March 12, 2024 Israel-Hamas war

gaza ramadan bashir pkg 2
See how civilians in Gaza are celebrating Ramadan in the shadow of war
03:34 - Source: CNN

What we covered here

  • The first maritime humanitarian aid shipment to Gaza since the war began is on its way to the enclave from Cyprus, according to the nonprofit World Central Kitchen.  
  • As fears of famine grow in northern Gaza, the World Food Programme said one of its food convoys reached Gaza City for the first time since February 20.
  • Dual US-Israeli citizen Itay Chen was killed on October 7, the Israeli military announced on Tuesday. Five other dual US-Israeli citizens are still thought to be held alive in Gaza.
  • Israel and Hamas are “nowhere near a deal” for a ceasefire, but negotiators are still in discussions, a spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry told CNN. The CIA director said a deal is still possible, but it’s a “very tough process.”
  • Here’s how to help humanitarian efforts in Gaza and Israel.
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Houthis fire close-range ballistic missile at US warship but miss, CENTCOM says

The Houthis fired a close-range ballistic missile from Yemen toward the USS Laboon in the Red Sea on Tuesday, US Central Command said.

The missile did not hit the guided missile destroyer, which is homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, CENTCOM said. There were no injuries or damage reported.

US forces and a coalition ship also destroyed two drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, CENTCOM said.

The Iranian-backed Houthis have been targeting ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since shortly after Israel’s war with Hamas began, with the group trying to pressure Israel and its allies to stop its offensive in Gaza.

IDF troops kill 2 Palestinians and wound 3 others north of Jerusalem, Palestinian Ministry of Health says

Israeli troops fatally shot two Palestinians and moderately wounded three others at Al-Jib checkpoint in the northern outskirts of Jerusalem, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported Tuesday.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they fired at the Palestinians after they threw Molotov cocktails over a security barrier fence onto Route 436, which runs from the Ramot neighborhood in occupied east Jerusalem to the Israeli settlement Givat Ze’ev. The IDF claimed these actions were “endangering the lives of civilians and road users.”

After opening fire, the IDF said they apprehended them and transferred them for medical treatment. The health ministry reported they were transported to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah.

The two people who died were identified as Zaid Ward Shukri Khalifa, 23, and Abdullah Mamoun Hassan Assaf, 16, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

The Palestinian death toll since October 7 has risen to 430 people after the latest shooting, according to the ministry.

The IDF said there were no further casualties among their forces and other civilians.

IDF says UN aid convoy entered northern Gaza via new route

Six humanitarian trucks containing aid from the United Nation’s World Food Programme entered the northern Gaza Strip using a new route, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.

The IDF tried out a pilot program by bringing in aid trucks to Gaza through the “96th” gate on the security fence Tuesday.

“This was done as part of a pilot in order to prevent the Hamas terrorist organization from taking over the aid,” the IDF said in a statement, adding that Israeli security officials carried out a security check on the trucks at the Kerem Shalom Crossing first.

Government officials will assess the pilot’s results.

Israeli border police kills 12-year-old Palestinian child at refugee camp in Jerusalem, Israeli police say

An Israeli border police officer fatally shot a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in Shuafat refugee camp located in occupied east Jerusalem, according to hospital officials and an Israeli police spokesperson.

In a video obtained by CNN, the boy – Rami Al Halhouli – can be seen holding a lit firework above his head before the crackling sound of a single gunshot is heard. The boy falls to the ground just as the firework launches from his hand into the sky.

Rami arrived at Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital’s trauma unit in critical condition and was pronounced dead soon after, hospital officials told CNN.

No security forces are visible in the video of Rami holding the firework, but the boy appears to be standing in front of the West Bank separation barrier.

The Israeli police spokesperson said police forces responded to a “violent disturbance” at the refugee camp and a border police officer fired “towards a suspect who endangered the forces while firing aerial fireworks in their direction.”

