Life Comes To A Standstill On The Gaza Strip

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As Israel steps up its human rights violations and systematic breaches of international humanitarian law in the Gaza Strip, all the basic functions of civilian life have come to a near standstill, including drinking water delivery, sewage water disposal, and garbage collection.

So reported the Palestine Return Centre (PRC) on Tuesday, before going on to warn that access to food, water and medicine is now beginning to hit unborn children and newborn babies.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health records confirm the birth of 9,000 to 10,000 babies in the Gaza Strip every month.

Of every 1,000 born, 28 die from malnutrition, anaemia and other poverty-related causes.

The Ministry has no figures of babies surviving after suffering from malnutrition.

The premature birth of babies born dangerously underweight is a daily and increasing phenomenon in Gaza.

The UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, reported in 2002 that 19% of Palestinians in Gaza suffer from anaemia. That figure is now estimated by UNRWA to be 77.5%.

Healthcare facilities record a rapid decline in clients attending clinics due to the transportation crisis.

Likewise, hundreds of healthcare professionals were unable to reach their work places.

There are approximately 25,000 deaf and hearing-impaired people in the Gaza Strip, many of whom have no specialist support service.

In 1992 the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children was set up in Gaza to address their needs.

In April 2008 the Society was forced to close its doors to its 275 pupils aged 4-17 because of chronic fuel shortage.

Millions of litres of sewage are still being dumped into the sea daily.

Workers with the Gaza Coastal Municipality Water Utilities, responsible for the sewage, have been recently given 60 bicycles by UNICEF.

This is set to become the primary mode of transport for staff.

The Gaza Strip faces other dangers due to the decreased amounts of fuels necessary to operate sewage systems and their treatment plants.

There are serious concerns that sewage water may also overflow into populated areas as did actually occur in al-Zaytoun neighbourhood in Gaza City in January 2008, or the environmental catastrophe that struck Um al-Nasser village in the northern Gaza Strip in March 2007, which took the lives of five people.

With the onset of summer, there is an urgent need to stop the pumping of sewage water into the sea, as many people go to the beach during this period.

The consistent use of heavy weaponry in densely populated urban areas of the Gaza Strip accounts for a disturbing number of the deaths and injuries among Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

The total number of Gazans killed by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) since the beginning of 2008 now stands at 420, including 62 children and 16 women.

During the same period the IOF carried out 30 incursions into the Gaza Strip.

During these incursions, 127 Palestinians were detained; 17 of them are still under detention.

Additionally, the IOF razed 372 dunams of agricultural land, and destroyed 15 homes.

Throughout the month of May 2008, the (IOF) killed 77 Palestinians most of them in the Gaza Strip.

Of them, 20 were children and one was a woman.

On 28th April the IOF killed a mother and her four children in Beit Hanoun.

Since 8th March 2007 (International Women’s Day), 24 women have been killed by IOF, including five girls.

Since the beginning of the second intifada 288 women have been killed, including 105 girls.

Many of these killings constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, mandating individual criminal responsibility.

On Wednesday, 7th May 2008, IOF troops raided the house of Majdi Abd al-Raziq al-Daghma during an incursion into the New Abasan district.

The troops opened the outside metal door, then blew up the wooden interior door.

The force of the blast killed 33-year-old Wafa Shaker al-Daghma instantly.

They then detained her three children, who had all witnessed the killing of their mother, in one of the rooms of the house.

The children, who included a two-year-old, were confined inside the room for the next six and a half hours.

On Wednesday, 14th May 2008, 15 Israeli tanks entered the village of Izbet Abed Rabba, west of Beit Hanoun and east of Jabaliya refugee camp, with aerial cover provided by the Israeli Air Force.

Upon entry to the village, Israeli ground forces engaged in random gun fire despite not being fired upon.

A 17-year-old boy, Hamdi Salemeh Khader, who was riding his bicycle on al-Karama Road was shot twice by machine gun fire from the tanks, killing him instantly.

The distance between Hamdi and the tanks was approximately 500 metres at the time they fired upon him.

Given the fact that the topography of this part of the Gaza Strip is flat and unobstructed by buildings it is inconceivable that the visibility of the tank commanders who were aided with aerial surveillance was in any way impeded. The unarmed boy was however shot.

The stoppage of fuel supplies has paralysed 50% of the educational sector as half the students at all educational levels are unable to reach their schools and universities.

Educational sector employees have been unable to reach their work after the transportation sector in the Gaza Strip has ground to a halt.

The PRC is monitoring with utmost concern the deteriorating economic and social conditions caused by the siege of the Gaza Strip.

It draws your attention to Israel’s continuing disregard for the customary international humanitarian law principles of distinction and proportionality.

It calls upon High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention (FGC), in particular the British government and member States of the European Union, to implement the principle of universal jurisdiction over grave breaches of the Conventions in the Gaza Strip.

The PRC also calls upon the international community to end the COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT of the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

It calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the FGC to ensure the immediate flow of the supplies of fuels, foods, medicines and other goods into the Gaza Strip in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights law.

The PRC reminds the Parties of their common obligation under Article 1 of the FGC to respect and respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances; and their obligation under Article 54 of the Protocol, which rules the ‘starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited’.

Today things are worse than ever, and creativity is needed to keep going.

No imports, no exports, no jobs. The most common form of transport is (skinny) donkeys.

Since the borders of the Strip were sealed, people have not been allowed to cross to Egypt or Israel.

Only basic commodities are let in by the Israeli authorities: flour, sugar, oil, canned meat and medicines.

It’s barely enough. Everything else is either banned or prohibitively expensive.

Cleaning products are almost unobtainable in the rundown groceries.

In effect, the market economy has collapsed.

The private sector has run out of business and work opportunities for the most vulnerable, unskilled labourers have vanished.

The poor have become even poorer and families no longer have breadwinners.

Around 100 recent graduates have been contracted to teach supplementary classes in Arabic, maths and English to 500 children with learning problems.

The younger generation is most affected by the crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The education system is under enormous pressure, with double shifts operating in 85% of the schools.

Teachers report that many children have developed aggressive behaviour and their concentration and motivation levels have seriously decreased.

The reality of their daily life is very stressful. Children are spending less time in school, and more and more on the streets.

Children drop out of school early: girls to get married and leave the family home, boys to go scavenging in the streets, searching for anything that might generate some income.