Gaza under Occupation

Page last updated 30 Oct 2015


Gaza’s experience of the conflict has been very different from that of Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel proper, particularly since the first intifada. This page deals specifically with the experiences of Gaza under occupation. It is divided into a series of issues: the blockade; and the key issues of civil liberties, freedom of movement, the economy, education, population, health, food, power, and water & sanitation.

Hamas’s responses over time are largely dealt with elsewhere, in the sections on Hamas’s strategy and Is Hamas to blame? Is Gaza still occupied? (the answer is an emphatic “yes”).


A: The Blockade
B: Civil Liberties
C: Freedom of Movement
D: Economy
E: Education
F: Population
G: Health
H: Food
I: Power
J: Water and Sanitation


A: The Blockade

1. History of Israeli Blockade on Gaza
David Poort, Al Jazeera, 2 Nov 2011

Poort lays out the history of the blockade of the Gaza Strip from 2007 until 2011 but also looks at Israel’s treatment of the territory and its citizens since the first Intifada in the 1990s – at the gradual tightening of the blockade, the humanitarian situation, the naval blockade and the case of Gilad Shalit.


2. Collective punishment
Ha’aretz, 17 Apr 2014

“Israel’s blockade of Gaza the ‘longest in history’, says new UNRWA head. On his first visit to Gaza, Pierre Krahenbuhl says Israel is imposing Collective punishment on Palestinians in the strip.”


3. Realities of the Blockade
Human Rights Watch, 12 Oct 2014

“Blanket Israeli restrictions unconnected or disproportionate to security considerations unnecessarily harm people’s access to food, water, education, and other fundamental rights in Gaza. Israel’s unwillingness to lift such restrictions will seriously hinder a sustainable recovery after a seven-year blockade and the July-August fighting that damaged much of Gaza.”


4. The Gaza Cheat Sheet – Real Data on the Gaza Closure
GISHA, 30 Mar 2015

An up-to-date report of the facts and figures of the blockade.


B: Civil Liberties

1. Life in the Gaza Strip
BBC, 14 Jul 2014

This is a very good and succinct overview of all the key issues facing the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.


2. Civil Liberties in Gaza
Freedom House, 2015

In this stark ranking of the civil liberties ‘enjoyed’ by those in Gaza, Freedom House illustrates the reality of the situation in Gaza.


C: Freedom of Movement

1. So Near and Yet So Far: Implications of Israeli-Imposed Seclusion of Gaza Strip on Palestinians’ Right to Family Life
Joint report by Hamoked and B’Tselem, B’Tselem, Jan 2014

“The report explores Palestinians’ right to family life in view of Israel’s isolationist policy, which practically prohibits passage between Gaza and the West Bank, thereby severing families and keeping couples from living normally, if one spouse is from Gaza and the other from the West Bank. Tens of thousands face this impossible reality, whereby Israel intrudes on the most intimate aspects of life. Basic features of life–building a family, living with one’s spouse and children and regular contact with the extended family–become a pipe dream.”


D: Economy

1. Gaza economy ‘on verge of collapse’, with world’s highest unemployment
Peter Beaumont, Guardian, 22 May 2015

“The economy of Gaza – assailed by war, poor governance and a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade – has reached the ‘verge of collapse’ with the coastal strip suffering the highest rate of unemployment in the world.”


2. No cash spells more violence – The longer Israel blocks payments, the likelier that Palestinians will erupt
Economist, 28 Feb 2015

“Last year Hamas signed a unity pact with the nationalist Fatah movement, which runs the PA. It was supposed to ensure public-sector workers in Gaza were paid. But Gaza’s security forces have not had their salaries for the past eight months.”


3. Erosion of Gaza’s economy accelerates amid Israeli military operations, ongoing blockade – UN
UN News Centre, 3 Sep 2014

“The 2014 report on Assistance to the Palestinian People, compiled by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), details how Palestinian economic deterioration, which is largely rooted in the territory’s occupied status, has resulted in weak growth, a precarious fiscal position, forced dependence on the Israeli economy, mass unemployment, wider and deeper poverty, and greater food insecurity.”


