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 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.
As streets in Gaza flow with excrement, as families stay awake until 2am to take advantage of the two hours that water will flow through the taps – if they are lucky – the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, celebrated the UN General Assembly’s decision declaring 19th of November as UN World Toilet Day with a Press Release on November 15.
The irony will not escape Palestinians in Gaza – they must be asking themselves “Is she for real?” Or is it just a very cynical preliminary to announcing Gaza’s latest distinction – from being the largest open air prison in the world, to being the largest open air toilet?
“I hope this declaration galvanises national and international action to reach the billions of people who still do not benefit from this basic human right,” the Special Rapporteur said in the statement released the day after the al-Sabra neighbourhood in al-Zaytoun, Gaza City, was flooded with sewage.
Perhaps she could make a special effort to contact Israel and Egypt directly, being the UN member states that are preventing the entry of fuel supplies into Gaza necessary to run the power plant that provides the electricity to run the sanitation and water pumps that would enable Gazans to enjoy this ‘basic human right.’
Perhaps she could make a special effort to remind the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take off their blinkers and ‘observe’ the conditions of their fellow statesmen and women in Gaza, and maybe even suggest the PA cease colluding with Israel in extorting exorbitant prices for fuel from the besieged Gazan authorities – fuel which the European Community has funded, but which both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are seeking to profiteer from by imposing on Gaza excessive price hikes (Israel), and additional taxes (the PA).
And perhaps the United Nations and its member states could ‘put their money where their mouth is’ – they still have three days in which to clean up their act, and ensure that World Toilet Day is not the day that Gaza is officially accorded that questionable distinction.
Israel: UN expert calls for the immediate release of three Palestinian detainees on hunger strike held without charges
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
GENEVA (13 February 2013) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk today called for the immediate release of three Palestinian detainees held without charges by Israel. Mr. Falk expressed deep concern for the fate of Tarek Qa’adan and Jafar Azzidine, who are on their 78th day of hunger strike, and Samer Al-Issawi, who has been on partial hunger strike for over 200 days.
“Continuing to hold Mr. Qa’adan, Mr Azzidine and Mr. Al-Issawi under these conditions is inhumane. Israel is responsible for any permanent harm,” warned the independent expert designated by the Human Rights Council to monitor and report on Israeli rights violations in Palestine. “If Israeli officials cannot present evidence to support charges against these men, then they must be released immediately.”
“Mr. Qa’adan and Mr. Azzidine are reportedly on the verge of death, with the threat of a fatal heart attack looming,” the expert noted, recalling that both men were arrested on 22 November 2012 and began their hunger strikes on 28 November, after being sentenced to administrative detention for a period of three months. They were transferred to Assaf Harofi Hospital near Tel Aviv on 24 January 2013 after their conditions deteriorated sharply.
This is the second time that Mr. Azzidine and Mr. Qa’adan have undertaken hunger strikes against administrative detention, since they took part in the mass hunger strike of Palestinians from 17 April to 14 May 2012. Mr. Qa’adan had been released after 15 months of detention on 8 July 2012 and Mr. Azzidine had been released on 19 June 2012 after three months of detention, before being re-arrested.
“Israel must end the appalling and unlawful treatment of Palestinian detainees. The international community must react with a sense of urgency and use whatever leverage it possesses to end Israel’s abusive reliance on administrative detention,” urged the Special Rapporteur.
Mr. Falk noted that Israel currently holds at least 178 Palestinians in administrative detention.
Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdesslem spoke at a Press Conference a Al Shifa Hospital today after his arrival in Gaza amidst ferocious aerial attacks, and slammed Israel’s breaches of international norms.
“We who have come from Tunisia carry a strong and clear message from our Prime Minister and members of the government to express our strong solidarity with Gaza against Israeli aggression,” he said.
“What is happening to the citizens of Gaza is not justified, and is contrary to all international law and regulations. We have just seen the injured, the wounded and the martyrs and all of these manifestations are unacceptable.
This unjustified targeting of civilians and the targeting of schools and civic institutions, public and private property is unacceptable and illegal. We come charged with a message to express our solidarity and support of our brothers, the people of Gaza.”
