Despite pleas for help to avert a humanitarian and environmental disaster, the people of Gaza still do not have the fuel to run their sewage works; it has been flowing into the sea for weeks now.
By Palestinian Information Centre
September 17, 2013
The Palestinian government warned of an environmental disaster in Gaza due to the siege, especially as untreated sewage water is pumped into the sea, which increases the problem of pollution and its impact on the environmental situation and human health.
Minister of Local Government, Dr. Mohammed Al-Farra said: “The municipalities in the Gaza Strip began to pump sewage water into the sea, after sewage treatment plants stopped working due to lack of fuel.” He expected that the municipalities will officially announce next Thursday that they are out of fuel as a result of the tightening of the siege on Gaza, the demolition of tunnels on the borders with Egypt, and the prevention of the entry of the Egyptian diesel fuel to the Gaza Strip.
He added: “All the countries of the Mediterranean are threatened by the pollution if the blockade continues.” Farra pointed out that the epidemics and health crises will not be prevented by geographical borders, in reference to Israel. He appealed to international and humanitarian organizations to shoulder their responsibilities and exert pressure on Israel, to lift the siege on Gaza and to allow necessary materials into the Strip before it is too late. The Gaza Strip has been suffering from a tight blockade for the seventh year running. However, the siege has dramatically intensified two months ago after the dismissal of the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the destruction of almost all tunnels between Gaza and Egypt by the Egyptian army.
Local government minister Mohammed al-Farra, L., holds his press conference beside the increasingly polluted sea.
By Alray news agency
October 08, 2013
Gaza– Minister of Local Government Mohammed al-Farra warned of an impending environmental disaster in the Gaza Strip due to the disruption of sewage treatment system. Farra said during a press conference held on the shore of the Gaza sea “the Gaza Strip sector is on the verge of an environmental disaster, for the municipalities cannot run sewage treatment plants. The Gaza official warned that “the wastewater may flow into the residential houses at any moment.”
He explained that the closure of the tunnels impacted his ministry work, most notably due to the lack of building materials and suspension of 90% of the construction projects of the ministry, and to shortage of diesel fuel which led to the inability of municipalities to run sewage plants. “In light of the tunnels’ destruction, the economic capacity of many citizens have waned and thus they could not pay municipal utility bills, which has had negative impact on ministry projects and plans,” he said. Farra urged the Ramallah government to allow access of diesel fuel to Gaza without taxing it. He also demanded Egyptian authorities to quickly implement the project of electric link between Egypt and Gaza. He pointed out that 90,000 cubic meters of wastewater are pumped into the Gaza sea every day without treatment.
Egyptian army blocking the tunnels.
By Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle
October 08, 2013
Since the Hamas election victory in January 2006 — and particularly after the Hamas-Fatah clashes and split between Gaza and the West Bank in the summer of 2007 — Gaza has undergone a disturbing human experiment, whose toll is unprecedented in the history of the impoverished Strip. The plotters involve the usual suspects, each with a clear set of objectives behind the isolation and targeting of Gaza. The US and Israel have worked tirelessly to divide Palestinians and derail any chances of a unified government, let alone a cohesive national project.
This helped Israel achieve two objectives: Blaming Palestinians for a lack of leadership (as in ‘we don’t have a peace partner’) for the collapse of the so-called peace process and creating distractions as it continued with the construction of its Apartheid Wall and colonies throughout the Occupied Territories. The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has assumed the role of the local collaborator and has done its outmost to undermine Hamas at every turn. The US has ensured that no unity agreement is signed between Hamas and the PNA’s ruling Fatah party and if any such agreement is ever reached, it will never be honored.
Israel moved into Gaza from time to time to test the resolve of Palestinian resistance, to ‘teach Gaza a lesson’ and to ensure that Hamas’ reign comes at a heavy price. PNA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah was spoiled with much ‘aid’ and perks. Its officials are well paid, even when the rest of the Palestinians are not paid at all. According to VisualizingImpact.org, Palestinian politicians are the second highest paid in the world after Kenya, as a multiple of gross domestic product per capita. Abbas, his officials and PNA security bosses have no reason to abandon such a sweet arrangement, especially if the other option will be to let go of their riches and embrace a national liberation project, the cost of which could be too high for pampered men to bear.
