The Eyeless in Gaza

Half a year after the cease-fire, life in Gaza is still a living hell, as the promised aid did not come and homeless children die of winter and cold.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are still homeless or live in the rubble of the 20,000 houses that were destroyed and 80,000 others damaged by Israeli bombs and artillery fire.

A United Nations official estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people are in homes that are completely uninhabitable or very badly damaged.

Although $5.4bil was pledged by donor countries, very little of that aid has arrived. Moreover very few building materials are allowed into Gaza, due to the continuing Israeli blockade.

In a BBC-TV report on Feb 25, journalist Lyse Doucel showed shots of people barely surviving in the ruins of their bombed-out homes, with signs put up on top of piles of rubble to indicate the names of the families who lived there, in the hope that one day someone would help them reclaim and rebuild their houses.

The most horrifying, and most pitiful, shot of that report was that of the baby Dapida, who had frozen to death in January amidst the ruins of what had been the family home because there was no heating in the present winter.

The baby had been born just before the ceasefire began on Aug 26. He survived the war but not the homelessness and the winter cold.

Everyone likes to talk about the children but in fact no one helps the children in Gaza.

Leaders of dozens of countries, including US State Secretary John Kerry, attended a reconstruction conference on Oct 12 in Cairo and pledged $5.4bil for rebuilding Gaza and other Palestinian areas. The Palestinians had estimated that $4bil is needed for Gaza's reconstruction. In other words hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families will remain homeless in Gaza forever.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said the region was in dire need and that countries that tried to link aid to demilitarisation in Gaza were in danger of enforcing collective punishment on Palestinians.

Children had frozen to death over the winter, with parents and grand parents blaming the deaths on lack of donations.

A statement from 30 international aid agencies expressed alarm about the limited progress on rebuilding lives in Gaza and tackling the root causes of the conflict, which they said made a return to hostilities inevitable,

They said that since July, the situation has deteriorated dramatically, with 100,000 Palestinians remaining displaced, power cuts of 18 hours a day, and non-payment of government workers. The most vulnerable, including the one million children, have experienced unimaginable suffering in three conflicts in six years and over 400,000 need psychological support.

With severe restrictions on their movement, the 1.8 million Palestinians are ''trapped in the coastal enclave, with no hope for the future".

The houses are still not rebuilt, the promised funds have largely not arrived, basic needs are not satisfied, assistance to the most needy has mainly stopped, and frustration and anger are growing. Even if the widespread military attacks on the population have stopped, "war" in other forms is still being waged, with dire economic and social effects on Palestinian lives.

Vol. 47, No. 42, Apr 26 - May 2, 2015