Gulf News report, 15 August 2015
At a time when the Middle East region is grappling with heightened volatility and ongoing conflicts from Syria to Iraq to Yemen, it is easy to ignore the harsh realities of Palestinians living in the open-air prison that is the Gaza Strip. It has been eight years since Israel imposed a land, air, and sea blockade on Palestinians living there following Hamas’s 2006 win in the legislative elections — depriving them of any possibility of leading normal lives. Coupled with this are Israel’s three full scale wars, which killed thousands of Palestinians including women and children and left swaths of ruins in the Strip. Yes, Palestinians are justified for feeling totally abandoned by the international community.
The latest news coming from Gaza is that its health care is on the verge of collapse. Dr Ashraf Al Qudra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, told Gulf News, “People are dying in Gaza and we have nothing in hand to help them.” Gaza-based hospitals and primary medical centres lack 32 per cent of the medicines they need and the shortfall is greatest for drugs used to treat chronic diseases.
Moreover, the infant mortality rate in Gaza has risen for the first time in more than half a century, according to the United Nations. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says the number of babies dying in 2013, that is, before the last Israeli war on Gaza, before the age of one, rose to 22.4 per 1,000 live births.
Imagine watching your loved one suffer from a medical problem and, because of Israeli restrictions on movements in Gaza, you are unable to transport them to a hospital or get them any proper medical care. Such is the reality of living in Gaza and experiencing daily the inhuman and unjust blockade through which Israel contravenes international law with impunity. And there is no end in sight to the suffering of the people, especially given that there is no international pressure for change.
The Palestinian Israeli conflict urgently requires Arab and international attention. It remains at the centre of Arab issues and without addressing Israeli intransigence, this region will never enjoy long term stability.