Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Humanitarian Emergency

Beit Hanoun: Homeless but not utterly hopeless, thanks to NZers

By Julie Webb-Pullman
Source: Gaza SCOOP

Receiving clothes, blankets and schoolbags in Beit Hanoun 30/11/14

Receiving clothes, blankets and schoolbags in Beit Hanoun 30/11/14

With the help of New Zealanders the Palestinian Family Charitable Association in Beit Hanoun has done it again – provided warm winter clothes and blankets for some of the neediest children in Gaza as the wintry weather begins to bite.

Not that there are very many children in Beit Hanoun who are not needy – 1,500 apartment blocks were destroyed in this town during the 51 day Israeli offensive in July-August, leaving many thousands homeless and their schools full of displaced families. (more…)


Lack of water, sanitation and PHC cause explosion of infectious disease in Gaza, threaten public health

Press Release
Gaza Ministry of Health, Palestine
August 02, 2014

Forcibly displaced Palestinians in UNRWA shelter

Forcibly displaced Palestinians in UNRWA shelter

The people of Gaza face enormous barriers to accessing primary health care, with only 10 of the government’s 56 Primary Health Care clinics operational, eight of UNRWA’s 22 clinics open, and most NGO clinics closed.

The majority of displaced persons have no access whatsoever to primary health care services.

This is at a time when there are urgent public health problems arising from the Israeli offensive threatening the health of the entire population. (more…)


MOH Gaza: Muslim holy days marred by genocide in Gaza

Press Release
Gaza Ministry of Health, Palestine
July 29, 2014

Outpatients Department at Shifa Hospital bombed yesterday

Outpatients Department at Shifa Hospital bombed yesterday

The Ministry of Health Gaza is pained to express its deep sadness and outrage at the Israeli attacks on Gaza on our holy days of Eid al-Fitr.

In the last 24 hours, 120 people have been killed, bringing the total to 1,156.

Particularly distressing was the death in Al Bureij refugee camp of Diana Abu Jaber and her unborn baby only a week before his estimated date of delivery.

Diana’s home was struck by an F-16 airstrike.

“As it collapsed a concrete pillar fell on her,” reported Dr Kamal Khatab, Medical Superintendent of Al Aqsa Hospital. “A shell ripped her abdomen open, the unborn baby fell out and was hit in the head with shrapnel, and his brain matter was extruded. Both mother and baby died immediately.” (more…)


MOH says Gaza’s hospitals confronting new crisis

PRESS RELEASE
Ministry of Health Gaza
July 27, 2014

Displaced families in makeshift tents in Shifa Hospital grounds

Displaced families in makeshift tents in Shifa Hospital grounds

Hospitals in Gaza are confronting a new crisis, as patients ready for discharge are unable to leave, taking up hospital beds urgently required for the incoming wounded.

The situation for many of these patients is dire: either their families have been killed or there is no-one to care for them, their homes have been destroyed, or they live in areas under Israeli orders to evacuate and are under threat of being shot if they return.

Several attacks on UNRWA schools serving as shelters for displaced persons have left these already traumatised and still-vulnerable victims too distrustful to accept them as a discharge option. In addition, the over-crowded and under-resourced conditions in the shelters are an unsuitable environment for the recuperating injured, with limited water, hygiene and electricity supplies. (more…)


MOH Press Release: Another massacre, this time in Khan Younis

Ministry of Health Gaza
July 23, 2014

People fleeing by whatever means they can

People fleeing by whatever means they can

Another massacre is underway in Khan Younis, where relentless Israeli shelling and sniper fire are wreaking death and destruction on all that moves in the zone east of Khan Younis city.

The villages of Khuza’a, Al Fukhari, Abasan Alkabir, Abasan Al Sa’ir, Jarara, and Bani Suhela received no warning of the attacks, and no warnings to evacuate before the bombardment began at around 11pm last night.

The intensity of Israeli shelling around the Algerian Hospital in Abasan Alkabir shattered its windows, and led to its evacuation, leaving only the emergency department operational.

