Interpal’s Yasmeen Khan reflects on the dire situation in Gaza one year on from the brutal Israeli assault and urges us to help our brothers and sisters there.
Last Ramadan on the 8th of July we watched as a devastating assault was unleashed on Gaza which lasted over 7 weeks, killed over 2,000 Palestinians and wrought unimaginable destruction and trauma on the besieged population of the Gaza Strip.
The summer 2014 mass bombardment of Gaza was unlike the other mass bombardments Gaza had seen in the last decade. Its brutality surpassed “Operation Cast Lead” in 2009, and nowhere in Gaza was safe as homes, hospitals, mosques, NGOs and UN shelters came under attack.
Ramadan, a time for reflection and peace became a time of fear, uncertainty and loss. As we were shown images of the broken bodies of children on beaches, and more bodies stored in ice cream factory fridges whilst the bombs continued to rain down on over 1.7 million people, the people of Gaza were sitting in the darkness, hearing bombs and not knowing if they would survive the night.
Over 500 children were killed and thousands more injured with many now living with life-long disability. Entire families were wiped out and OCHA figures state 142 families lost 3 members or more.
As the officials argued over who was or wasn’t a civilian, Palestinian men were automatically assumed to have been “non civilian” in the mainstream press – their deaths brushed aside as acceptable losses in war.
Once the bombs stopped, there was little relief for the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless or living in damaged accommodation. Surveying the destruction and assessing the toll of the violence, it is not difficult to understand why such a huge number of people in Gaza suffer from ongoing traumatic stress and anxiety.
The last UN shelter closed only last month, and not a single home destroyed in 2014 has been rebuilt. Gaza was still recovering from the shocking bombardments of 2009 and 2012, and the most recent mass bombings have left its population shocked, traumatised, impoverished and living without basic needs and comforts.
Since then, the people of Gaza have suffered through the seasons, including cold and flooding, as well as the further deterioration of their health sector, public services and basic infrastructure.
Gaza’s only power plant was damaged last year, and with a lack of fuel and the siege preventing necessary parts being allowed in to repair it, it shut down entirely in March 2015. Gaza’s water infrastructure is close to being damaged beyond repair and almost 95% of the ground water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption.
The inhumane siege of Gaza remains in place, 7 years on and three mass bombardments later. Thousands of children suffer from malnutrition, people are living without basic amenities and the economy is grinding to a total halt. Gaza remains under rubble, the necessary equipment and materials needed to rebuild are not allowed in at the rate needed, and there has been no progress in terms of a real recovery.
Stand with Palestine
One year on, the situation is bleak. It is hard to find a single positive thing to say about life in Gaza, with the most vulnerable bearing the brunt of conflict and a complete lack of political will to ensure they do not suffer further abuses of their human rights.
The neighbourhood of Shujaiyah resembles a hollowed-out post apocalyptic landscape, whilst the totally destroyed El Wafa hospital is a symbol of how, even when weak and vulnerable, Palestinians are not allowed to be safe.
The insecurity and fear of another attack looms large, whilst the everyday strangulation of the siege has forced Palestinians to undertake dangerous, often deadly journeys to get out of Gaza and find hope elsewhere.
Despite this, Palestinians have continued on with their lives. They have lived in the rubble of their homes, built temporary shelters, sent their children to school, graduated from university, searched for work, recovered from injury and disease and supported each other.
Fishermen and farmers along the border have gone about their work, despite the ongoing violence they face.
This Ramadan, families have been fasting and opening their fasts together amongst the debris and broken concrete. During this holiest of months, we should remember our Palestinian brothers and sisters in our prayers, acknowledging their strength and struggle and also ensure we all take action.
You can seek out and listen to Palestinian voices, the journalists, photojournalists, film makers, poets and activists who give a depth and soul to the situation as only those who experience it can. You should write to your MPs and keep the pressure on them that this situation is unacceptable and they have a moral duty to do something.
You can also get involved by volunteering your time or signing up to charitable activities through Interpal. In this blessed month, every good deed has a multiplied reward, so show those who teach us what patience and perseverance is that you stand #WithPalestine.