Isolated, lacking political savvy and out of options, Hamas made some costly mistakes, especially following the Arab upheaval that promised change, but threw the entire region into a high-stakes political gamble. Hamas became even more isolated, especially after the July military coup against Egypt’s first elected president. Mohammad Mursi, despite immense pressure, was much kinder to Palestinians in Gaza than his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, who was an important player in the Gaza experiment. His regime worked diligently to ensure that the siege on Gaza was complete and that an Islamic movement at his country’s doorsteps had no chance of proving politically viable. The Mubarak regime played its role according to the script and greatly benefited too. For his tenacious efforts to contain ‘radical Islamists’ in Gaza, Mubarak was spared the sham democracy crusade launched by former US president George W. Bush.
The US was and remains completely oblivious to numerous human rights violations carried out by Egypt’s security apparatus, the curtailing of freedoms and the brazen denial of basic rights of Egyptian citizens. US Congress seemed much more forgiving of Egypt’s abuses, compared to rights abuses carried out by other regimes — thanks in part to Egypt’s six-year-long crackdown on Gaza. Out of the four crossings that connect Gaza to the world, Israel is sealing three, while Egypt is choking the fourth and in the last two months, it has destroyed all tunnels that Gazans had dug to smuggle food and other urgent supplies. It is believed that some of these tunnels are also a source of arms that Palestinians in Gaza use in their war with Israel.
As Gaza dies slowly, the waiting game continues. All parties — Israel, US, Egypt and the PNA and their regional allies are coordinating their efforts to ensure Hamas’ demise and PNA’s return to power. In an article titled ‘Gaza: Crushed between Israel and Egypt’, Jonathan Cook wrote of a ‘cynical game’ that is on in full swing. The game expects the Egyptian military to destroy all tunnels and to close the Rafah border crossing for Israel to turn a blind eye to “Egypt pouring troops, as well as tanks and helicopters, into Sinai in violation of the 1979 peace treaty,” so that Gaza can become dependent on Israel’s ‘good favor’ once more.
All of this is to “bolster the image of Abbas” and to present the PNA as a sane option as opposed to Hamas’ caustic policies.
The map below shows how the IDF has, step by step, decreased the range of fishing boats from Gaza from 20 nautical miles to 3. Beyond that limit, it will fire on them, or confiscate the boats.
PCHR condemns the continuous Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and: 1. Calls for Palestinian fishermen to be allowed to sail and fish freely and an immediate end to the Israeli policy of chase and arrest while at sea; 2. Demands compensation for the fishermen for the physical and material damage caused to them and their property as a result of these violations; 3. Calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of war, to intervene immediately to stop the Israeli violations against the Palestinian fishermen, and to allow them to sail and fish freely in the Gaza sea.
PCHR, September 19th, 2013
Meanwhile, in the name of “national security”, Egypt seems to be planning something sinister as well. Apart from cutting Gaza off, its navy is attacking and imprisoning Gaza fisherman and its generals are constantly accusing Gaza of playing a role in the security unrest in Sinai. One of Egypt’s most prominent military leaders, General Ahmad Wasfi, warned “Gaza jihadists” in Kuwait’s Al Rai newspaper, saying he would “cut off the head of anyone who tries to threaten Egypt’s security”. This comes shortly after Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Nabeel Fahmy, threatened war on the Gaza Strip.
More recently, Israeli daily Jerusalem Post cited a senior Egyptian source commenting to West Bank-based Ma’an news agency that “the Egyptian army has planned military attacks on specific targets in the Gaza Strip in the event that the security situation in the northern Sinai peninsula deteriorates”. According to the source, “Egyptian reconnaissance planes had photographed the potential targets”.
It is payback time as far as the plotters are concerned. Israel’s failed, albeit very violent wars on Gaza, fell short of eradicating Hamas or rooting out the Strip’s resistance groups. The US’s carrot-and-stick policies also failed as did most of US policies in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq, if not even before.