Despite residents’ frantic calls to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for help in finding a safe route and safe vehicles to escape, the ICRC was unable to get a response from Israeli authorities until dawn today, when five bodies and 17 injured were retrieved and taken to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

An unknown number of dead and injured remain behind, as ambulances are prevented access. Read more HERE


Send medical aid for Gaza, TO Gaza, says Gaza Deputy Minister of Health

PRESS RELEASE
Ministry of Health Gaza

Gaza hospitals working with grossly inadequate resources

Gaza hospitals working with grossly inadequate resources

We ask all international donors to provide emergency medical assistance for the Gaza crisis DIRECTLY to Gaza, to ensure the needed drugs & equipment are promptly received by those for whom they are intended – the Gazan victims of the criminal Israeli offensive. Transparent and accountable systems are in place for this to occur. Read more HERE


Khudari: Poverty rate in Gaza over 50%

Jamal Al-Khudari

Jamal Al-Khudari

MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, said on Wednesday that the poverty and unemployment rates in Gaza had surpassed 50% due to the Israeli blockade that has entered its 8th consecutive year.

Khudari added that more than one million citizens in Gaza Strip depend on aid relief to survive, and the per capita income does not exceed two dollars a day.

He stressed that the humanitarian situation in Gaza has reached horrrific proportions, and is affecting all aspects of life.

The harsh economic and humanitarian conditions due to the Israeli blockade have been exacerbated by the Egyptian closure of all border tunnels, which used to provide the beleaguered Strip with a portion of its needs.

The MP called on the international community to immediately apply pressure for the lifting the siege on Gaza, to avoid further deterioration of the already-critical humanitarian conditions.


Don’t Forget Gaza

by Robert Turner
Director, United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza

It is impossible not to be touched by the apocalyptic scenes emerging from the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus, besieged and cut off for months. The images are at once epic and personal. Row upon row of gaunt faces, serried ranks of grimy, raged figures; the delicate, hunger-ravaged features of children waiting in line for an UNRWA food parcel; the face of a mother creased in grief for a deceased child; tears of joy as a father is reunited with a long-lost daughter; these are the vignettes of inhumanity that have become the regular fare of nightly news bulletins.

While the cameras have followed the conflict as they ever do, aid budgets have followed the cameras. International funding abhors a news vacuum. Donors like their cash to be in the news headlines and so UNRWA’s appeal to the international community to fund our emergency work in Syria to the tune of over 400 million U.S. dollars, has found a generous response among donor governments. That’s the relatively good news and we are grateful.

The bad news is that UNRWA works in other places where, like Syria, there are emergencies that have become protracted, but from where, unlike Syria, the cameras have moved on. Gaza is one of those places.

In the last six months of 2013, the unemployment rate in Gaza went from just under 28 percent to over 38 percent — in six months. For refugees the official unemployment rate is 41 percent, for youth 56 percent and for refugee women an astounding 88 percent. The criteria used for this data means that underemployment is not captured; persons aged 15 years and above who worked at least one hour per week are considered employed and so not included in these statistics. Imagine for a moment what that has meant for families in Gaza.

While there are no images from Gaza as compelling as those from Yarmouk — nor is the situation that desperate — the people here having been living under siege-like conditions for more than six years. It is this blockade which was imposed in earnest in June 2007 that destroyed Gaza’s previously dynamic, productive and trade-oriented economy, along with its capacity to create jobs. The vast majority of the population has been pushed into food insecurity, with no other choice but reliance on assistance. Until the blockade is lifted and access to Gaza’s traditional markets — the West Bank and Israel — is secured, any sustainable recovery of the local economy remains elusive. The vicious cycle of unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency, and consequently the de-development of the Gaza Strip, will continue. A graph of economic volatility for Gaza’s economy over the past decade looks like Liberia or Sierra Leone’s.

The recent dramatic deterioration in the situation here was triggered by the changes in Egypt last year and the closure of the tunnels that linked Gaza and its Southern neighbor. These tunnels formed a necessary lifeline for Gaza given the poverty here — goods are cheaper from Egypt, particularly fuel and basic foods — and for items that Israel will not allow to freely enter, the most important being construction materials. Material for the private sector came through the tunnels at the rate of some 7,500 MT per day, fueling the only portion of the economy that was creating any jobs. The closure of the tunnels has meant the effective end of private sector construction.

UNRWA and other international actors could make up some of that job loss through our own construction projects but we have been limited in our ability to do so by Israel practices. In the third quarter of 2013 UNRWA construction projects generated over 5,000 jobs, but imports of construction materials were suspended in October 2013, and as of February 2014 only some of our projects were re-approved by the Israeli authorities and resumed. We have almost USD $40 million worth of projects Israel had already approved that are ready to go and an additional 38 projects worth over USD $111 million pending approval from Israeli authorities so we can import the necessary construction material. Given the opportunity we could put thousands of Gazans back to work and reduce reliance on aid to survive.