E: Education

1. Education in the Gaza Strip
United Nations Relief and Works Agency

“In Gaza, 245 UNRWA schools serve over 225,000 students. These children grow up in bleak conditions, frequently surrounded by poverty and violence. School provides them with one place where they are able to learn the skills for a better future.”


2. ‘Gaza violence is crushing the rights of young Palestinians to an education’
Bashir Makhoul, Guardian, 26 Aug 2014

“Almost the entire Palestinian population is denied the basic right of education, a direct result of the continuing colonisation and occupation of Palestine by Israel. Even before the recent Israeli war on Gaza inflicted unprecedented destruction and carnage, life for Palestinians was a sort of subnormality.”


3. The Destruction of Gaza’s Schools and the Future of Palestinian Children
Maysa Jalbout, Sarah Dryden-Peterson and Kevin Watkins, Brookings, 4 Aug 2014

“Frequent major military attack campaigns, the 7-year blockade, and the resulting collective psychological trauma are destroying the hope and means of education and with it the future of Palestinian children and youth.”


F: Population

1. Gaza’s population balloons
Mohammed Othman, translated by Rani Geha, Al-Monitor, 17 Apr 2014

“‘The population of the small Strip, whose area is 365 square kilometers [141 square miles], passed 1.865 million in March, or 5,109 people per square kilometer. Thus, the Gaza Strip is on the list of the most densely populated areas in the world,’ said Riad al-Zeitouniya, the head of the Civil Status and Passport Department in the Ministry of Interior of the Gaza government, speaking to Al-Monitor.”


G: Health

1. Report of a field assessment of health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory
World Health Organisation, Apr 2015

This report on the health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, to the sixty-eighth World Health Assembly includes substantial coverage of the specifics of the situation in Gaza.


2. Health in the Gaza Strip
United Nations Relief and Works Agency

“Years of socioeconomic decline, conflict and closure have left the health sector across the Gaza Strip lacking adequate physical infrastructure and training opportunities. Facilities are overstretched, and service is frequently interrupted by power cuts. These challenges further threaten the health of the population, which is already at increasing risk. Food insecurity and rising poverty mean that most residents cannot meet their daily caloric requirements, while over 90 per cent of the water in Gaza has been deemed unfit for human consumption.”


H: Food

1. With produce and meat selling at inflated costs, many Palestinians in Gaza are surviving on emergency food rations.
Mohammed Omer, Al Jazeera, 23 Aug 2014

“Israeli bombings in Gaza have destroyed much of the local infrastructure, including water and electricity supplies. At least 360 factories and workshops have also been damaged in the shelling, including 126 which were completely wrecked, amounting to $47m in damages. Many of Gaza’s farmers and shepherds have been forced to abandon their crops and animals, paralysing agricultural and fishing activities and bringing local food production to a halt, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation reported.”


2. Environmental Damage to Gaza Exacerbating Food Insecurity
Mel Frykberg (Beit Lahiya, Northern Gaza Strip), Inter Press Service, 1 Mar 2015

“Extensive damage to Gaza’s environment as a result of the Israeli blockade and its devastating military campaign against the coastal territory during last year’s war from July to August, is negatively affecting the health of Gazans, especially their food security.”


3. How WFP Brought Food and Hope to Gaza’s Battered Communities
World Food Programme, 11 Nov 2014

“A violent summer in Gaza left thousands of its residents homeless and in shelters. The two-month conflict destroyed homes, businesses and basic services. But one thing was working – WFP food distribution, the landmark vouchers and the e-card programme, which was launched in Palestine five years ago as a first in the Middle East.”


