#World News

'It's everywhere' – how Hamas attack haunts Israel's student soldiers

By Jeremy Bowen

The first time I crossed into Gaza through the Erez checkpoint in 1991 it was not much more than a few bored Israeli soldiers in a shed, checking IDs, before they let visitors drive their cars through an opening in the barbed wire and into Gaza.

In the years since then, it evolved into a gleaming terminal, with complex layers of concrete walls, defences and steel gates, all covered with dozens of CCTV cameras. Only the very trusted and privileged were allowed to drive through Erez. Journalists had to walk and drag their bags with them.

Until 7 October, when Hamas fighters smashed through Erez. They attacked the nearby military base, killing Israeli soldiers and taking others hostage. Since then, it has been closed to all but the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

As part of Israel’s attempt to placate President Joe Biden after seven workers from the World Central Kitchen charity were killed by the IDF, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to reopen Erez to humanitarian convoys.

That matters because it is the simplest way to get aid to perhaps 300,000 Palestinians in northern Gaza. The most authoritative measure of food emergencies, known as the IPC, has warned that famine will have gripped the area in the next four weeks or so. Joe Biden’s humanitarian envoy to Gaza, David Satterfield, said on Wednesday that there was “an imminent risk of famine for the majority, if not all, the 2.2 million population of Gaza”.

The famine has been caused by the siege Israel imposed just after the 7 October attacks. At the time the Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant said: “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed.

“We are fighting human animals, and we are acting accordingly.”

Israel was forced by international pressure to allow in limited supplies of aid. But over six months it has not been anything like enough. Israel argued, inaccurately, that hunger in Gaza was caused by Hamas stealing and stockpiling aid and the UN’s failure to distribute what was left.

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'It's everywhere' – how Hamas attack haunts Israel's student soldiers

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