Monday, October 29, 2007

Gaza suffocating

Ever since declaring Gaza "hostile territory", Israel has upped the ante on its embargo of the tiny area which is home to approximately 1.5 million Palestinians, all under the mercy of Israel's goodwill. Keep in mind that a good portion lives in refugee camps, and the total area of Gaza is 41 kms long by 6 to 12 kms wide, the density of people at a catastrophic point. With Hamas still at the helm, Israel continues its attempt at collective punishment of Gazans. Reports that the last Israeli bank institutions have severed ties with Palestinian banks has the twelve Gaza banks scrambling for currency:

"Gaza's 12 banks are scrambling for ways to keep their operations going... Banks declined to cash large checks and limited withdrawals. Some branches closed or shortened their hours... Gaza is entirely dependent on Israel for trade, and the Israeli shekel is the primary currency... Israel allowed only basic items, such as food and medicine, into the territory.

The banking cutoff affects the two crucial roles Israeli banks play in Gaza's economy — processing Israeli-Gazan business transactions and providing cash to Palestinian banks.

Today, cash is transported in trucks from Palestinian banks in the West Bank through Israel, and picked up by trucks at the Gaza-Israel border."

So there is no money to be had for poor Gazans. What's circulating right now is meant to sustain the crippled situation and make it more dire for making the choice to vote in Hamas. More importantly, all trade is stifled since Gaza is totally dependent on Israel. But that's not enough. Israel has applied their blockade on aid deliveries, goods, as well as electricity and fuel supplies, a position that has been condemned by John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs:

"Israel's plan to cut electricity and fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip will worsen an already dire humanitarian situation...

Holmes also said the number of Palestinian patients allowed to cross into Israel for health care had fallen from 40 a day in July to less than five a day in September...

He called on Israel to lift its economic blockade on Gaza and relax its restrictions on humanitarian aid...

Given the conditions inside both Gaza and the West Bank, the population increasingly depends on outside aid to survive..."

Human Rights Watch has stated that the fuel and power cuts are a violation of international law.

"Cutting fuel or electricity to the civilian population violates a basic principle of international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, which prohibit a government that has effective control over a territory from attacking or withholding objects that are essential to the survival of the civilian population. Such an act would also violate Israel’s duty as an occupying power to safeguard the health and welfare of the population under occupation."

Aid is continually creeping in to keep Gaza subsisting on handouts from the UN and other Arab nations. It is part and parcel so they can bypass total denouncement of certain policies that afflict innocent people, maintaining that they are hungry but still alive. Nevermind that they have no semblence of normalcy, with their airspace continually violated, their freedom of movement stripped from them, and their right to education simply denied. Here's the story of Khaled Al-Mudallal, a Gazan who is stuck in Rafah who is studying at the University of Bradford. He has been unable to leave Gaza and finish his studies.

"Mudallal was born in the Rafah refugee camp. He has six other siblings. He went to Bradford six years ago, following in his father's footsteps, who completed his doctorate in history there. "I understood that England was a wonderful place to be, an interesting place where I could develop," he says, explaining his decision to remain abroad even after his father returned to Gaza. "Until then, I had lived in Palestine. It was entirely new for me to live in an area that was not occupied, in a wide open place.

Last June, he came to visit his family in Rafah. He planned to marry his fiancee, Duah, and take her with him on a honeymoon to London. But the timing of the visit turned out to be problematic: In June Hamas took control of Gaza and, in response, Israel tightened its sanctions against the Strip. The Rafah border crossing is closed most of the time and the passage of Gaza's residents into Egypt has virtually come to a standstill. Although Israel has in fact created a system of transportation for the Palestinians, by means of buses that take them from the Erez checkpoint to the border crossing with Egypt at Nitzana, it is not operational at present."

In the article, it is reported that there are currently "6,400 people waiting to leave the Gaza Strip" with "about 670 of them are students who want to go study in Europe, the United States, various Middle Eastern countries and elsewhere." The embargo of Hamas has rounded up all Palestinians. and conflated them in the name of security of Israel, never alluding to the ludicrous notion of Qassam rockets and poor children throwing stones has any form of a threat to Israel's existence. (To support Mudallal, see Let Khaled study.) The dismal irony being that with Israel's security firmly intact, and Palestinian "terror" at a bare minimum, the terrible strangulation not only continues, but sieges upon sieges get worse by the day (along with more settlement construction and house demolitions).

Despite pathetic words from the EU and the UN that "caution" Israel of imposing the Hamas sanctions (the former supporting the US and Israel on the sanctions in the first place), Israel is still on the affront. What a pity that the Reuters article could only report that "[m]akeshift rockets have killed two Israelis this year," even though Israel has added plenty more in their casualty rate of killing Palestinians:

"Three Palestinians, including a forty-four-year-old disabled man, and an Israeli soldier were killed when Israeli forces invaded the Gaza Strip in several places Monday morning. 11 other Palestinians were injured...

Israeli forces occupied the campus of the Agricultural College in Beit Hanoun before clashing with Palestinian activists.Israeli soldiers shot and killed a disabled Palestinian man named Faird Abu Awda. Officials at Ash-Shifa hospital in Gaza City said the soldiers shot him twice in the head inside his Beit Hanoun home.

Israeli forces also invaded the city of Dier Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, seizing five Palestinians over 24 hours. Two Palestinians were injured in the attack, including a woman named Abu Mghesib. The invading forces also bulldozed farms and agricultural land."

A disabled man. An injured woman. And a "peace envoy" that speaks of only "a tightening grip on Palestinian resistance movements" instead of "honest" brokerage. What's left for a Gazan to do except seethe in the regressive elements that is surrounding them?

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