World watches idly as Israel bombs Gaza school & market

31 Jul

Palestinian families leave their apartments in El-Joundi tower to a safer location after Israeli strike in Gaza City,

A Palestinian family flees their home in al-Jundi tower to a safer location after an Israeli strike in Gaza City, on 30 July (Ezz al-Zanoun / APA images)

By Yousef Al-Helou, Gaza, The Electronic Intifada, 31 July 2014

As each day brings new horror in Gaza, Palestinians in the besieged Strip have become largely cut off from the outside world as Israeli bombing has badly damaged the electricity infrastructure and telecommunications network.

The bodies of at least sixteen Palestinians were pulled from the rubble after an Israeli strike hit a United Nations school in Jabaliya refugee camp on Wednesday. Approximately 3,300 displaced people were taking refuge in the school.

Later that same day, Israeli forces shelled an open market in the Shujaiya neighborhood of eastern Gaza City, the site of a terrible massacre last week, killing at least seventeen. Residents had ventured out to the market during a four-hour humanitarian truce unilaterally declared by Israel. The victims included a journalist — the seventh media worker killed in Gaza since the onslaught began on 7 July — and emergency health care workers.

Power plant bombed

Monday night was one of the heaviest nights of shelling during the last three weeks of Israel’s all-out military offensive on Gaza. On that night alone, dozens of Palestinians were killed.

Many areas across the Gaza Strip came under random tank shelling, and Israel bombed the only power plant, leaving much of Gaza without electricity. Most households in Gaza City currently receive only up to two hours of electricity per day, according to the United Nations, and other areas in central Gaza are receiving no electricity at all.

Officials say the damage done to the power plant could take up to one year to repair — that is if Israel allows Gaza to import the necessary spare parts and allows engineering experts to enter.

These power outages mean that water pumps and sewage stations have stopped functioning, leading to a serious humanitarian and environmental crisis in terms of lack of clean drinking water and basic sanitation.

The only mobile network in some areas failed as well, not only due to power cuts but because many transmission towers have been damaged since the start of Israel’s military aggression against Gaza on 7 July.

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Flames engulf the fuel tanks of the Gaza Strip’s only power plant on 29 July after it was hit by Israeli shelling overnight.(Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Meanwhile, hospitals and other vital facilities remain at serious risk as their generators cannot provide safe, sustainable electricity and power. Twenty-three health care facilities have been damaged by the Israeli military, according to the UN.

“We have been suffering from frequent power cuts since 2006, and now the bombing of the power station will worsen our miserable life given that we cannot find fuel to power small electrical generators,” said Nader Daher, a 35-year-old who was displaced from his home in Gaza City.

“Everyone tries to conserve his mobile battery; we also can’t keep food in the freezer and [we’re] running out of canned food,” he added.

More than 240,000 residents from different cities and towns across Gaza have become internally displaced, many of them seeking shelter at United Nations-run schools, according to the UN. Some are staying at relatives’ homes, dozens packed into one house.

“We do not have electricity nor water,” Khamis Jabali, 27, a displaced resident of Gaza City, said. “We wait for the water tanker to come to this school to fill our bottles. It’s hot, and we have not had showers for weeks now. Hundreds of us here we share water and toilets.”

Intensification

Israel targeted the house of the former de facto prime minister in Gaza, the Hamas party’s Ismail Haniyeh, as well as the rooftop of a media building which houses many local and international media outlets. Israel shelled the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa broadcast station, extensively damaging the offices, and the station went off the air after the attack. None of the staff were wounded.

Attacks against residential areas and civilians intensified after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israelis should prepare for lengthy campaign. “We will not complete the operation without neutralizing the tunnels,” he added.

“We are not limiting ourselves in time or place, and are going everywhere we know there’s a tunnel or a tunnel opening, even if it means that we need to deepen our presence into areas we haven’t yet entered,” Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon stated Wednesday, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz. “All operational options are on the table, and it is very important to remain vigilant and prepared.”

Muhammad Deif, the commander the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, stated Tuesday that his group would not accept a ceasefire agreement which did not lift the siege on Gaza.

The Gaza Strip has been under Israel’s incapacitating land and sea blockade since 2006, and was subjected to two previous offensives in December 2008 and November 2012.

“Lifting of the siege and reopening border crossings is a basic human right — it’s not only the demand of the resistance, but everyone who lives in Gaza will tell you we have had enough,” said Abu Ali Eid, a political analyst and lecturer at al-Aqsa University. “It’s time for the siege to be lifted and allow the people of this prison — Gaza — to have a normal life.”

International silence

The Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights issued a statement expressing serious concerns about “the continued failure of international community to provide the due protection for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, and its failure to clearly condemn IOF’s [the Israeli army’s] flagrant violations of international law.”

Al-Mezan adds that “this failure has encouraged serious violations of international law, which is reflected in human lives, to continue.”

In the 2008-09 attacks, which lasted for 22 days, Israeli forces bombarded Gaza from the air for more than a week straight, followed by random tank shelling, a ground invasion and the wanton usage of controversial weapons such as white phosphorus, flechettes and possibly DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosives).

When the war ended, the United Nations sent fact-finding missions, led by judge Richard Goldstone, to collect testimonies and document evidence which would implicate the Israeli army in war crimes. Ultimately, after several months, the Goldstone team presented its report. It was shelved.

The same scenario will most likely repeat itself, leaving Palestinians in Gaza with little optimism for accountability for Israel’s current attack.

Shame

Where governments are failing to hold Israel accountable, people are around the globe are expressing their outrage.

Rallies have been held worldwide to denounce Israel’s assault on Gaza amid shy, shameful stances by governments in the west and the Arab world.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Tel Aviv will continue its massive offensive against the besieged Gaza Strip, telling US Secretary of State John Kerry that the offensive would go on.

Meanwhile, there are increasing calls on the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to take Israel to the International Criminal Court.

The failure for meaningful action has left Palestinians in Gaza feeling that they are on their own.

“Israel has got full support of its western and Arab allies, especially the US and Egypt in its war on Gaza — they are not honest brokers,” said Hani Abu Zaid, a lecturer at the Islamic University of Gaza.

And as Israeli attacks on Gaza intensify and the humanitarian situation continues to worsen each day, civilians and children remain the primary victims of this war against the big prison of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents.

 

Palestinian journalist Yousef Al-Helou is a Reuters fellow at Oxford University and can be followed on Twitter: @YousefAlhelou.

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