From Gaza, with Love

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Occupation: the siege and health in Palestine

The Israeli occupation's closure policy began in the early 90s. Thousands of Palestinians were denied work in Israel and much of the Palestinian population of Gaza and the West Bank were denied permits, impeding their ability to move freely between Gaza and the West Bank. The Oslo peace process did nothing to prevent Israel from imposing collective punishment against the whole population of Gaza strip, as long as these measurements serve some "security" need.

The severe and harsh siege against the Gaza Strip started in January 2006. The physical siege was accompanied by a devastating economic embargo which was imposed as a collective punishment against the Palestinian people for their democratic choice. In the January 2006 elections, the Hamas party won the majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council in a transparent and democratic election. The West--led by the US--imposed economic and political sanctions against the new Hamas government and 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip were put under collective punishment. This external siege was followed by severe Palestinian interclashes between the 2 major parties--Hamas and Fateh. Rhose interclashes were temporarily stopped many times and the political parties attempted to formulate a national unity government and bring about reconciliation between the 2 major parties. But the clear intervention of the US via supporting one party against another , ended with Hamas winning against Fateh and taking over the Gaza Strip in a bloody operation in June 2007. Another chapter of severe siege and closures were imposed against Gaza.

This siege and economic embargo affected the entire population. It affected each and every aspects of our lives. The isolation continues as well as the daily Israeli military operations against the Gaza Strip, which are a desperate attempt by Israel to stop the rockets attacks. But
while trying to stop these rockets attacks, Israel launched disproportional war and used excessive power against Gaza's population. The Israeli military didn't discriminate between civilians and guerrillas.

The power cut off was another type of punishment. The cut off of the fuel supplies, the complete sealing of the borders, and shortages of different commodities have become the norm in Gaza. The poverty of Gaza residents has reached unprecedented levels. 80% are living under the poverty line and they mainly dependent on international aid agencies. 35%of the population are severely impoverished.

I would like to explain for you the effect of the siege on the health of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

Electricity shortage and its effect on health
All hospitals and health facilities have no power at least 8 hours per day. Alternative electrical generators are used during these power cuts but this change in power source has caused many serious problems and many high tech, sophisticated equipment has gone out of order because of the unreliable power supply, e.g. CT machines, laboratory equipments and life saving machines etc. The Red Crescent Society's CT is one of many examples of expensive and crucial equipment that has been ruined by the change in current.

The electrical generators are not a substitute for normal power. They need fuel that is not readily available in Gaza. For example, I have 10 liters of fuel for my car that needs to last several weeks and I was able to get these 10 liters with great difficulty, after waiting in line for hours and hours.

The shortage of standard power and the use of electrical generators adds another burden to the health facilities' general expenditures. It also requires that they suspend many surgical operations in order to ensure emergency services like what happened in January 2008.

The shortage of electricity subsequently affects the water pumping systems, especially in high buildings and in the rural areas. During January 2008 half of the Gaza’s population had no access to clean drinking water. The sewage pumping system has also been affected, according to the UNRWA 22% of Gaza households don’t have proper sewage system, and sewage is released untreated into the sea. These combined problems will contribute to increasing health problems related to contaminated water amongst children who make up to 56% of Gaza population.

A limited and decreasing supply of electricity to Gaza strip has made the delivery of even basic services related to health, water and sanitation very difficult. The border restrictions on the supply of fuel and the banning on imports of health spare parts and machinery exacerbates an already overwhelmed health system. It will lead to further decline in the standard of living for the residents--especially health services standards--of the residents of the Gaza Strip.

Man-made poverty and its effects on health
Poverty has a direct impact on nutrition--especially children's nutrition--and that clearly explains clearly the prevalence of anemia amongst Palestinian children under the age of 5 which has reached as high as 63.4% of under 5 children in January 2008, compared to 57.5% in 2007.

The international aid organizations offer food staples but this is not adequate. Children need well balanced diets to grow in a healthy way. Additionally, whenever there is cash to purchase food, food prices are extremely high and some products are in shortage so families still can't get proper food items. Due to the difficulty of importing food into Gaza milk, cooking oil, and many other items are in shortage in the markets.