The police spokesperson also claimed individuals on Tuesday night threw Molotov cocktails and fired fireworks directly at security forces. Israeli police said it was the second night in a row that Palestinians in Shuafat aimed Molotov cocktails and fireworks at police forces.

CNN has asked police for further evidence of the alleged disturbances they say took place in the refugee camp Tuesday.

In a Telegram post, Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir applauded the soldier who fatally shot the boy.

The shooting came on the third night of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which has been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in previous years.

Israel claims it struck "Hezbollah military infrastructures" in Syria

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it struck “two Hezbollah military infrastructures on the Syrian front” on Tuesday, adding in a Telegram post that the strike was “conducted based on precise intelligence which incriminated the infrastructure.”

“The IDF holds the Syrian regime accountable for all activities which take place within its territory and will not allow for any attempted actions which could lead to the entrenchment of Hezbollah on the Syrian front,” the statement said.

The IDF also posted a video alleging to show the strike on “Syrian Army infrastructures” used by Hezbollah. The video appears to have been taken from a drone overlooking a compound and shows an explosion in the compound, followed by black plumes of smoke.

Hezbollah and the Syrian government have not yet publicly commented on the IDF’s claim.

Aid ship headed to Gaza and dual US-Israeli citizen reported killed on October 7. Catch up here

A ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza departed from Cyprus on Tuesday, according to World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit that said it was the first maritime shipment of humanitarian aid to the enclave.  

The departure comes after announcements that Cyprus, the European Union, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom were working to establish a maritime corridor to deliver aid to Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces announced that dual US-Israeli citizen Itay Chen was killed during the October 7 attacks on Israel. Chen was one of six US citizens thought to have been held alive in Gaza. He is at least the fourth dual US citizen whose body is being held in Gaza.

Here’s what to know:

  • Getting food to Gazans: World Central Kitchen says it plans to distribute 200 tons of food — which equates to roughly 500,000 meals — once the vessel reaches Gaza. The provisions include rice, flour, beans, lentils, and canned meats, according to the organization. The United Nations said it welcomed the news of the aid ship, but stressed that it was “not a substitute” for overland assistance to Gazans on the verge of famine. The UN World Food Programme said a food convoy reached Gaza City on Tuesday, making it the first to successfully get to northern Gaza since February 20.
  • Dual US-Israeli citizen dead: Itay Chen, a dual American-Israeli citizen, was killed on October 7 during the Hamas attacks on Israel, the Israeli military announced Tuesday. He was serving on the Gaza border on October 7, and the Israel Defense Forces said his remains were taken into Gaza after he was killed. US President Joe Biden said he was “devastated to learn” of Chen’s death, and the US State Department offered its “deepest condolences” to his family.
  • Status of negotiations: Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari told CNN Tuesday that “we are nowhere near a deal at the moment.” The Qatari spokesperson said some officials — including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — “have the keys to secure a deal right now,” urging them to consider negotiations. Meanwhile, CIA Director Bill Burns said there is “still the possibility” of a deal, but it is “a very tough process.”
  • Death toll: The Gaza health ministry said Wednesday that 31,184 people have been killed since October 7, with over 72,000 injured. CNN cannot independently confirm these numbers due to the lack of international media access to Gaza.
  • Hamas-linked intelligence website issues warning to Palestinians: A Hamas-linked website, Al Majd Security, warned Palestinians that working with Israel — including facilitating the delivery of aid and food — would be considered as collaborating with the enemy and an act of betrayal against the Palestinian people. Al Majd Security is Hamas’ intelligence body, founded in the 1980s by Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ political leader in Gaza, to monitor Palestinian entities directly working with Israel.

US pier off Gaza coast will be ready in about 2 months and help deliver millions of meals, Pentagon says

The temporary pier being set up by the US military off the coast of Gaza is expected to be able to facilitate the delivery of two millions meals daily, Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday. 

“We expect the pier to be fully operational in approximately 60 days, which will be able to facilitate the delivery of up to 2 million meals daily,” he said. 

