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The Gaza Strip’s southernmost city, Rafah, was a place where desperate Gazans could find food and aid until Israeli forces began an incursion, closing main crossings and leading to fear and dwindling supplies. Families are struggling to find basic necessities like bread, water, firewood, and vegetables. International aid officials warn that famine is imminent unless barriers to aid are lifted, the fighting stops, and vital services are restored. The situation has worsened in some areas, with little fuel reaching essential services and hundreds of thousands fleeing Rafah for areas with limited resources.

The head of the U.N. World Food Program has stated that famine has arrived in Gaza and more deaths are expected unless aid is delivered quickly. Circumstances in Gaza are unique as the entirety of the population is under threat, not just a subset. Despite mounting pressure to withdraw from Rafah, Israel remains determined to defeat Hamas and dismantle their infrastructure. Hundreds of thousands have already fled Rafah, and more are likely to do so as the offensive expands.

Aid entering Gaza has fallen significantly since the incursion began, with only a fraction of the previous aid trucks passing through. Delays in aid delivery are partly due to Israel’s security restrictions and Egypt’s restrictions on aid. The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor has requested arrest warrants against top Israeli and Hamas leaders for their role in the crisis. Egypt holds Israel solely responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, exacerbating the challenges of delivering aid.

Malnourished people in Gaza are more vulnerable to disease due to contaminated water, lack of sanitation, and a overwhelmed health care system. Security restrictions and political roadblocks have hindered aid efforts, with Egypt banning a full logistics hub and Israel only permitting certain items to pass through. Aid trucks are delayed at checkpoints and some aid workers have been killed in incidents with Israeli forces, despite efforts to enhance protection for aid workers.

The Biden administration has suspended arms transfers to Israel over the situation in Rafah and has urged coordination between Israel and Egypt to reopen the southern crossings for aid. Some Israelis argue for reopening the crossings to ensure aid reaches those in need, while others see withholding aid as a tactic to exert leverage and deprive Hamas of supplies. The situation in Gaza remains dire, with increasing shortages, rising prices, and limited access to food and other necessities. Aid agencies stress the urgent need for increased aid delivery to prevent further deaths and address the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

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