Gaza’s tragedy worsens

Mohamed Abu Shaar , Wednesday 10 Aug 2022

Last week’s Israeli attack on Gaza has made the humanitarian situation in the Strip even more calamitous.

Gaza s tragedy worsens
Palestinians inspecting the ruins of a collapsed building destroyed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza (photo: AFP)


The latest Israeli assault on Gaza, which began last Friday afternoon, has further damaged humanitarian and economic conditions in the Strip, already devastated by recurring Israeli attacks that have targeted thousands of buildings and infrastructure in the area and a blockade that has been ongoing for 15 years.

The friend of a young Palestinian killed in Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza reacts during his funeral (photo: AFP)

During the latest military assault, Israel killed 45 Palestinians and destroyed hundreds of residential units.

During its military operation on Gaza, which Israel says targeted the Islamic Jihad group, the Israeli army conducted more than 170 raids in three days. The Strip is less than 365 square km in size and is considered to be one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

On Sunday night, a ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt entered into force.

a boy removes a tricycle from the rubble of his family house after it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in Rafah refugee camp (photo: AP)

Israel’s military escalation came a year and three months after the last Israeli war against the Gaza Strip, which broke out in May 2021 and lasted for 11 days. During that assault, Israel targeted Palestinian homes and infrastructure in the Strip, creating a dire humanitarian situation that was accentuated further by the blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007.

Israel launched further wide-ranging wars against the besieged Strip at the end of 2009, in 2012, and in 2014, the latter lasting for more than 52 days. These resulted in the death or injury of thousands of Palestinians and the destruction of thousands of buildings.

During this week’s hostilities, Israel said it was targeting Islamic Jihad, although it opened its military operation by shelling apartments in a 15-floor residential building in the Al-Remal neighbourhood in central Gaza, saying it was targeting a military leader in the Al-Quds Brigades, Taysir Al-Jaabari.

The attack left five Palestinians dead.

Israel also bombed a three-storey residential building in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip without warning its residents under the pretext of targeting leader of the Al-Quds Brigades Khaled Mansour. The assault left Mansour and seven others dead, most of them civilians.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Israeli raids resulted in the deaths of 45 Palestinians, including 15 children and four women, and 360 injuries. While Israel said it had targeted militants and members of Islamic Jihad, the movement said that 12 of its members had died, which means that 33 of those killed were civilians.

Ismail Dweik was killed in the Israeli attack on the Sheout Camp west of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Dweik had got engaged to Abeer Harb less than two months before the assault. A day after the ceasefire, Harb stood atop the rubble of the building that had housed the apartment in which they were supposed to live after their marriage.

Harb’s tears froze in her eyes, and uttering just a few words she said that her father had returned from Egypt just days earlier to attend her wedding. He had received a dinner invitation at her fiancé’s house for the night the shelling took place but had turned down the invitation because he was exhausted from the trip back from Egypt.

Ashraf Al-Quisi, a street vendor in Rafah, suggested demolishing his small house, in which his eight-member family live, because it obstructed the entry of the heavy machinery needed by civil-defence teams to dig out victims under a building that was bombed in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

The alleys of the camp are narrow, obstructing the recovery of the victims from under the rubble.

Al-Quisi told Al-Ahram Weekly that he did not think twice when he knew that tearing down his house could help save the lives of people lying under the rubble.

“I suggested demolishing my house so that the equipment could enter to remove the rubble. The most important thing for me was to save the lives of the people down there, because they are my neighbours and friends. I can build the house again, but the loss of lives cannot be made up for,” he said.

Civil-defence teams then tore down Al-Quisi’s house and managed to bring up several dead and injured. Al-Quisi said he did not regret losing his house, as “others lost dear ones.”

As a group of Palestinians and aid organisations now work to rent a house for Al-Quisi, he joins a long list of Gazans waiting for their houses to be reconstructed after their destruction as a result of repeated Israeli wars on Gaza.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Housing and public works, during the latest attack the Israeli army completely destroyed 18 housing units and partially destroyed 17, while 1,675 housing units were moderately or slightly damaged.

Nagi Sarhan, deputy to the ministry, announced that it plans to enroll those affected by the latest Israeli attack under the reconstruction grants implemented by Egypt and Qatar in the Gaza Strip. Egypt is building housing projects in the Strip for more than $500 million, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said after the assault.

Statistics published by the Palestinian Government Information Office indicate that

dozens of agricultural plots were damaged as a result of intensive Israeli raids. The Office said that hundreds of thousands of poultry and livestock were threatened due to the restrictions on the entry of animal feed put in place by Israel after it closed its crossings with the Gaza Strip during the military escalation.

The only power plant in the Gaza Strip stopped working during the Israeli military operation, due to Israel’s ban on the entry of the diesel fuel needed to operate it, reducing Palestinians in the Strip to four hours of electricity per day.

The Strip’s hospitals are also threatened. They are already functioning with a limited capacity as a result of the 15-year siege, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

After the ceasefire, Israel allowed diesel fuel into Gaza, increasing the electricity Palestinians receive per day from four to eight hours, owing to the station’s inability to provide the 560 Megawatts of electricity needed by the Strip if the power is to be permanently on.

Some Palestinians obtain electricity from generators, but this is an expensive alternative, albeit necessary during hours in which temperatures are high.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip said that there was a 40 per cent shortage of basic medicines, a 32 per cent shortage of medical equipment, and a 60 per cent shortage of laboratory and blood bank supplies.

The ministry said that the Israeli occupation was preventing the entry of 24 diagnostic x-ray machines and the spare parts needed to maintain broken equipment in emergency and intensive care units and operating theatres in the Gaza Strip.

Unemployment in the Strip is estimated at more than 50 per cent, while among young people aged between 15 and 29 it stands at 62.5 per cent, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Some 1.3 million Palestinians out of the 2.1 million in Gaza, or 62 per cent of the population, need food aid, said a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued in mid-2022.

The report noted that the Israeli blockade raises concern about collective punishments imposed on Palestinians in the Strip and other potential violations of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law.

The majority of Gazans do not have access to the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory or the outside world. This limits their access to medical treatment not available in Gaza, as well as to institutions of higher education, employment, and economic opportunities.

The UN report added that 31 per cent of families in Gaza have difficulty paying their children’s school fees due to the scarcity of financial resources.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 August, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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