Ryder said four US Army vessels from the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) departed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis on Tuesday, bound for the eastern Mediterranean to help build the pier. Ryder did not provide the location of the pier out of concern for operational security. 

US President Joe Biden announced the port plans during his State of the Union address on Thursday.

White House tries to walk back Biden's comments about Rafah offensive being a red line for US

The White House on Tuesday attempted to walk back comments President Joe Biden made over the weekend saying that an Israeli offensive of Rafah would be a red line. 

“The president didn’t make any declarations or pronouncements or announcements. The red line came up in a question he was responding to that question. I think he gave a full answer to it,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters during a news briefing. 

In his Saturday interview on MSNBC, Biden said that an Israeli invasion of Rafah would be a red line before adding in the same breath that crossing it would not result in punitive measures against Israel.

“It is a red line, but I am never going to leave Israel,” Biden said. “The defense of Israel is still critical, so there’s no red line I’m going to cut off all weapons.”

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would push ahead with a military offensive in Rafah, where 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering in southern Gaza. However, multiple Israeli officials said the offensive is not imminent.

When pressed by CNN’s MJ Lee, Sullivan seemed to blame the media for turning the idea of a red line into a “national security parlor game for the president.”

Sullivan added:

“He’s really focused on the substance, on the policy on his concern about the protection of civilians, and about Israel being able to sustain a campaign in a way that ultimately leads to an outcome in which the people of Israel are secure. Hamas is crushed and there is a long-term solution to stability and peace in the region.”

Ceasefire deal remains possible despite "very tough process," CIA director says

CIA Director Bill Burns on Tuesday offered a small measure of hope for progress in the indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel over a potential ceasefire deal. There is “still the possibility” of such a deal, Burns said, but it is “a very tough process.”

“I don’t think anyone can guarantee success. The only thing I think you can guarantee is that the alternatives are worse,” Burns said during congressional testimony. “They’re worse for innocent civilians who are suffering in Gaza. They’re worse for the hostages and their families. And I think they’re worse for all of us.”

Burns has been a lead negotiator for the US side, as the United States, Qatar and Egypt have worked to broker a deal that would exchange the release of Hamas-held hostages for a pause in the fighting.

But hopes have dimmed for a potential deal — which if implemented, would lead to at least a six-week pause in the fighting — as the two sides have yet to agree on key terms. The Qatari foreign minister told CNN on Tuesday that “we are nowhere near a deal at the moment.”

The US remains committed to the process, Burns told members of the House Intelligence Committee.

First food convoy since February 20 successfully reaches northern Gaza, according to UN agency

A World Food Programme food convoy reached Gaza City on Tuesday, making it the first to successfully get to northern Gaza since February 20, the group said.

The UN agency delivered enough food for 25,000 people, it said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Some context: As Israel’s severe restrictions on aid entering the Gaza Strip drain essential supplies, displaced Palestinians told CNN they are struggling to feed their children. Starving mothers are unable to produce enough milk to breastfeed their babies, doctors say. Parents arrive at overwhelmed health facilities begging for infant formula.

On February 29, more than 100 Palestinians were killed while gathering around food aid trucks, trying to access food in western Gaza City.

At least 3 killed in Lebanon in series of Israeli strikes around city of Baalbek, state media reports

At least three people were killed in eastern Lebanon in a series of Israeli strikes around the city of Baalbek during the early hours of Tuesday, Lebanese state news agency NNA said.

The Israel Defense Forces said it struck two Hezbollah military command centers in Baalbek, in response to earlier attacks on Israel carried out by the Iran-backed militant group.

Hezbollah said it had fired more than 100 Katyusha rockets at several targets in northern Israel, in response to overnight Israeli airstrikes on the Baalbek region. 

Attacks on Baalbek have been rare since October 7. The region is the farthest Israel has struck in the country since the beginning of the war, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Israel-Lebanon border. 