As for Abbas, his credibility is at an all-time low and the only reason he remains in charge is because Israel sees some benefits in his continued presence. But since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government in Egypt, efforts have been renewed with earnest — this time involving all parties.
For months, there has been growing talk of a new “popular” movement in Gaza to topple Hamas. The movement is modeled after Egypt’s protests of June 29, which emboldened the military coup by Egypt’s strongman General Abdul Fatah Al Sissi. Hamas claims that several cells affiliated to Egyptian intelligence have been apprehended in Gaza. Protests are also planned for next month. “Hamas’ political rival, Fatah … is reported to be behind the new protest movement,” wrote Cook.
True, Hamas is now politically at its weakest, thereby creating an opportunity for its many enemies to make their move. But this is not just about Hamas. The ultimate aim is to remold Gaza, the heart of Palestinian resistance, and to turn the strip into an extension of its western-styled Ramallah under Abbas with its handsomely paid officials. If this goal is achieved, it will come at a very high price that will be exacted not just from Gaza, but from all Palestinians. Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is a media consultant, an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story. (Pluto Press).
By Eva Bartlett, In Gaza blog
October 07, 2013
It is important to recall, with the current lack of coverage, that the siege on Gaza continues full steam ahead, leaving Palestinians in Gaza (and analysts, human rights organizations, and the casual observer) to say that it is now as bad as it was in 2007. As much potential, culture, and knowledge as Palestinians have, they are forever being forced backwards, grateful for whatever stop-gap for whatever crisis is at the time inflicted upon them.
In these times of rolling power outages, fuel and cooking gas crises, medicines and equipment shortages (“zero stock”), inventions and innovations to get around the lack of fuel or deal with no electricity are prized. But shouldn’t Palestinians be allowed just a little more than the reward of figuring out the latest way to cook without gas, electricity or wood, or how to get to university and work without public transport. Perhaps in addition to these small rewards they might also get a vestige of justice, equality, freedom of movement, and the ability to produce and export and provide for their families. I spoke with three Palestinians in their early to mid twenties on what is life like now in Gaza.
On life under siege
I am sick of the current situation in Gaza. It is suffocating me. Living in Gaza under siege is unbearable. Palestinians have suffered for many years but no one listens: the continued closure of the Rafah border, the fuel crisis, the lack of basic human needs, the ongoing power cuts, the lack of clean water, the strict Israeli and Egyptian policies with Palestinian fishermen… Thousands of university graduates don’t have jobs. Finding a job is something like a miracle here in Gaza. As a result, most youths are depressed, hopeless, desperate, lost … We lose electricity eight hours per day. Sometimes we have no electricity for long as 12 hours a day. Patients suffer lack of medicine and equipment.Every single person who lives in the Gaza Strip is impacted by the closures.
Yousef al Jamal [website]:Life is getting tougher every day. We are back to fighting to get the most basic needs to survive such as fuel and electricity. There is a serious transportation crisis. Prices of goods doubled. Unemployment increased. 100s of stuck patients and students’ future is at risk. Electricity goes off 12 hours a day. This paralyzes life in Gaza completely. Factories, bakeries and businesses stop. In 2007, my eldest sister died because she was denied a permit to get medical care in Jerusalem. The Rafah crossing was shut down. The situation today is almost the same. Two people passed away so far because of the closure of the border. [also: Yousef al Jammal’s ‘Waiting in Gaza, where nothing makes sense’]
Gaza is small and generally (in good times) easy to get around. Taxis are cheap compared to other countries. But, with the constant lack of fuel, transportation is always dwindling. Sometimes, its almost impossible to find a taxi and if you do, it will cost you more than the usual cab fair, sometimes doubled, because the fuel is scarce and getting it is expensive. I see great potential and beauty in this little bit of land, tarnished by Israeli attacks and the siege. However, living here is challenging. There are many bad aspects to living in Gaza but perhaps the most prominent are: power outages, lack of fuel and water, and the most of all is the freedom of movement or to be more accurate the lack of it. The Rafah border is Gaza’s only breather, but its always closed, and when/if its opened and you managed to cross it into Cairo by a miracle, it will be a hellish experience. But at least the Rafah crossing