The psychological effect on the community
The continuous closure, economic siege, power cuts, and the ongoing military operations against Gaza's population are coupled with poverty and a complete lack of sources of entertainment. It is not strange that 64% of Palestinian kids suffer from post traumatic stress disorders. They exhibit signs such as nightmares, phobias, clinging to the mother, inability to focus, bed wetting and irritability.

The Palestinian community as a whole in the Gaza Strip is suffering from different sorts of psychological symptoms. Depression, anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, irritability and aggression amongst the families has increased remarkably.

Restrictions on movement
The population's right to health has been violated by the Israeli occupation. It is very difficult if not impossible for patients to access to medical care outside the Gaza Strip. There are hundreds of patients who need further treatment and referral to hospitals outside Gaza--especially cancer patients, neurosurgical operations, cardiovascular surgeries etc. These patients are routinely denied permits to leave Gaza for their medical emergencies. Many were even issued a referral and then prohibited from crossing the borders. The rate of referral was 67% in 2006 but it decreased to just 25% in 2008.

In some cases children were allowed to travel but the parents were denied permits to accompany their children. Since June 2007, 117 patients have died while waiting to be referred for treatment outside Gaza. Last October, 20 patients died. 5 of them were children.

Border closures are also impacting the quality of health available in Gaza. Our hospitals are lacking many essential medications and supplies such as anesthetics, x-ray films, laboratory kits, chronic diseases medications, spare parts for hospital beds, etc.

Emergency medical teams--while on duty and in uniform--were often prevented from doing their work during the military operations against Gaza Strip. Several human rights organizations, as well as eyewitnesses accounts by different hospitals staff, have documented these violations of the right to health. On many occasions ambulances were directly targeted by the Israeli army while trying to rescue the injured or were not allowed to reach the injured and the medical teams watched the injured bleed to death. There are countless lives that could have been saved. A few minutes or even a few seconds can make a difference for saving the lives of injured people.

The latest example is the Jabalia incursion when the Israeli army did not allow the ambulance to reach one of the injured children. The child, a girl aged 8, was heavily bleeding and when the ambulance was allowed to evacuate the child it was too late. This practice of the Israeli army during its military operations is a frank violation of human rights and of the fourth Geneva Convention regarding the protection of medical teams while on duty in war and peace. Since December 2000, 17 Palestinian health workers have been killed while on duty and 206 injured.

We are facing an impossible challenge. Gaza's health facilities have to cope with these extraordinary emergency needs with limited medical resources while at the same time trying hard to meet the routine health care needs of the population with scarce resources.

The siege of Gaza must end.

Mona El-Farra
Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip
Palestinian International Campaign to End the Siege


  • "it is not strange that 64%of Palestinian kids suffers of post traumatic stress disorders., night mares , phobias , clinging to the mother , inability to focus bed wetting and irritability"

    This is completely inexcusable. And everyone wonders why Palestinians are launching rockets at Sderot.

    By Blogger Zingo, at 3/27/2008 5:49 AM  

  • No sane human being could read this and not feel utter despair and anger at the MAN MADE suffering placed upon these people.

    Yet I await the STUPID and the WICKED to post their all so predictable comments, robotic style, well used lies that many actually even believe!
    The usual "well if they just stopped the rockets.."
    If they stopped the rockets, WHAT?
    I would love to hear that everything would be just wonderful.
    Would the Palestinians be able to live a free life?
    Would they be given back the occupied territories?
    Would the refugees be allowed back?
    Would they have the same rights as Israelis.
    Would they not be under the threat of Israeli snipers and shells and airstrikes?
    Would Israel go back to the pre-1967 borders?
    Oh, I could go on and on.. but I know and I know everyone else knows that the Palestinians would be afforded NOTHING.
    There is no dispute, this occupation is illegal under international law.
    Under international law, he who is occupied is entitled to use whatever force required against his occupier.
    No decent human being would just give up and roll over, the Israelis would not, I would not, I am sure no-one else would and you cannot expect the Palestinians to, after all they were not the people who commited the terrible crimes against the Jews in the Holocaust so why are they the ones to pay the price?
    They have been wronged, but the biggest trick in history has been played, in managing to convince the rest of the world that Israel is the victim.

