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GAZA IN CRISIS: MANMADE DISASTER 


Gaza's only power plant after an airstrike in 2014


A Gaza citizen overlooking his city

Gaza resembles a war zone of conflicted interests. The Nakba ("exodus") began 1948. 750,000 Palestinians were first forcibly driven from their homes. 65,000 were massacred.

Today, the barriers resemble unhealed scars. They are ugly and visible in the world's largest open-air prison. And the world watches while Palestinians struggle to survive.


THE CRISIS IN NUMBERS

Israel has placed vicious restrictions on Gaza. Their sanctions, resource monopolies and military offensives within Gaza territory create a growing humanitarian crisis. Gaza's lack in sovereignty keep conditions prime for violent conflict.

Inequality has skyrocketed beside a decline in social welfare, public health and quality of life. Gaza's unemployment rate is nearly 41%. Gazan families below Palestine's poverty line have reached 39% (World Bank Fact Sheet). In 2007, some Gazans lived on less than $2 per day.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimated a staggering 72% Gaza Strip families experience severe hunger. 80% require food assistance to survive. (Electronic Intifada)

Coastal Municipalities Water Utility declared 100% of Gaza's water unfit for use while Israel has taken exclusive control over the aquifer. Gazan groundwater and soil have rising chloride and nitrate levels (Boston Globe). Basic rights to life are denied daily to 1.6 million people. (Electronic Intifada).

Israel controls Palestine's population registry and exits through strict checkpoints.

Israel has exclusive rights to all Palestinian fuel, including the Gaza gas reserves (Electronic Intifada). A related crisis is underway.

7,800 acres of Gaza's agricultural land were destroyed by Cast Lead (Boston Globe). Israel-imposed buffer zones cover 14% total Gazan land and 85% of Palestine's sea boundaries (World Bank). Nearly 48% of Gaza's arable land is not accessible.

23 million gallons of sewage surround Gaza (World Bank), and landfills no longer pick up or sort waste (Electronic Intifada).

$3 billion in Gaza damages since the Israel-Gaza conflict started. 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza fled.

Israel possesses the 11th strongest military: drones, F-16's and modern weapon technology from the U.S.

Gaza's Strip will be unlivable by 2020 at this rate.

Source: Boston Globe, Yahoo!, World Bank, The Nation


ISRAEL CONTROL OF GAZA RESOURCES

Israel's supply monopoly devastates Palestinian self-sufficiency and all free trade. Since tunnel smuggling has collapsed and Hamas came to power, Palestine's been detrimentally dependent on Israeli imports such as fuel (Electronic Intifada). Dor Alon is their only importer.

GAS

Gazan gas fields are an astounding 1.4 trillion cubic feet or so in volume. However, buffer zones prevent Palestinian government from using or protecting them. The waiting game is deadly and intentional. It's led to severe power outages regionwide.

"Such supply monopolies are a form of power. They provide easy ways to exert political pressure on the Palestinian Authority and ordinary Palestinians and to enforce their compliance with Israel’s interests," says Charlie Shamas (Electronic Intifada).

He founded the Mattin Group, a Ramallah-based advocacy organization. To him and many economists, Gaza is suffering intense economic crucifixion.

"Developing Gaza’s gas fields would break one important Israeli supply monopoly. They don’t want the Palestinians to develop energy self-reliance."

A bigger complication is Israeli strangehold on imports, land and resources.

IDF frequently invades farming space with military equipment. In May 2016, four tanks and two bulldozers illegally destroyed property. Defense units have fired on Palestinian farmers indiscriminately from 2014. (PressTV)

Construction materials aren't fully permitted in Gaza. Muhammad Hamad (VP, Metal and Engineering Industries Union) explained Israel's specific criteria. (Palestine Information Center)

Israeli imposition limits zinc and tin to a 0.3-0.7 cm thickness. In a cruel twist, prices have increased significantly for the necessary tools. 85% of them cannot enter the Gaza Strip.

Ashraf al-Qidra heads Palestine's Health Ministry and made clear that Gaza also is experiencing a medical shortage. Gaza has 2 million citizens but only 30 clinics or care facilities.

The Jabaliya camp and others in north Gaza suffered Israel's heaviest-hitting attacks. 

Thankfully, foreign aid has reentered Gaza to help. An Indonesian NGO created The Indonesia Hospital directly outside of Jabaliya.

The $9 million facility can serve 250 patients daily or more, employing 400 staff. It's primarily for outpatient services and surgeries. The Indonesia Hospital is Gaza's first new one in a decade.

