Monday, February 06, 2006

Gaza Closure: The Forgotten Story

Wow, it’s been a hectic week in the news. In my mind the biggest story in the world this week was the Muslim reaction to cartoons printed of Muhammad. But there were other huge headlines, such as Iran being reported to the UN Security Council, and then Iran resumes Uranium enrichment, the Red Sea ferry in Egypt sank killing nearly a thousand people, ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff was killed in Iraq, tornados hit New Orleans, Alito made it to the bench, Bush gave his State of the Union address, Cindy Sheehan was arrested, and Coretta Scott King passed away. And really there were many other stories as well.

And with the election of Hamas the week before, as well as a great deal of news coming out of Iran and Iraq and the Abramoff hearings, it’s understandable that some stories get missed, right? I mean, it’s natural. The world is in turmoil, so everyone focuses on the most immediate problems. But tell that to the people who are victims of poor timing, people who suffer because Israel and the world are focused on bigger issues. Tell that to people in the Gaza Strip.

January 14th Israel received some anonymous intelligence of “impending attacks” from Gaza, and closed the territory, including the Karni crossing into Egypt, Gaza’s only outlet to the outside world. This was strictly against the agreement brokered by Condoleezza Rice, which indicated that specific passage would operate continuously, especially during harvest season (which is now). However, only yesterday did Israel open the passage, meaning that this closure lasted over two weeks.

Palestinian produce rotted as markets for the food were closed to the people of Gaza. Nearly 170 tons of produce has been destroyed or is rotting in the streets. Another 100 tons need harvesting, and will be harvested once oil is brought into the Strip, which has been out of supplies for a few days. Unfortunately, oil was not the highest priority for the Strip today. Gaza lost approximately $7 million in sales over these past two weeks.

The highest priority was 90 containers of humanitarian supplies, including food and aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The supplies included medicine and children’s vaccinations, both of which were in short supply in Gaza this past week. Additionally, there was food and construction materials, both in short supply. Such items as dairy products, baby formula, sugar and rice were scarce by the end of the week.

"The Palestinian Ministry of Health is running short on medical supplies and has to rely on emergency stocks. Drugs for anesthetic use are in particular short supply," said the report. Gaza's main hospital is also facing a shortage of a solution used for hundreds of kidney dialysis patients.

The Gaza-based Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights and Israel's Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) issued a statement jointly condemning the "tightening of the siege" imposed on the Gaza by Israeli occupation forces.

"Since the recent tightening of the closure by closing Karni Crossing, the Gaza Strip's residents' humanitarian predicament progressively increases from day to day; many basic foods have been consumed and are no longer available in the local market in the Gaza Strip, in addition to a drastic increase of prices of the remaining quantities of these basic goods," said the statement.

Israel indicates that they have offered the Gaza a different crossing, which could be better controlled, at Kerem Shalom. The PA has refused so far, as the Kerem Shalom crossing does not have storage facilities for Palestinian crops. Further, the PA does not want to have Israel “impose a solution” on them that could have a variety of effects. In many postings in this blog I have spoken of the Palestinian desire for self determination, and this is a perfect example of their very justified desire.

On Saturday the PA issued a story through al-Jazeera about the closure and the effect it was having on the Strip, and it was almost as if Israel had forgotten about the closure all together. Immediately the wheels started turning, and 12 hours after the article posted, the crossing was opened, and relief workers rushed to get supplies to beleaguered citizens of Gaza. Do you really think this had nothing to do with protest there this weekend, and the anger that the people of Gaza have shown recently? Think again.

Israel imposed a significant economic loss upon the Palestinian people with the closure of the Strip, despite the fact that a truce which Israel pushed for specifically indicated that a long-term closure of this nature would not occur, especially during harvest season. As such, Israel owes the Palestinian people financial remuneration for the extended closure, as well as a sincere apology.

Posted by Scottage at 2:24 AM / | |