Written by Free Gaza Movement
“This is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster created by policies that are not humane.”
John Ging, director of the U.N. Relief and Works
Agency in Gaza.
The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. A 25-mile-long narrow coastal plain wedged between Israel and Egypt, Gaza is home to 1.5 million Palestinians, over half of them children. Most of its population are refugees or their descendants, driven out of Israel during its founding in 1948. Surrounded by 40-foot high walls of iron and steel, Gaza has only 3 points of entry or exit: the Erez border crossing with Israel, the Rafah crossing with Egypt, and the sea.
Israel has occupied Gaza since 1967, maintaining complete control over Gaza’s air space and territorial waters, imports and exports, and travel into or out of the territory. Since January 2006, Israel has subjected the Gaza Strip to an increasingly severe blockade, restricting Gaza’s ability to import fuel, spare parts, and other necessary materials. Compared to December 2005, less than 20 percent of the supplies needed for normal trade are allowed into Gaza by Israel, and foreign investment has fallen off by over 95 percent. As a result, the economy has completely collapsed. Most of Gaza’s industrial plants have been forced to close, casing steep increases in unemployment, poverty and childhood malnutrition rates.
The siege has led to massive shortages that have rippled through the economy and society. Shortages in fuel have caused gasoline prices to spiral out of control, leading to sustained power cuts. Hospitals, dependent on diesel-powered generators, regularly lose power for several hours a day. Unable to operate irrigation pumps, farmers experience significant loss of crops. Most family homes have running water for less than six hours a day, and almost a third of homes have no running water at all.
Sewage treatment centers no longer function properly. Millions of liters of raw sewage have been pumped into heavilypopulated neighborhoods, and tens-of-billions of liters of untreated and only partially treated sewagehave been released into the Mediterranean. Gaza’s fishermen state that the sewage has killed off most of the sea life in the immediate vicinity.
In December 2008, Israel broke a ceasefire with Gaza and began a three week campaign of bombings, home invasions, and general destruction. During this massacre, homes, schools, mosques, and UN centers were all attacked by Israel. Thirteen Israelis, including 4 Israeli civilians, lost their lives, while over 1,300 Palestinian men, women, and childrenwere slaughtered. Since the end of the massacre it has become harder than ever to bring in humanitarianrelief, reconstruction aid, or developmental supplies.
The siege continues, and the humanitarian condition of the one and a half million human beings illegally incarcerated in Gaza is now at its worst point in the last forty years of Israeli occupation.