This is welcome relief from the overcrowded Shifa hospital in Gaza's center. Medicine, medical staff and equipment are in constantly short supply there. 

"We came to Gaza in 2009, and we saw patients and no medicine and not enough hospitals," Edy Wahyudi recounted. She visited Gaza with Indonesia's Emergency Medical Committee. They and sympathetic Indonesian citizens provided funding for Indonesian Hospital. (Forward Magazine)

Anthony Hall rightly points out foreign and economic policies' role in destroying Palestine (especially Gaza). He argues their GDP would double without Israeli occupation. He shows a connection between enviro-racism, dying markets and no viable jobs. (PressTV)

"The maltreatment of Palestinian people is an economic boom for Israel. Israel exploits its identity as a sort of industrialized, sophisticated violator of human rights."

A Tel Aviv US Embassy WikiLeak in 2008 implicates Israel's blockade policy is an intended war crime.

"Israeli officials have confirmed . . . on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge. [Keep] Gaza's economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis."


POLITICS AND WAR CRIMES IN PALESTINE

OSLO ACCORDS

The 1993 Oslo Accords are mediated guidelines for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. These Accord reference a "two-state" solution but don't define it in clear terms.
 
They afforded limited autonomy under an elected president and parliament. They hardly touch on Palestinian resources and Israel control over them.

PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL

Palestinian National Authority governed the occupied terrorities 1996-2007. Israel drew extremely restrictive boundaries for their power in Gaza and the West Bank. Fatah was a powerful political force at this time.

2005 ELECTIONS

The Palestinian Legislative Council passed a new electoral law increasing PLC member count to 132. This also introduced a mixed voting system: one proportional group, one majoritarian. Palestine's 2006 elections used this.

Another important fact is USAID's $2,300,000 funding in support of Abbas' victory.

2006 ELECTIONS

January 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections after a majority seat in the PLC (Palestinian Legislative Council). 43% of Palestinian voters had seen Hamas as an alternative to Palestinian Authority corruption. (World Public Opinion)

Other source: Near East Consulting, 2006 PLC Elections Survey Results

IDF targeted killings took place in the months before and following elections. The Quartet (U.S., Russia, the UN and EU) intercepted Palestine's opportunity for peace. Hamas government refused previous terms of agreement and to recognize Israel.

U.S. threatened to withhold $411 million in aid. 450 Hamas members were administratively detained. Economic sanctions were placed on Palestine by the EU, Israel and the United States who considered Hamas a "terrorist organization".
 
Israel's Cabinet froze $50 million of tax money to the occupied terrorities as well (CNN). The Palestinian Authority was predicted to collapse within two weeks (Jerusalem Post).

U.S. ROLE IN CIVIL WAR

The Bush administration executed a barely covert initiative to remove Hamas from government. Condoleeza Rice and Elliott Abrams strategized to arm Muhammad Dahlan's forces with U.S. weapons, effectively boosting Fatah's military capabilities (Vanity Fair).

Dahlan served as Palestinian Authority's Preventive Security Forces director. During the early 90's, his military command was brutal and authoritarian. Bush administration's alliance with Dahlan demonstrated "institutional failure, a failure of strategy". This changed when Hamas won the parliament.

Palestine's economic sanctions strained Fatah security forces even further and strengthened Hamas. Infighting and economic decay rocked Palestinian territories' infrastructure, especially in Gaza.

Palestinian Authority resources could not hold up against Hamas attacks and international pressure. A related State Department memo showed specific reinforcement plans between Dahlan and Lieutenant General Keith Dayton.

Dayton was appointed Palestinian security coordinator in 2005. He previously headed the Iraq Survey Group, responsible for finding WMD's.

Arms shipments flowed into Gaza during December 2006. Egyptian-made weapons made entry to Fatah troops. 20,000 automatic rifles, 20,000 ammunition clips and two million bullets passed the Israeli-Gaza crossing. This raised concern among U.S. and Palestinian officials.

U.S. government's 'Plan B' directly undermined Palestinian democracy. The following findings come from the "Action Plan for a Palestinian Presidency" (Vanity Fair). This called for an additional 4,700 Fatah troops and a $1.27 billion five-year-plan. The long term budget included salaries, training and "needed security equipment" costs for Fatah.

U.S.-ISRAEL MILITARY AID

Obama and Netanyahu agreed on terms to gift Israel defense $38 billion in military supplies.

