War In Gaza Hits 6-Month Mark Amid ‘Death, Devastation’


The Israel-Hamas war reached its gruesome six-month mark Saturday and is considered one of the most destructive, deadly, and relentless conflicts of the 21st century. 

“Six months on, the war in Gaza is a betrayal of humanity,” said Martin Griffiths, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator at the United Nations. 

In a statement Saturday, Griffiths acknowledged the pain and suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis since Hamas staged its October 7 terror attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and claimed more than 240 hostages. 

Griffiths remarked that “for the people of Gaza, the past six months of war have brought death, devastation and now the immediate prospect of a shameful manmade famine.” He noted that for the people affected by the lasting horror of the Hamas attacks, “it has been six months of grief and torment.” 

In his plea for a cease-fire, Griffiths said that “every second counts ending this war” as it claims more civilian victims and “continues to sow the seeds of a future so deeply obscured by this relentless conflict.” 

Griffiths said any further escalation of the war in Gaza is an “unconscionable prospect.” 

He said his “heart goes out to the families of those killed, injured or taken hostage, and to those who face the particular suffering of not knowing the plight of their loved ones.”

“It is not enough for six months of war to be a moment of remembrance and mourning,” he said. “It must also spur a collective determination that there be a reckoning for this betrayal of humanity.” 

More than 33,000 dead

Since October 7, Israel has pummeled the enclave, killing 33,137 people that includes more than 13,000 children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and The Associated Press. 

Gaza’s health ministry doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count, but says women and children have made up about two-thirds of those killed. 

Seventy percent of the Palestinian population in Gaza has been displaced within the enclave, and about half of the population is clustered into Gaza’s southernmost city, Rafah. 

Famine on horizon

With humanitarian aid barely trickling into Gaza, food there is scarce. According to the U.N., famine is approaching, and few Palestinians have been able to leave the besieged territory. Thirty-one percent of children under the age of 2 are acutely malnourished in northern Gaza. 

Meanwhile, Hamas still refuses to free the approximately 100 hostages remaining in its chokehold. 

As of February 14, 2024, 112 hostages had been returned alive to Israel, with 105 being released in a prisoner exchange deal — four released by Hamas unilaterally and three rescued by the Israel Defense Forces. It has been confirmed that 36 hostages have died in Hamas captivity. 

Many Israelis worry that the world has forgotten about the hostages, and they routinely organize anti-government protests demanding the Israeli government negotiate their return from captivity.

U.S. President Joe Biden urged the leaders of Egypt and Qatar Friday to pressure Hamas militants to agree to a Gaza cease-fire and a hostage deal ahead of a fresh round of negotiations this weekend in Cairo. 

CIA Director Bill Burns will lead the U.S. delegation to the Cairo talks, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said. 

Kirby said Biden wrote letters to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, on the state of the hostage talks, and “he urged them to secure commitments from Hamas to agree and abide by a deal.” 

Biden also told Netanyahu to empower his negotiators in Cairo so that a deal can be reached as soon as possible allowing more humanitarian aid to get into Gaza. 

Under the most recent proposal, Israel and Hamas would agree to a six-week cease-fire in exchange for the release of sick, elderly and wounded hostages held by Hamas. 

Biden also warned Netanyahu Thursday that Israel must take steps to address civilian harm and humanitarian suffering, or else Washington will take unspecified steps in response. 

On Friday, the Israeli military dismissed two officers and formally reprimanded senior commanders after an inquiry into the killing of seven aid workers in a Gaza airstrike this week found serious errors and breaches of procedure. 

Israel also announced it was opening the Ashdod port and the Erez crossing to increase the flow of aid into Gaza. 

Asked if he had threatened to withhold military support for Israel, Biden told reporters Friday: “I asked them to do what they’re doing.”


The VOA is the Voice of America

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