Israel and Hamas are "nowhere near a deal," Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson says

Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said Tuesday that a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas is not imminent.  

“We are right now engaged in constructive dialogue between both sides; the situation on the ground is very much difficult, and we are nowhere near a deal at the moment,” Al-Ansari told CNN.

Al-Ansari said issues remain, including finalizing where Israeli troops would end up, how many people would be moving in and out of Gaza, and how aid could enter the enclave.

“We are exchanging language between the parties and waiting to see if that will accomplish something in the next couple of days,” Al-Ansari added.

Remember: Qatar was integral in mediating the only pause in fighting in the five-month war back in November. Al Ansari said a new format is needed this time around. 

“We tried the day-to-day pause formula of last time, and that did not work, because at the end, both sides will disagree over the lists and how to implement them. We need a more comprehensive first phase that would allow us some time to enact negotiations for the next phases,” he added. 

The Qatari official said some officials — including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — “have the keys to secure a deal right now,” urging them to consider negotiations.

“Every day that goes by is a risk to the life of the hostages, a risk to the life of civilians in Gaza, and it’s not in anybody’s interest — especially the people of Israel and the security of Israel — for this war to continue,” he said.

Israel turns away aid trucks for having scissors in medical kits, UN relief agency head says

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said Monday that a truck loaded with aid was turned back because it had scissors used in children’s medical kits.

“Medical scissors are now added to a long list of banned items the Israeli Authorities classify as ‘for dual use,’” Lazzarini claimed in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
“The list includes basic and lifesaving items: from anesthetics, solar lights, oxygen cylinders and ventilators, to water cleaning tablets, cancer medicines and maternity kits.”  

He asserted that the lives of 2 million people depend on the “clearance of humanitarian supplies + the delivery of basic & critical items,” adding there is “no time to waste.”

CNN has previously reported that humanitarian workers and government officials working to deliver urgently needed aid for Gaza say a clear pattern has emerged of Israeli obstruction, as disease and near-famine conditions grip parts of the besieged enclave.

UN welcomes charity aid ship but says it's "not a substitute" to assistance over land

The United Nations said it welcomes the news of the World Central Kitchen aid ship delivering food to Gaza, but stressed that it was “not a substitute” for overland assistance to Gazans on the verge of famine. 

“Any food and other emergency aid that comes into Gaza, as we all know, is desperately needed; there is no question about it, so it’s highly appreciated,” said Jens Laerke, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesperson. But, Laerke added, “it’s not a substitute for the overland transport of food and other emergency aid into Gaza and particularly northern Gaza. It cannot make up for that.”

A World Central Kitchen spokesperson told CNN the organization will distribute 200 tons of food, which equates to roughly 500,000 meals.

WCK launched the aid ship from Cyprus to Gaza on Tuesday, and says it plans to distribute aid itself once the vessel reaches Gaza.

Biden "devastated" over death of Israeli-American citizen

US President Joe Biden says he was “devastated to learn” of the death of Israeli-American citizen Itay Chen, whom Israeli officials announced Tuesday was killed by Hamas on October 7. 

“In December, Itay’s father and brother joined me at the White House, to share the agony and uncertainty they’ve faced as they prayed for the safe return of their loved one,” Biden wrote in a statement.
“No one should have to endure even one day of what they have gone through,” he added. 

Biden said that at the end of their meeting, Chen’s family “gave me a menorah — a solemn reminder that light will always dispel the darkness, and evil will not win.” 

CNN earlier reported that officials in Biden’s administration said they were informed of Chen’s death by Israeli officials on Tuesday, according to a source.

CNN’s CNN’s MJ Lee and Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.

Itay Chen’s father called on White House to find new ways to get American hostages out of Gaza for months

Itay Chen’s father, Ruby Chen, has for months been calling on US President Joe Biden’s administration to find creative ways to get the remaining dual American hostages out of Gaza. 

In an interview with CNN in December, Chen referenced that Russia President Vladimir Putin had struck a separate deal with Hamas, which saw the release of multiple Israeli-Russian hostages out of Gaza during the first pause in fighting. 

