No rest for the people of Gaza

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The siege began in 2006. In 2007, when Hamas took full control of Gaza, the siege stopped being only an economic embargo - a comprehensive siege was imposed. All aspects of life were harmed.

More than 150 medicines are blocked from Gaza and so is medical equipment - 510 people have died due to this lack of medicine and the inability of people to travel for treatment. Some of them, when they asked for treatment in Israel, were told, "Yes, you can have medication. But you have to work as a spy for us."

Up to 85 percent of people are on the poverty line and unemployment is more than 67 percent. Israel destroyed the economy. Over 400,000 factories stopped working because of the lack of raw materials getting into Gaza.

Before the siege Palestinians in Gaza needed 600 to 800 trucks of food, and secondary and basic necessities, every day. When the siege started the trucks coming in decreased to 200, 150, 50 and 20 a day, and then, in 2008, just one month before the war, Israel closed all the borders and did not allow anything in for a month. In Gaza this was a big ordeal - we did not even have bread. People turned to animals' grain to make bread.

The water we drink is contaminated. Wells are contaminated with sewage. Israel has hit the sewage water networks many times, so sewage leaked into fresh drinking water. Over 77 million litres of sewage water leaks into the Mediterranean every day. There is limited maintenance happening now and then, but Israel is not allowing it easily.

Israel is following a strategy which is "We are not forgetting Gaza - we are allowing 10 percent of supplies into Gaza". And they use that 10 percent as media propaganda. On the news Israel says, "There is no siege!" Israel is trying to black out what is happening. It is a siege and a humanitarian disaster.

There is also the problem of freedom of movement. Even if the crossing is open it has to be open for a longer time because there are thousands of people who wish to travel who have been imprisoned for years.

More than 260 schools were seriously damaged in the war; 67 of them were totally destroyed. These schools are still not renovated. The same is true for houses. Thousands were partially or fully destroyed and have not been renovated since. The infrastructure is also totally destroyed. There is no network of roads in Gaza - it is totally destroyed and there are no bridges.

Israel cannot live without an enemy or a scapegoat. They say, "We are defending ourselves." But there is no security threat. If you look at the rockets being fired from Gaza we can say it is a pretext, no more. These rockets are useless. They are shit rockets really, and they bring more troubles for the Palestinians than benefits. Between 2001 and 2008, 28 Israelis were killed by these rockets. How many Palestinians were killed, even just during the war? Over 1,400 were killed in just those three weeks. For each Israeli death there were over 50 Palestinians killed.

Israel says it left Gaza in 2005, but the rocket attacks continue. This is a lie: they never left Gaza. They took settlers out of Gaza and they sealed the borders.

In Gaza you could not go one week without hearing the sound of bombing or the sound of F16s. If you don't hear these things you hear the surveillance planes, manufactured by the British. So there is no rest for the people of Gaza, even during the so-called ceasefire.

People in Gaza are very hopeful after the flotilla attacks. They say that engaging Turkey gives more regional context. With Turkey and its heavy influence in the region, it gives hope to the Palestinians that the siege will be lifted.

Sameh Habeeb is founder and editor-in-chief of the Gaza-based Palestine Telegraph newspaper.


Eyewitness to state murder