Written by: Nirmeen Al-Looh, a participant in REFORM’s “United in Diversity” Project

Since October 2023, Israel has waged a devastating war against Palestinians, particularly targeting the Gaza Strip. This aggression has resulted in tens of thousands of martyrs, most of whom are women and children. For over seven months, women have faced genocide, starvation, and forced displacement as the Israeli occupying forces seek to destroy all components of Palestinian society. Women have borne the brunt of this extermination campaign in the Gaza Strip, with over ten thousand female martyrs recorded out of a total of more than 35,000. About 10,000 women and children remain missing, and thousands more have been directly injured by intense bombing. Gaza is home to 1.10 million females, 49.3% of whom are of childbearing age (15-49 years). More than 2,784 women have lost their husbands and become new heads of households amidst the ongoing war of extermination.

One of the biggest challenges facing women in the Gaza Strip is the lack of privacy due to overcrowding in tents, public shelters, or relatives’ homes. This situation has imposed immense psychological and health pressures on them, often exceeding the permissible limit. Women find themselves remaining veiled at all times or reducing food and drink intake to avoid using the toilet, which requires them to wait in front of strangers. Additionally, they sleep in rooms crowded with large numbers of women, often without a bed to provide proper shelter.

Palestinian women suffer from displacement, with about 88.9% having been forced from their homes. Of these, 78% indicated they lost their homes entirely. According to a March 2024 survey by The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local DevelopmentREFORM, 55.6% of women reside in public shelters, 25.2% live in tents, 15.8% are hosted by neighbors or family members, and 1.4% live on the streets. Additionally, 75.9% face challenges in preparing meals.

These statistics show that the effects of the aggression were largely focused on women, leading to significant changes and imbalances in the Palestinian social structure. Palestinian women play a crucial role in preserving Palestinian identity and its symbolic components. This situation will also impact their central role in the Palestinian national struggle and their leadership in popular movements demanding an end to the occupation and the realization of the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people.

The Israeli occupying forces forced thousands of women and girls to flee on foot from the north to the south of the Gaza Strip, a distance of about 22 kilometers, amid heavy gunfire, despite claims of safety. While walking on Salah al-Din Street towards the south, many were arrested and subjected to brutal treatment. At the Netzarim checkpoint, they were detained in a deep hole for long hours with weapons pointed at their necks and heads. Those who survived and reached the south of the Gaza Strip found themselves homeless, facing numerous challenges without a breadwinner or economic resources to support their survival.

In terms of health, these conditions forced women to take birth control pills to stop their menstrual cycles due to the lack of sanitary pads, negatively impacting their health and causing physical pain. Women's bodies were systematically targeted, and the suffering extended beyond this. Pregnant women experienced oppressive conditions during childbirth, often without anesthesia or any health care or sterilization. According to a field testimony, a woman was forced to give birth in one of the corridors of Kamal Adwan Hospital during its siege, with no regard for her privacy or critical condition. Additionally, many women were forced to give birth in tents, shelter centers, and gardens, blatantly violating their privacy.

For all these reasons, we call on international and human rights organizations to take serious action to stop the war and compel the Israeli government, the occupying power, to cease targeting civilians. We also renew the demand to hold the occupying power accountable and punish it for its crimes under international law and violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Additionally, we call for the imposition of deterrent sanctions on the occupying power and the delegitimization of it as a prelude to expelling it from the United Nations. We demand an end to the policy of double standards and urge the United States to stop confronting our cause with the right of veto.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's views and not necessarily the Association's or donor's opinion.