UNRWA is mandated to provide services to the Palestine refugees in Gaza, who make up more than 70 percent of the population of some 1.8 million. In trying to meet the humanitarian demands created by this manmade crisis, UNRWA provides food assistance to over 800,000 people; two out of every three refugees and almost half the overall population. In 2000, when the economy was functioning more normally, only 80,000 refugees required food assistance from us. We provide this assistance based on need, and vigorously target to ensure it gets to the neediest, but given the changes here over the past months we expect our food aid caseload to increase by 10 to 20 percent over the course of this year, to near one million people.

At a time when circumstances would dictate an expansion of aid we are facing a hole in our emergency budget of about $30 million USD. That’s about a quarter of our overall budget, mainly for food aid. Should no additional, unexpected contributions materialize, UNRWA will be forced to significantly cut back its emergency operations in the Gaza Strip. We have already had to take very difficult decisions, including the suspension of our school feeding program, which provided one meal per day to the nearly quarter of a million UNRWA students in Gaza.

Donor fatigue is understandable. UNRWA would prefer to spend money on human development in Gaza, particularly our education program, as opposed to emergency aid to mitigate the impact of man-made policies such as the illegal blockade. But the Agency has no choice but to continue to assist those paying for the consequences of these unresolved political issues.

I end on a note of warning. We have repeatedly seen desperation in Gaza lead to violence. There are rockets which we in the UN repeatedly condemn, but there are many other forms of violence in Gazan society that are related directly and indirectly to the economic predicament of the people here. We in UNRWA have ourselves been the subject of violent attack because of perceived service cuts. At a time when the peace process is on everyone’s lips it behooves us all to address the underlying causes of Gaza’s violence, but barring the political will to accomplish this, we must ensure that basic humanitarian needs continue to be met.

From Huffington Post
Posted: 03/14/2014


Committee to Break the Siege demands opening of borders, as EU warns of serious consequences, and Israel bombs

The National Committee to Break the Siege and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza held a Press Conference outside the Egyptian Embassy in Gaza on Wednesday to demand the opening of Gaza’s borders.

Under the banner of “We’ll Stay Free, End The Siege” the speakers highlighted the perilous humanitarian conditions now prevailing in Gaza. Adham Abu Selmeh, Arabic spokesman of the Committee, demanded that the international community act immediately to enforce humanitarian law and end the suffering of Gazans.

In the video, English spokeswomen Huda Skaik provides a translation of his speech at 9 minutes in.

Hours later, the European Union released a report warning of dire consequences for the region of ignoring the plight of Gaza, and highlighting the economic damage caused by both the blockade Israel imposed in 2006, and Egypt’s destruction of hundreds of cross-border tunnels after the July ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

Emphasizing that Israel bears the prime responsibility for the situation, The EU Report said Gaza is facing a dangerous and pressing humanitarian and economic situation.

It warned that if left unaddressed, the situation could have serious consequences for stability in Gaza, and for regional security.

Meanwhile, Israel carried out a series of overnight airstrikes on Gaza, punishing the Palestinian population for the legitimate defensive response of its resistance to an Israeli incursion into Gaza territory on Tuesday morning, yet another of the 150+ documented Israeli breaches of the November 2012 truce.

Israel followed up their border breach with the killing of three of the resistance fighters defending Gaza’s territorial integrity. This brought to seven the total of Palestinians killed by Israel within 24 hours, and resulted in dozens of resistance rockets being fired into Israel in response.

The tens of Israeli airstrikes overnight caused considerable destruction, but no injuries.

It seems only Quisling Cameron and the USraeli president still believe the fiction of Israel’s commitment to peace – hundreds of breaches of the truce, and thousands of dead Palestinians prove otherwise.


IHH to send Mavi Marmara 2 to the Gaza Strip

From here

Alray Archive

Alray Archive

Gaza, ALRAY – Mohammed Hasna, the representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference said that the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, IHH, intends to send Mavi Marmara 2 to the Gaza Strip in a new attempt to break Gaza blockade.

Hasna said that the foundations’ decision came in a special session on Gaza during a conference held by the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Istanbul.

Several Islamic organizations provided donations to help the affected Palestinians in the Gaza Strip due to the recent winter storm.

The World Assembly of Muslim Youth(WAMY) announced its donation with one million dollars to the Gaza Strip, and Qatar Charity donated with also one million dollars.