is a possibility. The Erez crossing (linking Gaza to the West Bank and controlled fully by Israel) is not on the table for the majority of Gaza’s citizens. Perhaps the most affected by the siege are the patients who suffer from severe illnesses and need urgent medical care outside of Gaza, students with scholarships for higher education abroad, and basically everyone else who lives in Gaza and is inevitably affected by any of the previously mentioned difficult aspects. Gaza is always, I mean ALWAYS, suffering from one or more things. Israeli attacks, the siege, Egypt’s siege (the closure of Rafah border), power outages, fuel shortages, water shortages, cooking gas shortages. But life goes on and we try to survive. The closure of borders means the death of people and their dreams. If patients cant exit Gaza, and they remain trapped (as they usually do), they die. Many have already died here after being denied exit for urgent medical care. With the closure of the Rafah tunnels, prices are slowly skyrocketing. I am also affected by the closure of Rafah border, I couldn’t attend a UN media seminar I was invited to. I can’t attend any other international conferences and training courses and I was offered a job in San Francisco and they waited for me for over three weeks but I couldn’t leave so they had to hire somebody else.
Education Impaired Awni Farhat:
In 2007, after finishing high school, I got a full scholarship to study abroad. I was madly happy, and tried for more than 4 months to travel through the Rafah crossing. But I wasn’t able to leave the Gaza Strip; all my dreams vanished at the Rafah Crossing gate. Now I have a bachelors degree in English language, and I am still dreaming of traveling outside of Gaza to pursue further studies in at a European university. But the closed Rafah crossing again threatens my dreams and plans, another nightmare for me. Most students here in Gaza daily suffer from a transportation crisis, especially the ones who live in the south, in Khan Younis and Rafah. They wait for hours to find a car or a mini bus to take them to their universities, and often miss their morning lectures. Hundreds of students have lost their scholarships and visas because of the ongoing closure of Rafah crossing. Last Saturday, only about 130 travelers managed to pass through the Rafah crossing, 130 of thousands of Palestinians who were hoping to get out of this big prison
Yousef al Jamal:
I am an MA student I am stuck in Gaza. I may lose my scholarship if I don’t travel soon.
[see Yousef al Jamal’s “Don’t Crush Our Dreams: a please from a student trapped in Gaza”] Omar Ghareib:
The dreams of students are shattered every day. Students around the world find the hard part to be obtaining scholarships, but Palestinians in Gaza earn scholarships yet are trapped and denied the opportunity of pursuing their dreams because they can’t exit. Palestine came number 1 in the countries that has the lowest illiteracy rates, and Gaza is has the lowest rate of illiteracy in Palestine.
Who is to blame? Awni Farhat:
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who is responsible for this, but the blame is first on deaf Arab communities and then on the rest of the world, who are still silent till now. I think Israeli, Egyptian, Palestinians and international decision-makers are trying to increase pressure on Hamas by increasing the strict strategies against Gaza, closing the borders with Gaza to make people rise up against Hamas. The new regime in Egypt doesn’t stand with the Palestinian government in Gaza, Hamas, which stood with Morsi. Yousef al Jamal: Israel is responsible the most being the occupying power, then Egypt. Borders are used to collectively punish the people if Gaza to reach political compromises.
Israel and Egypt are behind the closure of borders. Israel, because it is the occupier. And Egypt because they want to blame whats happening in their country on Hamas and collectively punish Palestinians after seeing Israel doing it for years. “Peace talks”
Peace talks have never worked and never will. They will bring no justice whatsoever to Palestinians because there is no intention of trying to achieve a peace with the Palestinian people and there never has been … The mandate for Palestine was prepared long before WW2 with the intention of creating an Israel which includes all of Palestine and many neighboring countries. Peace talks are a sham, only there to keep the west misinformed and disinterested. All the general public hears about Palestine is the same message repeated year after year in the news: Palestine-Israel peace talks….brainwashing them to stop listening. It gives them also the opportunity to say that Palestine isn’t cooperating. There are no peace talks, there is simply a will by the powers that be to remove Palestine from the map and create greater Israel with as little interference as possible. Even now, we often hear drones and sometimes Israeli F-16s. There’s no cease-fire! There are more than 230 Israeli cease-fire violations as “peace talks” go on.
