What is going on in the Gaza Strip – By Rashid A. Shahin

I am a Palestinian writer and usually write in Arabic. I rarely write in English or address foreigners, but since things are worsening in the Palestinian Territories especially in the Gaza Strip, I thought it would be a good idea to write an article in which I highlight on what is going on in this part of the world and that should be directed to the non Arabic speaking readers.

I could present so many photos which reflect the brutality of the Israelis and their practices against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but since these photos are so painful I prefer not to show them. If anyone is interested in seeing them, they can contact me on my e-mail address below and ask for them, and I will be glad to send them through.

What was behind the idea of this article is that I have received so many e-mails, photos and statistics about the miserable situation the Palestinian people are living in the Occupied Territories.

I will reproduce some of the statistics which a Swiss friend sent to me through which you people out there can imagine how the Israelis are making the Palestinian lives beyond imagination.

Actually I don’t know if you out there know that the Gaza borders are controlled by Israel and have been mostly closed since January 2006. This means nothing goes in or out unless the Israelis say so, including human beings, food, fuel, medical supplies, press coverage, educational materials etc.

According to a December 2007 report by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), a British charity based in London, 1.5 million People live in the Gaza Strip and over a million of these are refugees. Over 80% live below the poverty line, with 1.2 million people in Gaza dependent on food handouts.
Only 41% of Gaza’s food import needs are currently being met.

Just these few facts are enough to show how bad and tragic the situation is in the Strip.

Moreover, the Palestinian Health Ministry says there are no stocks left of 85 essential medicines, including chemotherapy drugs, strong antibiotics and several psychiatric drugs. For a further 138 drugs there are only stocks for three months at most. Supplies of nitrous oxide for surgical anaesthesia will run out in two weeks.

The Map statistics also revealed that 17.5% of patients who have requested access to East Jerusalem, Israel or abroad for emergency or chronic medical treatment have been denied permits since June 2007.

In October 2007, the public provider of water and sanitation services received 50% of the amount of fuel it needs to operate its wells, pumping stations and treatment plants. As a result, 210,000 people are able to access drinking water supplies for only one to two hours a day.

But how were things during the month of April 2008?
As if it couldn’t get any worse…
Israel has slowly been decreasing the amount of fuel being let into Gaza over the past few months to critical levels. At this moment in time NO FUEL has been allowed in to Gaza for the last 8 days, this includes cooking gas.

Not only does this affect cars, so there is no transport but more importantly the electricity plant needs fuel to provide electricity to civilian homes in Gaza as well as the hospitals. Frequent power cuts occur and can last up to 12 hours. The hospitals are in constant crisis and only have a limited supply of emergency fuel. Approximately 70% of ambulances are grounded due to a lack of fuel.

The head of Gaza’s main power plant has warned it will have to halt electricity supplies to some 500,000 people unless Israel resumes fuel shipments there.

Even the fishermen have not been able to take their boats out fishing for two months due to the shortage of fuel. Fishing is one of the only sustainable food sources within Gaza. There is also a lack of fuel to power the sewage plant that cleans the raw sewage, so it is being dumped right into the sea. Israel has given Gaza seven nautical miles to fish in, but due to the raw sewage being dumped, they can no longer fish there.

If we add to this frequent and random air strikes by the Israeli military, Palestinians in Gaza are living in chronic emergency conditions. In fact Israel has created something similar to an open prison.

Israel controls the borders and therefore has to supply basic human rights for the people within those borders. And since Israel is responsible for supplying the Strip with all the needed items and supplies – as an occupying force- “it is useless to speak about the disengagement since Israel is closing the area from land and sea” they should do so and should facilitate the Palestinians life in that area. From a legal point of view they should do so. Palestinians basic human rights are being violated. The Palestinian people rely heavily on aid from charity organizations. The international community must put pressure on Israel to come into line with UN regulations on human rights.

I believe the Palestinians have either been forgotten or the international community is turning a blind eye. Most of the press coverage of Gaza is about militant activity and not about the average person who is living there. It seems that people around the world have forgotten that this conflict involves innocent people’s lives. I don’t want to talk here about where the Palestinian refugees came from and who caused their problem in the first place as this is another issue and is something that can be discussed in another story or article.

The people in Gaza don’t want to rely on aid or charity. They want to work, to build an economy and to have opportunities, but Israel is ensuring none of this can happen. The world must remember that not everyone in the Gaza Strip is a militant, just as not every football supporter is a hooligan. We should remember that not all Irish people were part of the IRA. The people of Gaza are just like you out there, men, women and children with hopes and aspirations.

Ref: Maan, by Rashid A. Shahin
***Rashid A. Shahin- a Palestinian writer and journalist based in Bethlehem and can be contacted at Sadapril2003@hotmail.com

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