    By Blogger beany, at 3/27/2008 7:26 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/28/2008 6:09 AM  

  • Yes, the Gaza siege must end, it is sad.

    When will your leaders start saying the same thing? When will your leaders say those three words: "we recognize Israel"?

    When will you leaders put your health and welfare ahead of their own ideals?

    By Blogger Robby, at 3/30/2008 3:48 AM  

  • Tragic. That is all I can comment on this matter. Utterly upsetting.

    By Blogger LJC, at 4/01/2008 7:39 AM  

  • just wonder what could be done about it and why it is taking so long time...insha Allah soon there will be happy ending for Palestine

    regards from Poland

    By Blogger Amina, at 4/02/2008 12:26 PM  

  • The abysmal performance of western TV and radio
    interviewers when dealing with issues surrounding
    Israel is not only embarrassing but a blot on the
    escutcheon of journalism.

    Have the nation’s truth-seekers fallen under some
    wicked spell? Are their researchers on strike? Did
    somebody nobble the programme editors?

    While we wait with mounting frustration for our
    broadcasters to get their act together, here are 20
    simple questions the BBC and others seem anxious not
    to ask......

    On Rockets and Sieges

    (1) The numbers of home-made Qassam rockets launched
    at Israel are diligently counted and quoted, but how
    many sophisticated munitions have Israel’s F-16s,
    helicopter gun-ships, armed drones, tanks, occupation
    troops and navy patrol boats fired into the crowded
    humanity that packs the Gaza Strip? We are never told.

    (2) Why should we believe the claim that the siege of
    Gaza is about rockets “raining down” on Sderot?
    Palestinians in the West Bank don't fire rockets yet
    the Israelis are still in occupation after 40 years,
    still stealing their land and water, and now dumping
    their toxic waste there.

    (3) Israelis say that if the rockets stop, things will
    be OK.... Does that mean Gaza will be able to trade
    freely with the outside world like any other country,
    and people will be able to come and go freely? Will
    you and I be able to visit Gaza without Israeli

    On the Collective Punishment of Gazans

    (4) Why can't Gaza's 3,000 licensed fishermen put to
    sea and earn their living without being harassed and
    fired on? What is the status of Palestinian
    territorial waters under international law? Why are
    half the hospitals’ dialysis machines out of action
    and the chronically sick dying in agony for want of
    proper medication?

    (5) Which parts of the Declaration of Human Rights and
    Geneva Conventions don't Israelis understand?

    On the War on Christianity

    (6) Israelis use 'administrative' controls to disrupt
    the life and work of the Christian Church in the Holy
    Land. No Muslim or Palestinian Christian living
    outside Jerusalem is allowed to visit the Holy Places
    in the Old City without special permission. Christian
    priests, many of whom are Jordanian, cannot go home to
    see their families because Israel's new visa policy
    would prevent them returning to their parishes. The
    Catholic priest in Gaza has been trapped there for 9
    years knowing that if he visits his folks the Israelis
    won’t allow him back into the Strip. “We seek a
    life of freedom—a life different from the life of
    dogs we are currently forced to live,” he says. What
    should be our response to attempts by Israel to
    paralyse the Church?

    (7) Is it not shameful that our elected politicians,
    who are mostly Christian themselves, show so little
    concern? Is it not doubly shameful how the leaders of
    western Christendom seem oblivious to the Israeli
    government’s war against Christian communities?
    Beware those pseudo-Christians in high places, who
    talk the talk but won’t walk the walk. How many top
    brass have visited Gaza to show solidarity with the
    flock? At the present rate there will soon be no
    Christians left in the place where Christianity began,
    and churchmen will wake up one morning to find the
    Holy Land, from which their whole power and purpose
    are derived, stolen from under their noses.