Yousef al Jamal:
The best way to waste time is to get involved in this useless ‘process’ which gives Israel the umbrella to confiscate more Palestinian lands. The buzz of Israeli drones over Gaza and the shootings from Israeli warships is very usual in Gaza. It’s a part and parcel of our daily struggle to survive.
The thought of Kerry having genuine concern for Palestinians is ridiculous. Of course he doesn’t. I don’t support any so-called “Peace talks” between Israel and Palestine. What have those peace talks ever achieved for Palestinians before? We only made compromises and lost more land. I don’t think we can afford to give up anything we have left, because what we have now is not much. Israel will never allow for the siege on Gaza to be broken or ended, specially now that its being highly supported by Egypt. In the 2008-2009 Israeli attacks, I lost a few neighbors and a friend, which is nothing compared to other people who lost their families and houses. Some moved to other houses, some couldn’t afford moving or rebuilding so they lived in tents, some went to humanitarian organizations and some are still suffering losses till now. You can rebuild your houses but you can never bring back your family or relatives or friends from death. A friend of mine finished rebuilding his house just recently, he was a newlywed during the 2008-2009 attacks, he lived in his new house for two weeks before Israel bombed it, he paid every thing he owned to build it. He moved in with his parents and is still waiting to furnish it and finish completing it. Israel is constantly present in Gaza. If Israeli drones aren’t buzzing over our heads, then F-16s will definitely be roaring in the skies of Gaza. They shoot at and harass farmers and fishermen on a daily basis. Israel continually breaks ceasefires, no wonder the number of violations of the recent ceasefire is 235. And that wont be the last one for sure.
Why is there never an R2P for Palestine? Awni Farhat:
It’s obvious that Israel and America are two faces of the same coin. US and western intervention in Syria is part of dividing the whole Arab region. What they want is to control the Arab region.
Yousef al Jamal:
Israel feels it is at risk, the interests of global powers in Syria is at risk, thus they intervene under the pretext of human rights, but in Gaza, their interests are not threatened, this they don’t care [about].
The US will never intervene in Palestine because they fully support Israel, even though Israel has chemical (and nuclear) weapons. But Syria is seen to be a threat by Israel, the US intervened in Iraq and is still there even though the weapons of mass destruction was a lie, so for sure now they want to eliminate Syria because Syria is strong and strategic. Israel used chemical weapons during its 2008-2009 war on Gaza and the US said nothing and did nothing but supports Israel. Why the double standards?
* Principle of the Responsibility to Protect Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 14 September 2009 63/308. The responsibility to protect The General Assembly, Reaffirming its respect for the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, Recalling the 2005 World Summit Outcome,especially paragraphs 138 and 139 thereof, 1. Takes note of the report of the Secretary-General and of the timely and productive debate organized by the President of the General Assembly on the responsibility to protect, held on 21, 23, 24 and 28 July 2009, with full participation by Member States; 2. Decides to continue its consideration of the responsibility to protect. 105th plenary meeting 14 September 2009 Summary of UN Secretary General’s report, 2009 The present report responds to one of the cardinal challenges of our time, as posed in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome: operationalizing the responsibility to protect (widely referred to as “RtoP” or “R2P” in English). The Heads of State and Government unanimously affirmed at the Summit that “each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. They agreed, as well, that the international community should assist States in exercising that responsibility and in building their protection capacities. When a State nevertheless was “manifestly failing” to protect its population from the four specified crimes and violations, they confirmed that the international community was prepared to take collective action in a “timely and decisive manner” through the Security Council and in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. As the present report underscores, the best way to discourage States or groups of States from misusing the responsibility to protect for inappropriate purposes would be to develop fully the United Nations strategy, standards, processes, tools and practices for the responsibility to protect.