Chen said at the time that the Russian deal made him consider “there is the ability to do a separate deal on a specific nationality.”

In January, after meeting at the White House with national security adviser Jake Sullivan and other top officials – one of the hostage families’ multiple meetings with White House officials since October 7 — Chen said he felt deep disappointment and frustration. 

“Where’s justice? And do we want more dead US citizens? What is the administration doing about that?” Chen said

This weekend – just days after Chen attended Biden’s State of the Union address as the guest of a lawmaker – he told CNN via text message that he wondered what, if anything, might force the Biden administration to consider what he described as a “plan B” to get the American hostages out. 

The Israeli Defense Forces announced on Tuesday that they had determined Itay Chen was killed on October 7. Israeli officials formally informed Biden administration officials of that determination, according to a White House official. 

Jordanian Air Force drops aid into northern Gaza

The Royal Jordanian Air Force conducted five joint air drops with US, Egyptian and Belgium on Tuesday, targeting several sites in northern Gaza “to mitigate the effects of the war on the Strip,” it said in a statement released Tuesday.

The air force said it has carried out “40 Jordanian airdrops, and 49 airdrops in cooperation with brotherly and friendly countries,” since the beginning of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Dual US-Israeli citizen Itay Chen killed on October 7, Israel Defense Forces announce

Dual US-Israeli citizen Itay Chen was killed on October 7 during the Hamas attacks on Israel, the Israeli military announced Tuesday.

The Israel Defense Forces said Chen’s remains were taken into Gaza after he was killed.

Chen was serving on the Gaza border on October 7, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said on Tuesday. He was the middle child of three siblings, a former Boy Scout, and a fierce basketball player, his father Ruby Chen told CNN in November.

According to his father, Chen had his 20th Jewish birthday in January – a date his family marked with a small ceremony at a synagogue in New York City as they desperately waited for good news. “Each week, we know someone is going to get a bad message. We just don’t know who it is,” Ruby Chen said. “Time is running out.” 

Chen was one of six US citizens thought to have been held alive in Gaza. He is at least the fourth dual US citizen whose body is being held in Gaza, along with those of Aviv Atzili and husband and wife Gad Haggai and Judih Weinstein Haggai.

Officials in US President Joe Biden’s administration said they were informed of Chen’s death by Israeli officials on Tuesday, according to a source.

Thirty-two of the 130 October 7 hostages are now believed to be dead, according to CNN records. Israel continues to consider people to be hostages even after their death until their remains are returned.

Lauren Izso and CNN’s Ivana Kottasova, MJ Lee and Priscilla Alvarez contributed reporting.

This post has been updated with additional information from Chen’s father.

Nonprofit says it will distribute 200 tons of aid once ship reaches Gaza 

World Central Kitchen, the nongovernmental organization that launched an aid ship from Cyprus to Gaza on Tuesday, says it plans to distribute aid itself once the vessel reaches Gaza. 

A WCK spokesperson told CNN the organization will distribute 200 tons of food, which equates to roughly 500,000 meals. WCK is working with thousands of contractors and volunteers locally to organize and distribute the aid, the spokesperson added. 

Questions have been raised about distribution plans for the ship once it makes its much-anticipated landing in Gaza. Recent airdrops and truck deliveries in Gaza have proved dangerous as crowds of civilians have overcrowded at delivery points, fighting desperately to get their hands on aid packages amid widespread hunger in the strip. 

WCK said it had partnered with the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus and the Spanish nongovernmental organization Open Arms to coordinate the dispatch. 

The organization said it couldn’t disclose the location of the jetty in Gaza where the Open Arms ship will land, but said that its teams are “working on it 24/7.”

Separately, Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told CNN Tuesday that Israel had “participated in the process of inspecting the ship.” The agency did not specify when or where. COGAT inspects aid going into Gaza and has been accused by aid agencies of denying access for arbitrary reasons or no reason at all. 