Hasna mentioned on his facebook that many countries and organizations have donated with different sum of money to the Gaza Strip.


UNRWA calls Gaza ‘disaster area,’ pleads for end to Israeli blockade

FROM MA’AN

(MaanImages)

(MaanImages)

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said that large regions of the Gaza Strip are a “disaster area” and called on the world community to lift the Israeli blockade in order to allow recovery efforts to proceed, in a statement sent to Ma’an.

“Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye can see. Areas around Jabalia have become a massive lake with two meter high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands,” the statement read.

“Four thousand UNRWA workers are battling the floods and have evacuated hundreds of families to UNRWA facilities. Our sanitation, manintenance workers, social workers and medical staff have been working through the night and round the clock to assist the most vulnerable, the old, the sick, children and women,” the statement continued.

“We have distributed five thousand of litres of fuel to local pumping stations, but the situation is dire and with the flood waters rising, the risk of water borne disease can only increase. This is a terrible situation which can only get worse before it gets better,” it added, referring to major fuel shortages across the Gaza Strip that have dramatically worsened in the last few months.

Gunness also highlighted the need for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip in order to allow the region recover from the current crisis.

“When all this is over, the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza,” he said.

“Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this,” the statement continued.

“And of course it is the most vulnerable, the women and children, the elderly who wil pay the highest price of failure to end the blockade.”

The Gaza Strip is currently under a state of emergency due to severe weather conditions caused by a historic storm front moving south across the Levant.

Fuel shortages have caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt since early November, as power plants and water pumps are forced to shut down, cutting off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents.

The Gaza Strip has been without a functioning power plant since the beginning of November, when the plant ran out of diesel fuel as a result of the tightening of a seven-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel with Egyptian support.

The plant itself was only reopened last year after it was targeted by an Israeli airstrike in the 2006 assault on the Strip. The power plant generates around 30 percent of the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply, while the rest comes from Israel and Egypt.

Until July of this year, the tunnels to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory amidst the otherwise crippling Israeli blockade. The blockade has been in place since 2006, and it has limited imports and exports and led to a major economic decline and wide-reaching humanitarian crisis.

In the last year, however, the situation had greatly improved, as the tunnels to Egypt witnessed a brisk trade following the Egyptian Revolution.

Gaza Strip energy officials have blamed Egypt for destroying numerous tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and Egypt in recent months. They also blamed the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority for charging taxes on fuel too high for Gaza Strip authorities to afford.


EQA appeals to int’l organizations to salvage disaster-stricken Gaza

A Gaza resident flees his flooded home (ALRAY photo)

A Gaza resident flees his flooded home (ALRAY photo)

Gaza, ALRAY – Environment Quality Authority (EQA) in Gaza has launched an urgent appeal to the international organizations and world humanity to salvage the Gaza Strip.

Dr Yusuf Ibrahim said Saturday in a written statement “the continued intensive rainfall on the Gaza Strip since four days and the flooding of low-level urban areas and drainage basins put the lives of the nearby residents at risk,”

“Due to the lack of necessary means to tackle such huge amounts of rain, we appeal to all international organizations including the ICRC, and the UN, and Arab and Muslim world immediately bring in caterpillars, suction pumps, and fuel to salvage the disaster-stricken areas across the Gaza Strip,” the statement added.

A heavy cold front has been sweeping the Palestinian territories since Wednesday bringing life to a standstill.

Insufferable damage has affected infrastructures, and public and personal properties. Rain coupled with high winds, freezing temperature, and decreasing electricity hours, continues to hit the Gaza Strip.


Israeli authorities open sewage dams flooding east, central areas of Gaza

Gaza, ALRAY –Israeli occupation authorities opened up dams to the east of Gaza city on late Friday.

Sewage flooding east of Gaza city (ALRAY photo)

Sewage flooding east of Gaza city (ALRAY photo)

Eyewitnesses said many residential areas and farming land east of Gaza city were flooded when the Israeli authorities opened up the dams.

The residents of the area appealed to the concerned authorities to intervene before sewage water completely submerge their properties.

Earlier on Friday, Chairman of Government’s Disaster Response Committee Yasser Shanti said the Israeli authorities opened up dams just to the east of the border with the Gaza Strip earlier in the day.

He warned that the residential areas within the Gaza Valley would be flooding within hours, saying the move would flood areas in Moghraqa and other parts of Deir el-Balah in central Gaza.

