Sameh A. Habeeb
Gaza Strip, 20, Nov, 2008- Following Israeli raids that killed around 15 Palestinians within one week, many rockets were fired into Israel in a reprisal of Israeli's provocation. As usual Israel started to blame Palestinians despite it was the one who initiated with violence again. The Israeli assault was an obvious breach of an agreed calm held with Palestinian fighting groups 5 months ago. It has provoked some Palestinians to fire some light rockets into Israel. Afterwards, Israel started a new phase of collective punishment and began more violent prevocational measures against 1.5 million people.
With the last Israeli maneuvers' of tightening the siege imposed on Gaza, more life necessities vanished. The key power plant shut down 8 days ago and resulted in tremendous direful outcomes. More than 75% of the Gaza strip faces severe power cuts and some other areas completely plunged into darkness.
Power cuts and daily blackouts resulted in hindering of all facilities depending on power. The remaining power shares provided by Israel and Egypt are not enough to cover the whole costal strip. Pumped fresh water is not reaching all living places, farms and central water wells. Sewage and treatment water machines are halted. Additionally around 40 million tons of sewage water leaked into the Mediterranean contaminating it and damaging fish resources.
It was a due on Israel to open commercial crossings completely during the calm. But, Israel didn't abide by that condition as she partially opened them. But within the last week; Israel totally closed them causing a huge humanitarian crisis. According to UNRWA, around 750,000 of its beneficiaries don't get their devoted share of food parcels. With the Israeli ban on UNRWA aid, it is ensuring that a dire humanitarian crisis will occur within days. As UNRWA is also under siege from assisting Palestine in humanitarian causes, long time projects such as housing are halted to the loss of $350 million.
Yesterday, wheat and flour mills in Gaza announced inability of continuing work and feared starvation would be a factor in Palestine if the closure lasts much longer. Today, some hospitals partially stopped working due to power cuts and medical shortages. Tomorrow for sure will bring another crisis if closure lasts more.
The people of Gaza are outraged by the Israeli collective punishment. I spoke to some Gazan residents and I observed some differences amongst them. Mr. Muhammad who refuses to identity his full name said that this siege is unjust and it's a way to pressure on people to give up their rights.
"We have been patient for 60 years now. We passed more cruel time than this. Thus, why to give up this year. We have to be adamant and patient and the siege will be lifted eventually." Mr. Muhammad said.
I spoke to a jobless resident from Al Shati' refugee camp. Mr. Khalil Barakat, who is in his mid 50's, says he is outraged by this siege. "I'm fed up; bored I feel we are caged like animals in Gaza. If I could get a chance to immigrate to live my remaining years in peace, then I would love to." He said with anger.
Accidentally, I met old friend of mine, Um Muhammad Abu Ouf; a mother in her twenties. It was good for me to explore her views about the siege as well. As a Mother and a female, her perspective is most important. We met at 6 pm at AL Omar al Moktar Street which was plunging into deep darkness.
She had her outstanding comments about siege. I asked: How badly you are affected by siege?
"Well, the siege became a daily nightmare midday and night. Electricity cuts off and that frightens my 11-month infant. It makes conditions unsafe for him. Further, I'm trying to get some fortified food for him. I went to many stores and shops but in vain. I could not find any food nor needed supplies for my son as there is a shortage in a lot of the basic products needed to care for infants' such as milk, diapers and so forth".
I spoke to Hatem Shurab; an International Relief Worker. Hatem is a siege victim who lost a scholarship of training in the U.S lately. Despite that, he seemed to be optimist in contrary to the majority here. Hatem is currently preparing a music concert along with his friends.
His view was quite interesting and brand-new, Hatem stated "I'm trying to highlight on people's suffering through music. We try to end siege through our voices and to tell those who don't like to watch news what's going on. On the 27th of November they might know the suffering of Gazans through songs as we are doing a concert. Regardless of pain, we will sing for Gaza." Hatem with smiling face said.
However, Hatem is somewhat worried about the current status of Gaza. He needs to have his concert on time and to give Gazan a glimpse of hope and some fun. His concerns rise up that more violence could ignite.
Israeli defense Ministry announced today that Gaza crossings would remain closed until further notice. Gazans are to expect more mayhem as time advances. Meanwhile, Om Muhammad is still desperate to have food for her baby, while Hatem is determined to have his music concert on time. But the decisive element for them would surely rely on the rival parts in the region.
Sameh A. Habeeb, B.A.
Photojournalist & Peace Activist
Humanitarian, Child Relief Worker
Gaza Strip, Palestine
Skype: Gazatoday, Facebook: Sameh A. habeeb
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