The Sunday Times (of London) reports from Gaza, where, thanks to the recent tightening by Israel of its ongoing military blockade, purportedly in response to continued rocket attacks launched from the Strip by Palestinian fighters, humanitarian conditions have grown increasingly dire:
“We had one meal today – khobbeizeh,” said Abu Amra, 43, showing the leaves of a plant that grows along the streets of Gaza. “Every day, I wake up and start looking for wood and plastic to burn for fuel and I beg. When I find nothing, we eat this grass.”
Despite the increasingly desperate situation residents of the poverty-stricken territory now face, the diplomatic impasse at the heart of Gaza’s deterioration (summed up with tragicomic succinctness by the Times: “Israel says it will open the borders again when Hamas stops launching rockets at southern Israel. Hamas says it will crack down on the rocket launchers when Israel opens the borders.”) appears unlikely to be overcome anytime soon. Which pretty much guarantees continued strife for Gazans over the coming months:
Israel controls the borders and allows in humanitarian supplies only sporadically. Families had electricity for six hours a day last week. Cooking gas was available only through the illegal tunnels that run into Egypt, and by last week had jumped in price from 80 shekels per canister (£14) to 380 shekels (£66).
The UN, which has responsibility for 1m refugees in Gaza, is in despair. “The economy has been crushed and there are no imports or exports,” said John Ging, director of its relief and works agency.
“Two weeks ago, for the first time in 60 years, we ran out of food,” he said. “We used to get 70 to 80 trucks per day, now we are getting 15 trucks a day, and only when the border opens. We’re living hand to mouth.”
He has four days of food in stock for distribution to the most desperate – and no idea whether Israel will reopen the border. The Abu Amra family may have to eat wild grass for the foreseeable future.
A little bit of unsolicited diplomatic advice from yours truly: You know it’s beyond time for Hamas and Israel to hammer out their fundamental differences post haste when the citizens of Gaza are reduced to eating grass in order to survive. Let’s just hope the incoming leader of Israel’s most generous and supportive patron recognizes the importance of helping broker an agreement sooner rather than later, both for reasons of pragmatic national interest and– most importantly–because crafting a solution is, perhaps now more than ever, morally imperative.
h/t Sylvia/M via IM
Related: In a recent op-ed published by the San Jose Mercury News, Darlene Wallach, a member of the Free Gaza movement who was recently detained by Israeli forces while attempting to enter Gaza, points out the elephant in the room:
Israel’s military occupation of Gaza did not end with the withdrawal of its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005. Israel still controls access of people and goods into and out of the Strip. It controls Gaza’s airspace, borders and, as my capture attests, territorial waters.
Last year, Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza, hoping to turn Gazans against Hamas. In early November, it tightened the blockade and is denying an entire population access to trucks laden with humanitarian provisions, food and gas.
This collective punishment is illegal under international law. Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, for example, states that “to the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate.”
In other words (borrowed from Fred Clarke, who has been forced to repeat them far too often over the years):
You’re not allowed to kill civilians.
Killing civilians is against the law. Killing civilians makes you a criminal.
Yes, but …
No buts about it. You’re not allowed to kill civilians.
And, also: You’re not allowed to kill civilians.
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