    On Illegal Settlements

    (8) Israel has expropriated agricultural land and key
    water resources in the Palestinian West Bank for its
    own use. More than 38% of the territory now consists
    of Israeli settlements, outposts, military bases and
    closed military areas, Israeli-declared nature
    reserves or other infrastructure that’s off-limits
    to Palestinians. Jews-only highways linking
    settlements to Israel, and the 580 checkpoints and
    roadblocks, have fragmented Palestinian communities,
    blocked access to their lands and severely restricted
    movement. How can this be right?

    (9) The freezing and dismantling of Israeli
    settlements are a cornerstone of major peace
    initiatives. The most recent, the Quartet's 2003
    ‘roadmap’ endorsed by the UN Security Council, is
    perfectly clear on the question of illegal
    settlements. Israel is under an obligation to....

    a) immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected
    since March 2001,
    b) freeze all settlement activity (including natural
    growth of settlements) consistent with the Mitchell
    c) take "no actions undermining trust, including
    confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes
    and property".

    Why have none of these obligations been met?

    (10) A year ago the General Assembly reaffirmed that
    Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory,
    including East Jerusalem, "are illegal and an obstacle
    to peace" and demanded "the immediate and complete
    cessation of all Israeli settlement activities". Why
    is Israel still stealing Palestinian land for more
    illegal construction? By vowing to press ahead with
    settlement building, Israel’s prime minister Olmert
    again signals contempt for international law and world
    opinion… further proof (if ever it were needed) that
    Israel isn’t interested in peace.

    On the Evil of the Wall

    (11) In 2004 the International Court of Justice,
    sitting at the request of the UN General Assembly,
    concluded that the route chosen for the Separation
    Wall “gives expression in loco to the illegal
    measures taken by Israel with regard to Jerusalem and
    the settlements". The ICJ ruled the Wall illegal and
    declared that it should be dismantled where it
    encroaches onto Palestinian land. Why hasn't this been
    done? Why is Israel still building it? If Israelis
    feel a wall is necessary for security reasons why
    don't they build one on their own territory?

    On House Demolitions and the Right of Return

    (12) In 1948 the newly established state of Israel
    began demolishing the homes of Palestinian refugees to
    prevent their return. More than 125,000 houses were
    systematically destroyed. Since 1967, 18,000 more have
    been demolished, making another 100,000 Palestinians
    homeless. Demolishing homes is a deliberate Israeli
    strategy to inflict collective punishment and break
    the Palestinians' will to resist the occupation; to
    achieve a silent ethnic transfer; and to ensure that
    Israel's control of the Occupied Territories and their
    resources becomes permanent. Apart from the fact that
    these acts breach every rule in the book, every
    convention and every declaration governing civilised
    conduct, how would the Israelis like it if they were
    the victims?

    (13) Why can any Jew from anywhere in the world, who
    has never before lived in Israel and whose ancestors
    have never lived in Israel, go and live in Israel –
    or ‘squat’ in an illegal outpost in Palestine with
    Israel’s blessing - while Palestinians who can prove
    title to their former houses may not?

    On Imprisonment

    (14) Nearly 10,000 Palestinians, including women and
    children, have been abducted and languish in Israeli
    prisons, many without charge or trial. 30+ Palestinian
    parliamentarians, democratically elected, are also
    imprisoned. What civilised country would do this?

    On Ethnic Cleansing

    (15) The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, begun in the
    months before and after the establishment of the State
    of Israel in 1948, is still going on in and around
    Jerusalem and in Gaza. Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona
    Metzger argues for an ethnic cleansing programme to
    transfer Gazans out and dump them in the Sinai desert.
    Haaretz reports that he wants Britain, the EU and the
    US to assist in the construction of a Palestinian
    state in the middle of nowhere. “They will have a
    nice country, and we, the Jews, shall have our country
    and we shall live in peace.” This leading advocate
    of ethnic cleansing says Muslims should recognize that
    "our land is the Holy Land and Jerusalem belongs to
    us”. Do we in Britain wish to associate with people
    who hold such views?

    On Terror

    (16) Since the land occupied by Israel was taken by
    terrorist means, employing gangs such as the one that
    blew up the British mandate government in the King
    David Hotel in 1946 killing 90, by what moral
    yardstick do British and other western leaders 'do
    business' with the Israeli Government but not with
    Palestine’s democratically elected Hamas leadership?

