Friday, September 08, 2006

No Relief For Gaza. Just Death.

Palestinian society is on the verge of collapse as the Israeli siege slowly strangles the life out of Gaza. Israel has now sealed every border and stopped all outside trade; Meanwhile the Israeli military conduct regular incursions into Gaza in the hope of finding lost soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Palestinian militants on the 25 June.

However it is the civilians that have borne most of the brunt of the attacks; a total of 262 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded, since the 25 of June. Of these, 64 were children and 26 women. In the the words of newspaper journalist Gideon Levy: "[Israel] has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately". To many, Gaza is now essentially reoccupied by Israel.

Those who have not yet been killed by Israeli bullets are now facing ever-more bleak prospects, as Palestinians struggle to support their families amidst the growing trade blockade. Karen Abuzayd, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency has warned in a recent report that: "The strangulation of commerce and trade has ruined the economy, it has brought the institutions of government to a point of near-meltdown and badly shaken the society,".

Israel is inflicting collective punishment; 1.5 million people suffer and will continue to suffer, in the hope that it will force Palestinian militants to return soldier Gilad Shalit. However Ms Abuzayd has little faith this policy will work: "The pressures and tactics have not resulted in a desire for compromise... but rather have created mass despair, anger and a sense of hopelessness and abandonment"

As the situation worsens, more Palestinian youths, ill-trained and ill-equipped, take up arms against the Israeli forces; Many will die. However this is no deterrent: "Why should I worry? If I die I will die a martyr and go to paradise." say militant Ala Hejair recovering in Shifa hospital from Israel inflicted wounds.

There seems little hope for Gaza; none if Israel continues this policy of strangulation. The answer may lie in Ms Abuzayda suggestion of having "an international presence, civilian, military, whatever, an international force of peacekeepers could offer Gaza's 1.5m people some protection."

However with UN forces already stretched thinly in Afghanistan and Lebanon it is unlikely that many member countries would spare troops to protect Gaza; Israel would not permit any such intervention anyway.

If no help is forthcoming it seems likely that Gaza will die, its society destroyed by Israeli tanks; while the eyes of the west are averted to the other major issues of Iraq and Afghanistan.


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