I: Power

1. Gaza Situation Report 84
United Nations Relief and Works Agency, 19 Mar 2015

“Electricity continues to be a major issue across the Gaza Strip, with Rafah area particularly affected during the reporting period. After the Egyptian power plant in El Arish reportedly sustained a sudden failure, Rafah residents found themselves in darkness and predominately without electricity from 12 to 16 March. Some families received electricity for approximately three hours per day, but for the majority the power was completely off. Gaza depends on three primary electricity sources: the Israeli electricity company, the sole Gaza Power Plant (targeted and damaged during the July/August 2014 conflict) and the Egyptian electricity grid. These supplies provide 230 MW and fall short of the actual needs of 350-450 MW. Prior to the summer 2014 conflict and since the imposed blockade in 2007 Gaza generally operated on an ‘eight hours on, 12 hours off’ emergency electricity schedule. Acute shortages after the July/August 2014 crisis changed this schedule and limited the electricity provision to about six hours in Gaza’s middle and north areas.”


2. Gaza: Left in the dark
Al Jazeera, 04 Aug 2014

“The people of Gaza continue to face a daily struggle for survival under bombardment and blackout. The frequent power shortage puts at risk the lives of cardiac and dialysis patients and babies in incubators, and increases the daily hardship among the general population.”


3. Electricity crisis brings dark times for women in Gaza

“For 40-year-old Naima Abu Shawareb living in Al Shaati refugee camp, the electricity crisis has brought increased hardships over and above what she was facing already. Not able to afford a portable generator, when the power is cut her house is only lit by candles and she huddles together for warmth with her four children and husband in one room.”


J: Water and Sanitation

1. Parting the brown sea: Sewage crisis threatens Gaza’s access to water
Jen Marlowe, Al Jazeera America, 18 Apr 2015

“A severe lack of potable water is exacerbated by inadequate sanitation infrastructure, which in turn is connected to Gaza’s chronic shortage of electricity and fuel, all of which is tied to Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. The United Nations warned that by 2020, Gaza may no longer be livable, in large part because of these interconnected problems.”


2. Gaza Situation Report 89
United Nations Relief and Works Agency, 23 Apr 2015

“The ‘full-blown water and sanitation crisis’ that Gaza is facing was highlighted by Al Jazeera in an article published on 18 April. The article reemphasizes the general warning by UN Agencies, including UNRWA, that by 2016 the Gaza aquifer may become unusable and by 2020 damage will be irreversible and Gaza may no longer be a livable place. The article also speaks of the insufficient sanitation infrastructure which is linked to the chronic electricity and fuel shortages that in turn result from the ongoing blockade on the enclave. Between 24 and 32 million gallons of raw or partially treated sewage is released into the sea on a daily basis, annihilating the algae and thus the presence of small fishes as a source of income. Thirty per cent of Gaza residents are not connected to a sewage plant and their waste water flows into sewage ponds or private septic tanks, sometimes overflowing Gaza’s roads or seeping into its groundwater. Gaza’s groundwater shows levels of chloride and nitrate well above the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO); WHO released a report in 2014 stating that heavy metals from war remnants contaminate Gaza’s soil and water and lead to possible radiation. However, Israel has allegedly refused to allow the import of testing equipment, as Al Jazeera reports.”


3. To avoid a regional crisis, give Gaza more clean water
Gidon Bromberg and Earl Blumenauer, Ha’aretz, 12 Apr 2015

“Without rapid action, the drinking water beneath Gaza – or the lack thereof – poses a threat to the region as severe as the one posed by tunnels dug by Hamas from Gaza into Israel. That is because the Coastal Aquifer – the only domestic source of drinking water for the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza – may collapse as soon as 2016, according to the United Nations.”


Contents of this section


a) Maps of the occupation
b) Occupation and the Fourth Geneva Convention

Israel’s human rights violations – an introduction
Settlement building and land issues
Restrictions on movement
House demolitions, forced displacement, denial of residency rights
The Wall
The Green Line
The economics of the occupation

c) Gaza under occupation
d) Living under occupation

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