Shanti called upon residents of areas near the Gaza Valley to evacuate their homes in preparation for the anticipated flooding.

The Gaza Strip is currently under a state of emergency due to severe weather conditions caused by a historic storm front moving south across the Levant.

Fuel shortages have caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt since early November, as power plants and water pumps are forced to shut down, cutting off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents.

Lack of diesel fuel is a result of the tightening of a seven-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel with Egyptian support.

The Gaza Strip has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by the Israeli occupation since 2006.

Ma’an contributed to this report.


Gaza Minister of Health declares state of emergency

Photo by Wafaa H. Aburahma

Photo by Wafaa H. Aburahma

As the situation in Gaza deteriorates due to snow and freezing temperatures on top of electricity cuts, the Minister of Health Dr Mufiz al-Makhalalati has declared a state of emergency, and called on all his personnel to assist the Civil Defence crews and municipalities in alleviating the distress.

Already 146 households accounting for 734 people have been forced to take emergency shelter in nearby schools and police stations, while 500 families, or more than 3200 people, have received assistance such as food, clothing and blankets.

The situation is dire and will get worse, with the current temperature at 3 degrees Celsius, and more bad weather predicted. The young and the old are particularly vulnerable, and desperately need electricity for warmth, and medications.

International governments and all people of good conscience must act quickly to ensure that Gaza’s suffering ends now, by forcing an end to the Israeli siege thus letting in the fuel required to run the power plants, essential medicines and medical supplies, and the equipment needed to provide emergency civil defence services – not only for this particular crisis, but on a permanent basis.


Snow adds to Gaza’s woes

Gaza under snow (Photo: Maysam Yusef)

Gaza under snow (Photo: Maysam Yusef)

Snow is falling in Gaza, adding another layer of misery to the freezing and flooded conditions being experienced by its besieged population. Most homes have been without electricity for 24 of the last 36 hours, many streets are under water, and schools have been closed for the last two days.

In a press release on Thursday, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri warned of an unprecedented humanitarian disaster due to the siege-induced power crisis and the atrocious weather conditions, describing the situation as “collective punishment.”

Some 30 people have been injured in car accidents and building collapses since the onset of the current bad weather bringing flooding of roads and houses in its wake.

Yousef al-Zahar, Director General of Civil Defense, said that civil defense crews are doing what they can, but they are hampered by the lack of fuel due to the siege, and cannot pump flood-waters.

Interior Minister Fathi Hammad on Wednesday noted the lack of equipment necessary for civil defence activities, stressing the need for the international community to put pressure on Israel to allow the entry of heavy equipment and tools in order to enable the disaster emergency committees to do their work.

His calls so far seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

The simple solution to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza – lifting of the illegal Israeli siege, and opening the Rafah border for the legitimate passage of people and goods – is in the hands of the international community – along with the lives of all Gazans freezing in the dark tonight with no hope of real help reaching them.


Gaza paralyzed as cold weather hits besieged enclave

from http://alray.ps/en/index.php?act=post&id=2677

Gaza flood

Gaza, ALRAY – Rescue teams in the besieged Gaza Strip have been trying to help residents in need as a cold front has left the coastal enclave paralyzed.

Civil defense and medical crews have declared a state of high alert in Gaza as it has been hit with a wave of cold weather, heavy rains, and gusty winds.

Rescue teams are struggling to help Gazans despite a serious lack of necessary equipment and aid.

“We have a crisis here because our neighbor, our flesh and blood, the Egyptians, are not helping us in these hard times,” said Civil Defense Chief Yusuf al-Zahar, also slamming the Israeli blockade for the harsh situation.

“This cold front is very dangerous and we call on the international community to lend a helping hand.”

Severe weather temperatures and flooded streets have caused schools, universities, and roads to remain closed. Fallen power lines and trees have also left roads blocked off.

This comes days after school children in Gaza staged a rally in front of the house of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in protest against the ongoing power crisis in the coastal enclave.

For over a month, Gazans have been living on an average of six hours of electricity per day after its sole power generating plant was forced to close down as a result of fuel shortage.

The protesters demanded an immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade. They also called on Egypt to provide Gaza with electricity.

Fuel and electricity shortages in Gaza have also worsened after the Egyptian government’s closure of Gaza tunnels. The tunnels were the only lifeline for Palestinians living under the Israeli siege.

Press TV contributed