Gaza: The open prison

Palestinians in Gaza face increasing economic and social difficulties.


    Palestinians in Gaza live with the results of          
    regular Israeli attacks

    The Gaza Strip is a place of intricate complexities.

    It is a small area of land (360 square kilometres), with one of the highest population density rates in the world.

    Composed mostly of refugees and under Israeli military occupation since 1967, Gaza's population has few opportunities.

    It is dominated by Israeli military actions that, during the past six years, have left the Gaza Strip in ruins, economically and socially. 

    Tight control

    Geographically, the Gaza Strip is sealed off from the rest of the world as its two access points with the outside are controlled by Israel.

    It is accessible only through a border crossing with Israel to the north, called Erez, and another at Rafah, on the Egyptian border, to the south.

    Israel maintains control over every aspect of life in the Gaza Strip and maintains tight controls over border and commercial crossings, airspace, and maritime access.

    Its control over the Gaza Strip extends to all kinds of food supplies, merchandise, and other products that enter the Gaza Strip.  
    The Gaza Strip is not connected to the West Bank, the other part of the occupied Palestinian territories.

    The Israeli military controls the Erez crossing, and requires those wishing to enter or leave the Gaza Strip through that crossing to obtain permits that are issued sparingly.

    Travel between the two Palestinian areas is subject to Israeli military permission, further complicating personal, economic, and cultural activities for Palestinians.
    Even though the Israeli army pulled out of the Gaza Strip in August last year, it has been described as a prison by some observers, including  John Dugard, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. 

    Economic embargo  
    Since Hamas formed the current Palestinian government after its victory in parliamentary elections in January, Israel has further tightened its grip on the Gaza Strip.

    Tougher measures have been imposed on thousands of Gaza residents looking for work inside Israel, leaving many households without an income.

    Some Palestinians are allowed to cross
    into Israel to work

    About 1.1 million Palestinians (about 79 per cent of the population) in the Gaza Strip depend on the United Nations for food assistance.

    Employment opportunities are few and 40 per cent of the workforce are without employment and cases of malnutrition among children are rising sharply.

    This situation has alarmed international organisations, who give warning of an impending humanitarian crisis that many residents here would say is already a reality.
    Aggravating the situation is the effective international embargo imposed on the Palestinian Authority after Hamas was voted into power.

    Direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority has been halted, leaving about 130,000 Palestinian civil servants in the Palestinian territories without pay since March this year.

    Military assault

    In June, three Palestinian armed groups captured Gilad Shalit, a corporal in the Israeli military, demanding the release of Palestinian detainees in return.

    Currently, more than 10,000 Palestinians remain in Israeli detention.

    After the soldier's capture, Israel unleashed unprecedented military firepower against towns, cities, and refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.

    The Israeli military campaign, named "Summer Rains", began with the bombardment of the sole power plant in the Gaza Strip, which supplied 50 per cent of the area's domestic electricity.

    The bombardment, condemned by human rights organisations as a war crime, plunged Gaza into darkness and caused serious medical problems, and water pollution.

    Israeli military attacks on Gaza continue unabated and with them the humanitarian crisis deepens.

    Tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have been made homeless by Israeli shelling and thousands more brought to the brink of destitution.

    They will continue to rely on assistance for subsistence and be driven towards more anger and hostility until the situation changes.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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