He went on to say that Israel must recognise international norms and laws, and it should be aware that there are different variables now occurring in the Arab world.
He called on the Council of Arab States and the international community to take a united stance to address the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, stressing the need to take positions similar to that of the Egyptian President, in order to strengthen and enhance it.
At a Press Conference outside Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City the Minister of Health Dr Mofed Al Makhalalaty called on the international community to immediately intervene to prevent another massacre of Gaza civilians, such as occurred during Operation Cast Lead four years ago.
Declaring a state of emergency, the Minister told journalists that ambulance crews, as well as emergency and operating rooms in Gaza have been on a high level of alert for the last week, but that the chronic shortage of medicines and supplies caused by the siege is being exacerbated by the numbers of injuries caused in today’s attacks.
He recalled that in one day during Operation Cast Lead, one month’s medical supplies were exhausted in only one day, and said if the situation deteriorates further they will not be able to cope.
He called on the international community and the Islamic world to send emergency aid to the Gaza Strip, especially medical supplies and drugs to deal with the injuries resulting from the Israeli attacks.
Shortly after the Press Conference, the head of an Egyptian delegation of pharmacists currently visiting Gaza, Dr Mohamed Abdel Gawad, announced that in the next 24 hours a delegation of surgeons will arrive from Egypt to provide any necessary assistance to Palestinian doctors.
Dr Mohamed Abdel Gawad said, “What hurts me and hurts my colleagues is that we as Arabs are not doing our duty towards you.”
At the time of writing, the death toll stood at 8, with 90 injuries, the vast majority of them civilians, and including many women and children.
As the criminal Israeli attacks continue in Gaza, its targets reveal not only Israel’s cowardice and petty vindictiveness, but also their abject depravity.
Shelling grieving friends and family at a civilian wake must surely go down as one of the most evil acts in recent memory – if such was possible after the Samouni family massacre during Operation Cast Lead. Killing unarmed civilians at a funeral – really tough, guys.
Add schools – another civilian target. Perhaps they are afraid that the pen actually IS mightier than the sword…or are they just teaching those UNRWA upstarts a lesson for daring to criticise the unholy occupation last week?
Farms – business as usual. Gazans grow crops and livestock to feed their population, and favour buying local produce rather than eating Israeli dirt – gotta put a stop to that, and guarantee the Israeli captive market.
Factories – ditto. Can’t have a local economy developing.
And what sort of factories are coming under attack? Why, cement factories of course. Now let’s see them build those Qatari-funded buildings…build those Qatari-funded roads.
And that is what the sour grapes have been fermenting away in their craven craw over, intoxicating their already-feebled brains until their “liver swells with bile difficult to repress” and erupts into another all-out debauched assault on Gaza. How DARE Qatar break the Israeli siege! Just who do the big Q think they are?!
The big Q for the rest of the world is whether it will stand by yet again, and watch another few hundred, several thousand war crimes and crimes against humanity be committed by the biggest rogue state in the hemisphere.
Will Barack “Nobel Peace Prize” Obama finally do something to earn it, and rein in Bibi and his punch-drunk cowboys riding rough-shod on their election trail?
Will Britain have the moral backbone to acknowledge that Palestine, like Australia, was not terra nullius as the Balfour Declaration would have us believe, apologise, and ensure its return to its rightful owners?
Will the United Nations have the strength of purpose to enforce its myriad Security Council Resolutions against Israel – as it does by applying economic, diplomatic, military and financial sanctions against other countries to force their co-operation with international law, or to contain a threat to peace?
Will the international community have the guts to stand up to the Zionist pretenders, and end its abject hypocrisy by turning its attention to the only country in the Middle east that DOES have a nuclear arsenal, and place at least the same, if not even more stringent, sanctions against Israel than it already has against Iran, for merely having the potential to do what Israel has already done without the slightest international censure?
Will the Arab countries stand by Gaza this time?
Unless the answer to all of the above is yes, the Arab Spring will be followed by a very bitter Palestinian winter – and they will all pay the price.