Besieged Gaza Reaching Humanitarian Breaking Point

As the Gaza Strip marked the ten-year anniversary of Israel’s siege of the small Palestinian enclave on Thursday, the humanitarian situation has continued to alarm rights groups, which have denounced the “inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world.”

As the Gaza Strip marked the ten-year anniversary of Israel’s siege of the small Palestinian enclave on Thursday, the humanitarian situation has continued to alarm rights groups, which have denounced the “inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world,” according to Ma'an.

Gaza, which has often been compared to an “open air prison” for its 1.9 million inhabitants crowded into 365 square kilometers, has suffered from a decade of isolation and deprivation, made all the worse by three devastating Israeli military operations, and persistent intra-Palestinian political strife.

The recent decision by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to request that Israel reduce its supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip has made many fear that the situation in Gaza could soon reach a political and humanitarian breaking point with unforetold consequences.

A decade of crushing restrictions

Since 2005, Israeli authorities have severely restricted Gazans’ freedom of movement, requiring that all Palestinians -- including medical patients in need of treatment, businesspeople, and elderly worshipers -- obtain permits in order enter or exit through the Erez border crossing.

 

Egypt, the only other country sharing a border with Gaza, has also upheld the blockade since Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in 2013 and became president.

 

Many Gazans are prevented from leaving or entering the besieged coastal enclave, sometimes for months at a time, as Egyptian authorities only periodically open the Rafah crossing, stranding Palestinians on both sides of the crossing during closures. According to the United Nations, the crossing was opened only 44 days in 2016, and 21 days in 2015.

 

Egypt also recently attempted to pressure the Gaza government into cooperating with its harsh ‘counterterrorism’ crackdown in exchange for providing some direly needed electricity.

 

Israel has also maintained stringent restrictions on goods allowed inside the besieged enclave, arguing that construction material such as cement could be used by Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups for military purposes.

 

Israel military files released in 2012 also revealed that Israeli authorities had also restricted the entry of food into Gaza, with items such as cardamom, chocolate, and potato chips listed by legal NGO Gisha as being prohibited from import into Gaza in 2010.

 

Meanwhile, Gaza’s agricultural sector have been negatively affected by Israel’s loosely defined “buffer zones” on both land and sea, as Palestinian fishermen and farmers risk their lives should they get too close to the border fence or stray away from the small “designated fishing zone” off the coast of Gaza.

 

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