. The humanitarian pause in Gaza has “largely held” since going into effect Friday, allowing the United Nations to boost the delivery of crucial aid into and across Gaza, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in an update. (Ahmad Salem/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
She also described the collapse of Al Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza as a “tragedy” and expressed an urgent need to restore even the most basic healthcare access to Palestinians. James Elder, a spokesperson from the U.N. Children’s Agency in Gaza, told reporters that hospitals in Gaza were full of children with war wounds and gastroenteritis from drinking dirty water.
“I met a lot of parents… They know exactly what their children need. They don’t have access to safe water and it’s crippling them,” he said.
The White House appears to agree with the health concern as it is prioritizing the delivery of vaccines and other medical goods into Gaza, senior administration officials told Fox News.
Palestinians migrate from the northern to southern Gaza Strip because of the Israeli attacks, pass on routes “safe passage corridor” designated by the Israeli army during the last day of the 4-day humanitarian pause in Gaza City, Gaza on November 27, 2023. (Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)
There has also been a focus on potable water supplies and sanitation to prevent outbreaks, such as typhoid and cholera. The White House is also pushing to get as much fuel into Gaza as possible to restore water desalination plants, hospitals, pumping of water from wells, sewerage pumping, solid waste removal and other essential functions.
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The first of three U.S. military-led humanitarian aid flights to northern Egypt carrying medical supplies, food and winter items for Gaza’s civilian population will be delivered on Tuesday, the officials said. The aid will then be delivered to Gaza by the United Nations.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.