The situation in Gaza has escalated exponentially since 7 October 2023 on a day-to-day basis. The extensive and explicit media (and social media) coverage can, at times, inadvertently cause us to fall prey to compassion fatigue. We may even become desensitised to facts and figures, but it is crucial now more than ever to continue to cut through biases in an attempt to understand and feel the dire conditions facing the Palestinian people – the pain of our Muslim brothers and sisters. Beyond the staggering numbers and statistics lies a humanitarian crisis that demands our compassion and unity.
There is one accessible shower for every 4,500 people and one toilet for every 220 – this is the reality in Palestine. (“Lethal combination of hunger and disease to lead to more deaths in Gaza”, www.who.int) Gaza’s Ministry of Health reports that the bombardment of Gaza has now killed more than 25,000 Palestinians, with an additional 59,000 injured. Shockingly, around 70% of these casualties were women and children. Innocent, civilian, non-combatant women and children.
The daily death toll is just under 250 people a day. “This is a much faster rate than in other broadly comparable recent conflicts. The US-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Raqqa killed 20 civilians a day during a four-month offensive, the BBC reported, while the nine-month battle for Mosul between US-backed Iraqi forces and IS killed fewer than 40 civilians a day.” (“The numbers that reveal the extent of the destruction in Gaza”, www.theguardian.com)
The Israeli military has carried out 22,000 strikes in Gaza in less than three months. The scale of destruction is unprecedented, leaving countless homes, schools and hospitals in ruins. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 23 out of 37 hospitals are now inoperable. 104 schools have been destroyed and 70% of all school buildings have been affected in one way or another. (“Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel | Flash Update #83 [EN/AR/HE]”, https://reliefweb.int)
85% of Gaza’s entire population has been displaced – a harrowing 1.9 million people, as estimated by the UNRWA (UN Palestinian Relief Agency). (“UNRWA SITUATION REPORT #60”, www.unrwa.org) With 65,000 housing units destroyed and a further 290,000 made uninhabitable, half a million citizens have no homes to return to. The region also faces a dire sanitation crisis. The sheer lack of shower and toilet facilities paved the way for the rapid spread of the disease, with over 100,000 cases of diarrhoea reported since mid-October – a rate 25 times higher than the pre-conflict levels. This has primarily affected and continues to affect children under the tender age of five. (“Lethal combination of hunger and disease to lead to more deaths in Gaza”, www.who.int/news)
The situation in Gaza requires a united global effort to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. Beyond the statistics, it is a plea for humanity, and most importantly, Muslims around the world, to come together and work towards a solution that ensures justice and peace in the region and brings an end to the indiscriminate, barbaric and disproportionate violence and bloodshed. There seems to be, however, no sign of the Muslim world uniting anytime soon; in fact, they have never been as disunited as they are now.
In the last week, fresh waves of violence swept through the Middle East. This has sparked fear of further conflict and unrest spreading in a region that is already marked by extreme instability. Iran launched a surprise missile and drone attack on Pakistan, claiming to target the Jaish al-Adl militant group. To this, Pakistan quickly retaliated by bombing and launching missiles at Pakistani “terrorist hideouts” on Iran’s side of the border. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged both countries to “exercise maximum restraint to avoid further escalation of tensions”. (“Secretary-General Urges Iran, Pakistan to Exercise Restraint, following Exchange of Military Strikes”, https://press.un.org)
Alongside Pakistan, Iran also unleashed a barrage of ballistic missiles and drones targeting sites in Syria and Iraq, which they claim are linked to Israeli intelligence and anti-regime groups. The strikes were in response to a suicide bombing in Kerman earlier this month, which killed at least 84 Iranians. “Iran’s choice of retaliation was designed to send a clear message to its enemies, and to Israel and the United States in particular: Any aggression against Iran will be met with quick and severe retaliation”. (“Iran’s Missile Strikes Reveal Its Weakness”, https://foreignpolicy.com)
In conclusion, the dire situation in Gaza signifies not only an immediate humanitarian crisis but also highlights the increasing fragmentation in the Muslim world. Recent hostilities in the Middle East, such as Iran’s attacks on Pakistan and other nations, highlight deep-seated geopolitical and religious rifts among Muslim nations. Politically, the Muslim world is fractured, and sectarian divisions further compound the challenges. Whether it’s the Sunni-Shia schism or internal factions within Sunni Islam, like various sects, unity remains elusive.
Amid this disarray, the concept of spiritual leadership – a caliphate – emerges as the only avenue for unity. A unified Muslim ummah is essential to address the challenges faced by the Palestinians and the broader Muslim world. Such catastrophes should serve as a wake-up call. Uniting under a spiritual caliphate is the only solution – without this, the future of the Muslim world appears very bleak. It is only when this universal caliphate is recognised, that the resilience and enduring strength of the Muslim ummah can be realised, offering a beacon of hope in the current shadows of turmoil and distress.