Children in Gaza are suffering "relentless mental harm," charity warns

Children in Gaza are experiencing “relentless mental harm” after five months of war, hunger, displacement and years of a blockade, according to nongovernmental organization Save the Children, which talked to mental health services and four parents in the strip. 

In a report released on Tuesday, one parent told the organization:

“I wouldn’t even say that their mental health has deteriorated – it’s been obliterated. Complete psychological destruction.”

Another said:

“Children here have seen everything. They’ve seen the bombs, the deaths, the bodies – we can’t pretend to them any more. Now they understand and have seen everything. Now, my son can even tell what types of explosives are falling – he can hear the difference.” 

According to the report, the collapse of healthcare and psychological services in Gaza limits the possibility that children will get the treatment they need to recover. 

Director of Save the Children for the Occupied Palestinian Territory Jason Lee said there is hope the psychological impacts of the war could be reversed with support, but added that “none this is possible without an immediate, definitive ceasefire and safe, unfettered aid access so that humanitarians can provide the critical support needed.”

Health official says aid entering northern Gaza is "not enough for anyone"

A top health official has said that the aid entering northern Gaza is “not enough for anyone” as the first aid ship set sail Tuesday towards the enclave. 

“The ground aid arriving in the northern Gaza Strip is very, very small…not enough for anyone,” Gaza Ministry of Health spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said Tuesday.  

As Israel continues to restrict the entry of aid via land crossings, countries are now trying to get aid into the besieged enclave via air and sea routes. The US, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates and several others have carried out airdrops into Gaza in recent days despite warnings from aid organizations that they are a dangerous and inefficient way of transporting aid. 

Once aid arrives in Gaza, it is transported via two routes: Salah Eddine Street and Al-Bahr Street, Al-Qidra said. 

Hungry civilians then “crowd” along two roundabouts along the routes, hoping to get a morsel of food, Al-Qidra said in a statement. 

More on aid to Gaza: This all comes as fresh hopes are pinned on an aid ship called the Open Arms which set sail from the Cypriot port of Larnaca

The ship will transport 200 tonnes of food to Gaza in the form of a large barge loaded with pallets of food aid, including rice, flour, beans, lentils, and canned meats, according to a statement from organizers, World Central Kitchen.  

Ship carrying aid to Gaza departs from Cyprus, non-profit says

A ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza has departed the port city of Larnaca in Cyprus, according to World Central Kitchen (WCK), a non-profit that said it was the first maritime shipment of humanitarian aid to the enclave.  

“After weeks of preparation, our team in Cyprus loaded almost 200 tons of food onto the Open Arms boat that will deliver the desperately-needed aid,” WCK said in a statement on Tuesday.

WCK said it had partnered with the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus and the Spanish NGO Open Arms to coordinate the dispatch. 

Maritime aid corridor: The departure at 8:45 a.m. local time comes after announcements that Cyprus, the European Commission, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom were working to establish a maritime corridor to deliver aid to Gaza.

The ship will tow a large barge packed with pallets of food aid, including rice, flour, beans, lentils, and canned meats.

To transport the pallets from the barge and ship to land, a temporary jetty will be built in an undisclosed location in Gaza, though the details of those efforts are unclear. 

On Sunday, WCK Founder Jose Andres said the jetty would be built with material and infrastructure in Gaza with help from barges and amphibious vehicles. He said on X that the pier would be built “With @openarms_fund serving as our logistics and command in the water…carrying the initial barge near the beach….plus a big cargo boat for reloading.”

Why only a trickle of aid is getting in: Israel put Gaza under siege following the October 7 Hamas attacks. It says there is “no limit” on the amount of relief that can enter Gaza, but humanitarian groups have repeatedly warned restrictions on land crossings into the strip have throttled aid distribution efforts.

In pictures: Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins in Gaza

Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, began in Gaza as its population of roughly 2.2 million people faced severe food and clean water shortages.