Israel is in an impossible position following the historical atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7. It has a duty to protect its citizens from enemies who have sworn to wipe it off the map, yet its response in bombing Gaza has also become a political liability.
Starving Hamas of critical supplies is part of how Israel intends to defeat its adversary and assure its own security. Yet, to Hamas, the harm to civilians is a way to soften international support for Israel. At the same time, the violence could further antagonize Israel’s adversaries, which, in turn, would threaten a wider war. Hamas’s strategy to use hostages taken in the attack, as well as Gazan civilians as cover, means that eliminating its terrorist threat will come at a high human cost.
Calls for a cease-fire to allow humanitarian aid have been rejected. Among the needs in Gaza right now are food, water, and medicine. Little has come, other than a trickle of trucks via Egypt. Under the blockade and relentless bombing, hospitals in Gaza have run out of fuel to run lifesaving generators. Without fuel, the hospitals cannot generate electricity, cutting power to infant incubators and dialysis machines, according to credible reports. Israel and the United States say that any fuel sent to Gaza would be diverted by Hamas to its war effort, potentially prolonging the conflict and suffering.
John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman, acknowledged this week that the human toll will continue to rise. “It is ugly and it’s going to be messy, and innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward,” he said. This may be the brutal truth, but it is essential that Israel and the U.S. quickly find a way to protect noncombatants to the extent they can during wartime. Clearly, the sooner the fighting stops, the sooner the harm to ordinary people on both sides has a chance of ending.