OPERATION SUMMER RAINS

Operation Summer Rains launched Israel's first ground invasion since their disengagement plan a year earlier. Summer Rains aimed to suppress Hamas rocket fire, and release IDF corporal Gilad Shahit. Hamas militants kidnapped Sahit after trying to cross the Israel-Gaza border. (Global Security)

INTERNATIONALLY BANNED WEAPONS IN GAZA

Israeli military used experimental weapons on non-armed civilians - internationally banned weapons like uranium-tipped warheads, DIME (dense inert metal explosives) and white phosphorus bombs. (Electronic Intifada/Independent)


White phosphorus in Beit-Lahiya, 2009

DIME are an Air Force creation containing tungsten, a known cancer-causing agent. The blasts shred victims' limbs and tissue, "...destroyed by enormous energy released by the explosives that are shot near them or at them". The survival rate is extremely low (Wired). Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert had seen consistent injuries with DIME's 2006 and later in 2009 (Common Dreams).

The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported new toxic shrapnel injuries in conflict areas. 249 or more Gazans were harmed with radioactive/toxic shells by Summer Rains' first month (IMEMC). Doctors faced medical anomalies due to experimental weapon attacks. Dr. Joma'a Al-Shakka saw this firsthand.

"There are fragments which penetrate the body and do not show up on X-rays. When entering the body they spark like a combustion firearm, but not chemically. They seem radioactive."

BATTLE OF GAZA

The 2007 Fatah-Hamas conflict killed more than 118 people. Palestine's unity government and council dissolved, and Hamas assumed exclusive power in Gaza. War crimes have been charged to Fatah and Hamas by several human rights organizations.

Warning: The Global Research Centre has an archived photo gallery of the 2009 Gaza massacre. These images are extremely graphic.

OPERATION CAST LEAD

Experimental weapon use skyrocketed during Operation Cast Lead. Toxic weaponry caused severe birth defects, higher cancer rates and other health complications. (Boston Globe)

A 9-year-old Majed is the first reported human shield. IDF soldiers force him to open a bag of explosives (Human Rights Watch). In total, 1,400 Palestinians were killed. 352 were children (Common Dreams).

OPERATION PILLAR OF DEFENSE

"Blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water. (Electronic Intifada)
- Former Prime Minister, Eli Yishai

"We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. The Americans didn't stop with Hiroshima--they hit Nagasaki too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing...

Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared. There is no middle path here. Either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip."

Israeli Defense Force assassinated Gaza military chief Ahmed Jabari, and attacked several civilian areas in Gaza and the West Bank. The siege lasted less than a week, but deaths shot past 30 in just one day (Socialist Worker). Journalists and goverment facilities had been targets in airstrikes.

Women were a large percentage of victims, engaging nonviolent resistance against Israeli military occupation. 

Indiscriminate Israeli fire took dozens of lives, most notoriously in the Gaza City apartment massacre. 11 residents died from the drone attack. Four were small children. Five were women.

Direct damage reached $150 million in five days.

OPERATION SHUVU ACHIM (BROTHER'S KEEPER)

Israeli government used June 2013's Hebron yeshiva kidnappings and dwindling Hamas rocket strikes as cover for planned Gazan offensives. Israel's Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch: "The political echelon has given the army a free hand."

Military chief spokeman Moti Almoz even came forward on Army Radio, an Israel public program. "We have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard." (Forward Magazine)

PA security and IDF (Israeli Defense Force) raided 1,300 homes. 20,000 IDF, police and internal intelligence officers participated in Brother's Keeper. Hundreds of Palestinian people underwent intense investigation. (Jerusalem Post). Netanyahu still insisted that Hamas was responsible.

Clerics, scholars, activists and university professors became targets.

"Israel warned the international community about the dangers of endorsing the Fatah-Hamas unity pact,” Netanyahu stated firmly. “I believe that the dangers of that pact now should be abundantly clear to all.”

If anyone were suspected of terrorist ties, they faced apprehension. Hamas leaders in the West Bank were arrested. For the most part however, raid victims were not affiliated with either Palestinian party.
Former Parliamentarian Aziz Dweik was detained in an Israeli prison - a prisoner part of a long-defunct government (VICE). Seven other Palestinian legislators were imprisoned.
VOICES OF REASON

So far, there is no evidence that Hamas’ leadership in Gaza or abroad was involved in the kidnapping," military correspondent Amos Farel says. (Electronic Intifada)

“It’s quite clear, when you consider the amount and scale of arrests that there is something larger going on. Israel has stumbled upon a golden opportunity.”

Gavan Kelly is Addameer's advocacy coordinator. Addameer is a human rights association focused on Palestinian prisoners.