    (17) Remembering that most Israeli prime ministers
    have been responsible for authorising war crimes
    against the Palestinian people, why are the words
    'terrorist', ‘militant’ and ‘extremist’
    applied only to Palestinians? They fit successive
    Israeli governments like a glove, and given Israel's
    lawless and inhuman conduct in Palestine and Lebanon,
    which has outraged world opinion, why isn't it branded
    a terrorist state?

    On Our (Uncritical) Support

    (18) For decades Occupied Palestine has received
    British and European aid. If Palestinians had been
    left in peace, free to trade and develop in the normal
    way, there would no need for aid. In effect British
    and EU taxpayers are subsidising Israel's illegal
    occupation and the economic strangulation it imposes.
    Why should we think this acceptable and continue to
    pick up the tab?

    (19) Why is there such strong support for Israel at
    the heart of British government? Why have so many MPs
    and MEPs allowed themselves to be drawn into the
    ‘Friends of Israel’ web? How can supposedly bright
    people with information at their fingertips still be
    ignorant of Israel's apartheid practices, wholesale
    land thefts, careless slaughter of children and other
    atrocities? Can we take it that they approve of the
    slow genocide inflicted on defenceless civilians, the
    middle-of-the-night snatch squads, the house
    demolitions, the torture and assassinations, and the
    crushing of Christian and Muslim communities? Is it
    not foolish and insulting for them to claim we share
    Israel’s beliefs and values, and should even share
    foreign policy? A well-respected Jewish MP recently
    called the Israeli government “a gang of amoral
    thugs”. Isn’t that about right?

    On the Two-State Solution

    (20) Israel and friends are pushing for a two-state
    solution… eventually, when it suits them and their
    land grab is complete. To warped minds this will give
    the racist regime and its supremacist ideals some kind
    of seal of approval. By that time the shrunken and
    shredded remnants of Palestine will have become a
    permanently impoverished and ghettoized mini-state,
    trashed and raped of its resources, traumatised,
    subservient, easy to control and never capable of
    prospering. Israel’s scheming allies, who include
    western governments (though not western peoples), go
    along with this grubby plan. Can someone please
    explain why we, the citizens of a Christian democracy
    once mandated with responsibility for Palestine’s
    future wellbeing, would wish to soil our hands with
    it? The ethical choice, surely, is a single state with
    Jews living alongside their Arab neighbours as equal
    citizens and sharing the land within a common legal
    and democratic framework. That, after all, was the
    original intention, and the developments of the last
    60 years are a gross perversion and betrayal. Only the
    Palestinians themselves have had the courage to resist

    When the Day of Reckoning comes to the Middle East -
    and engulfs the meddlesome West - much of the blame
    will rest squarely on the lack of journalistic rigour
    here and in the US, which has allowed a delinquent
    political élite to work their evil too long.

    -Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free
    Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians
    under occupation. He contributed this article to

    By Blogger beany, at 4/02/2008 7:27 PM  

  • Beany, all of your claims are bogus.
    Jews had the land way before the "palestinians". This is historically and archeologically proven.
    If palestinians could agree on a side by side state, and there would be no more attacks on israel, Israel would allow palenstinians to live there without resrictions.
    The bottom line is, the reason the world sides with Israel is because Israel wants peace while the arabs want to wipe Israel off the map.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 5/01/2008 5:08 AM  

  • Hi Mona,
    I heard you speak in Cork last year and my thoughts and solidarity are with you and the people of Gaza,on a daily basis.

    I am continually inspired by your blog and writing.Keep up the amazing work you are doing and know that we are actively lobbying and campaigning our Irish government and people to put pressure on the EU to stand up and take action against the gross violations of human rights that are the horrendous and deplorable reality faced by Gaza and the OPT's.

    With the greatest respect,
    (and sending you a hug!)

    By Blogger Keelin Barry, at 5/03/2008 1:47 PM  

  • I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/08/2009 8:23 AM  

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