Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gaza Watch #3: Gaza under darkness

By Rami Almeghari 17 July 2006

"I have lost a total of $1,000 US dollars since the power supply has been cut, the number of my customers has decreased to minimum, I stay idle at my shop for long hours; what shall I do?" asked 31-year-old Alaa' Salahat, a local vendor of frozen foods from the central Gaza Strip refugee camp of Maghazi. He spoke of his experience while sitting in the darkness with only a kerosene lamp illuminating the worry lines in his face.

Why such darkness? Because three weeks ago, Israeli aircrafts bombarded Gaza's power plant. "This is really a very terrible situation; we are civilians - what does Israel want? This is really a collective punishment against an entire people," said Alaa'. "When I get back home each day having earned only a few shekels [Israeli currency - 5 shekels = $1 US] in my pocket, I rush to find candles to light the house for my wife. We stay idle, until our turn for electricity current comes. This 'luxury' happens no more than three nights a week," he continued. "This is a really unbearable situation that nobody on this earth can tolerate. What do the Israelis want us to do? To die, to give up, or what? However, we are steadfast. You know why we are steadfast? Because we know we have the same right to exist as the Israelis. These are our ancestors' lands, and we will remain living here - even if it is difficult, even if we don't want to stay. Because this is our land."

At this last sentence, Alaa' emphasized each word, to make sure I understood what he meant. In the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, where the same problem exists, a Palestinian mother, Taraji Qdaih, 32, said, "For a very long time, we have been calling on the world to help us get rid of the Israeli occupation,but all our appeals fall on deaf ears. The Israelis are committing massacres; from the girl Huda Ghalia's family, massacred on Beit Lahia beach a few weeks ago, to the missiles fired at us from the air by night and day. And there is not any condemnation from the world at all. Yet when an Israeli soldier has been held, all the countries want to intervene to free him without any concessions. We are always the ones blamed, we are always the ones blamed.

"Visiting the ruins of the bombed power plant brings to light the reality of Israeli shelling." Dr. Derar Abu Sasi, the plant's operations director said during a visit to his wrecked office at the base of the plant, "We only have one power plant in Gaza. Now that Israel has destroyed it, we can't produce a single megawatt, or even a kilowatt for our customers. The Israeli bombs destroyed all four main transformers, the only transformers that feed Gaza residents with electricity."

Israeli war planes have been bombarding and destroying major infrastructure in the Gaza Strip such as governmental buildings for three weeks straight - the latest was the foreign affairs ministry, hit early in the morning of Monday, July 17, for the second time in a week. Water treatment plants and greenhouses, bridges and homes, have also been the major targets of Israeli bombs in 'Operation Summer Rain,' the code name for the Israeli military invasion of Gaza that began 27 June. Israeli leaders claim that their actions across Gaza are intended at freeing an Israeli soldier who has been held by some Palestinian resistance groups for the past three weeks after he was captured in an unprecedented resistance attack on an Israeli army base south of the Gaza Strip. The United States, Israel's strategic ally, has considered Israel's ongoing attacks on Gaza Strip as 'self defense,' while the death toll amongst Palestinians since then has risen to nearly 100, with over 300 others wounded, some of them are very critical. Some of the injured have lost limbs or have been paralyzed for life.

In contrast, a sole Israeli soldier was killed in the Gaza invasion, and although Israeli forces at first blamed Palestinian resistance fighters, they later determined that the soldier had been shot by 'friendly fire.'

Rami Almeghari is currently a Senior Translator at theTranslation Department of the Gaza-based State InformationService (SIS) and former Editor in Chief of the SIS-linkedInternational Press Center's English site. He can becontacted at rami_almeghari@hotmail.com


Anonymous said...

So do you think maybe they should release that Israel prisoner?

Anonymous said...

......That effort brings us to a second dimension--one in which Palestinian Islamist authorities are playing a nefarious role in perpetuating the Gazan humanitarian crisis. After last August's unilateral withdrawal, Israel was prepared to invest over $100 million in improving the passages into and out of Gaza. But militant Islamists preferred to attack the passages, keeping them closed. The international community invested in developing the hothouse agriculture plants the settlers left behind, but the fruits and vegetables ended up rotting on the vine because the passages at Karni and Erez had to remain closed for security reasons. Abandoned Gaza Strip settlements that were going to be turned into new housing complexes were instead taken over by armed gangs.

Israel tried to bypass the security problems dictating the closure of some of the crossings by offering to open other, alternative crossings, at Kerem Shalom and Sufa, for the introduction of humanitarian aid to Gaza. On July 12, the United Nation's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory reported that the offer had been rejected by the Hamas-dominated PA.

Most recently, 5,000 Gazans returning from Egypt were stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, which was closed due to the fighting that followed the abduction of IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit. Some were ill, returning from medical treatment in Egypt; eight died waiting. Israel agreed at an early stage to repatriate all 5,000 if they entered Gaza, without even an Israeli security check, via the Kerem Shalom Israel-Egypt-Gaza terminal. Again Hamas authorities in Gaza refused, solely for political reasons.

Recently, too, the European Union began to activate a fund for Palestinian humanitarian aid that is channeled directly to the needy, bypassing Hamas officials who are still boycotted because of their refusal to accept minimal conditions for interacting with Israel and the international community. Israel agreed to this program for alleviating Palestinian suffering. But in early July it was reported that PA Health Minister Basim Naeem asked Palestinian hospital directors not to cooperate with the program's intention of paying cash allowances directly to government doctors and nurses.

Turning to humanitarian suffering due to heavy rocket attacks on the Israeli population, something revolutionary has happened. The Olmert government has escalated its response to Hizballah and Hamas even though it recognizes this will cause widespread civilian casualties in Israel. It has determined that public patience and determination in the face of such large scale terrorism are part and parcel of our deterrent image. Hamas leader Hasan Nasrallah, in his provocative public statements, is betting the Israeli public will break. He is wrong

Anonymous said...

Hezbolah murderers now attacking Arab communities in Israel. 2 arab kids killed.
If you are aware of INNOCENT citizens in Lebanon who are near any Hezbollah,tell them to GET AWAY.The murderers are hiding among civilians so there will be the result you will then BLAME Israel for. Do you REALLY,REALLY want peace and further your cause?---Answer:Stop the arming of the rats who live to eliminate Israel.They show immense endurance and restraint through years of suicide bombings,trying to react "with constraint".By ignoring the menace which these groups (and their supporrters) pose,and pinpointing this issue as a singular one,villifying `your chosen target,you support the elimination of Israel and become closer to being responsible for the ongoing suffering than you otherwise would be.Are you ready to blame yourself? Or can you clear your vision and speak out against who really creates the environment for the suffering of those caught up in the way.