"It's an opportunity to frame the new government as nothing but a bunch of terrorists, an excuse to avoid any negotiations." (VICE)

QAWASMEH FAMILY TIES TO TERRORISM

Israeli authorities had substantial knowledge of all three boys' deaths. Three Israeli youths lay in shallow graves - on Marwan Qawashmeh's property - less than 10 km from the kidnapping. (Electronic Intifada)

A group of related Hamas supporters committed the crime. The Qawasmehs have planned out suicide bombings, kidnappings and assassinations that ironically undermined Hamas' policies. Their actions affected Israel-Palestinian ceasefire twice. (Al-Monitor) [Forward's article on the 'Lone Cell']

Palestinians' peace lay dead in the water. This manipulation of events justified a horrific collective punishment: the new Intifada. This was Israel's third military clash in five years. (NYR Daily)

OPERATION PROTECTIVE EDGE AND THE GAZA WAR

Three weeks after Brother's Keeper started (June) and a week into Protective Edge (July), Israeli defense prepared for a Gaza invasion. Netanyahu approved the offensive with ominous certainty.

"Hamas bears full responsibility for any harm that comes to Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike."(Israel Foreign Ministry Affairs). If Palestinians died, they had themselves to blame.

The chaos was not at all proportionate. Israel only suffered one casualty to 213 Palestinians. The IDF told citizens ahead of time lethal air strikes were imminent.

"Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately endangers their own
lives, as well as those of their families," their memo warned.

Gaza and three Northern Gaza neighborhoods were safe until 8:00 A.M. But Gaza has no bomb shelter.

July 3rd, aerial bombings targeted Hamas. On July 16, hell rained down throughout Gaza. 2,100 people were killed in Operation Protective Edge. More than 74% had been civilians with no militant ties. Protective Edge military strikes wounded an additional 11,100 Palestinian people.


Majda Khuday, Gaza War survivor.
Her eye is permanently half-shut from shrapnel.

163 bomb craters dot the village. Madja attempted to flee from Khuzaa with her husband Shadi but missiles shredded her legs. Israeli soldiers then burst into her home and threatened to kill them both.

"There was no reason for them to do this to us."

Majda forcibly stripped at IDF's command while soldiers ransacked the house. They destroyed it on exit without ever offering medical aid, food or water. No Khuzaa homes have been rebuilt (Electronic Intifada). Snipers also summarily executed anyone trying to flee (HRW).

The Gaza Beach attack by Israeli forces killed four innocent children.


Relatives of the Bakr boys killed
by Israeli fire during escape


A heartbroken mother waits outside the Gaza City morgue, July 16 2014.

Israeli society and government completely ignored the truth of war. IDF virulently claimed that Hamas were deplorable terrorists who used Palestinians as human shields (ABC).

UN reports accused IDF soldiers of using Palestinian children as shields during missions. 14 cases took place over three years (Reuters/BBC). Only one soldier has been punished. (Haaretz video in Hebrew detailing this).

Reporting on this crisis largely comes from international journalists, Palestinian activists and legal organizations like the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).

They all battle direct violation of their own rights while navigating Gaza's struggles. Doctors work stressful hours and conditions around the clock for no pay, filling in the gaps of siege and sanctions.


Merkava tank leaving the Gaza Strip, 2014


Man and child after a UN school bombing in Rafah.
It had been a shelter for displaced refugees. (HuffPost slideshow link)

Hakem Boulasha for the UK Guardian was arrested and PA security forces confiscated his media files. Boulasha's team covered the growing Palestine refugee-residents in UNRWA schools. Jabaliya's school hasn't been rebuilt since the bomb shelling. 244 schools fell to attack. (Telesur)

142 Gaza families lost three or more relatives during the 50-day war. For them, the war never ended. (Independent witness testimony)

Related Links

Gaza 2014: Findings of an Independent Medical Fact-Finding Mission

The Gaza Health Sector As of June 2014

REBUILDING HOPE

Palestinians have created amazing ways to combat the destruction, despite their odds. Jihad al-Shaar used South and West Asian clay mixture techniques for his two-bedroom mud brick home in Rafah.

His earthen house includes a bathroom, kitchen and sitting room. (Electronic Intifada)

"We waited over two years for cement, but because of the siege there is none available. What could we do, wait forever?" al-Shaar also doesn't shy away from the harsh economic reality that Hamad confronted.

"A house this size made of cement would cost around $16,000 at least. This one, because it was made with simple, local materials cost just $3,000." Support metal can cost $400 per bag.

al-Shaar has catalyzed his community into an important mentality: don't give up. So far several families have followed his mud-brick lead.

"Since I’ve made my house, I’ve got many calls from people, especially in Rafah, who want
to rebuild their houses using this technique."