By William James Martin
The narrow strip of land on the east shore of the Mediterranean Sea, inhabited by Palestinians, which is the Gaza Strip, has been under siege for a decade. The Gaza Strip is a 32 by 7-mile strip of land containing 1.8 million people – one of the densest populated areas in the world.
It is bordered on the north and east sides by fencing and guard towers, and patrolled by Israeli soldiers, and a strip of no-man’s land inside of the fence of indeterminant, or ill-defined, width of what would otherwise be land available for agriculture. People are regularly fired upon who venture into that small strip to collect plants or pebbles (for concrete) and some are injured and some have been killed by gunfire.
The southern boundary is secured by the Egyptian army, now under the dictator Army General el-Sisi, who regards Hamas, which is the governing body of the Gaza Strip, as a potential threat because of the (tenuous) association of Hamas with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood which won the most recent election and governed Egypt until it was overthrown by the Egyptian army during a climate of popular discontent. The ocean is patrolled by the Israeli navy which fires upon fishing boats which exceed a three-mile limit. A number of fishermen have been injured and killed, over the last decade, by the Israeli navy firing from patrol boats. One Palestinian fisherman was killed about two weeks ago by Israeli naval gunfire.
The assault by Israel on this narrow strip of land in the summer of 2014 left the area and the people devastated. Rather than explain it myself, it is easier to quote from an article in the journal of Palestine Studies, by Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi. The Dahiya Doctrine.
“… During the latest campaign, stretching over a period of 50 days in July and August of 2014, Israel’s air force launched more that six thousands air attacks, and its army and navy fired about fifty thousand artillery and tank shells. Together, they utilized what has been estimated as a total of 21 kilotons, or 21 thousand tons, of high explosives. The attack from the air involved weapons raging from drones and American Apache helicopters firing US-made Hellfire missiles to American F-16’s carrying two-thousand-pound bombs. According to the commander of the Israeli Air force, there were several hundred F-16 attacks on targets in Gaza, most of them using these powerful munitions. A two-thousand-pound bomb creates a crater 15 meters wide by 11 meters deep and propels lethal fragments to a radius of 265 meters. One or two of these monsters can destroy a multistory building, and they were used at the conclusion of the Israeli air campaign toward the end of August to level several of Gaza City’s high rises.”
Twenty one thousand tons of high explosives is the estimate here. The estimated TNT equivalent of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima (Little Boy) was 15 kilotons and on Nagasaki (Fat Man). 20 kilotons. This on one of the densest populations in the world with a ragtag bunch of fighters, with mostly homemade weapons, that do not in any way constitute a serious threat to Israel or to the Israeli military which is one of the most efficient in the world and with top drawer military hardware mostly from the US..
The death toll of that assault was about 2300 residents of Gaza killed, two thirds of whom were civilian, including, and 11,231 injured, including 3,340 women and 3,436 children. More than 1500 Palestinian children were orphaned. Six Israeli civilians were killed and 67 Israeli soldiers. (According to Report of the independent commission of inquiry established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-21/1.)
According to this report, “18,000 housing units were destroyed in whole or in part. Much of the electricity network and of the water and sanitation infrastructure were incapacitated; and 73 medical facilities and many ambulances were damaged. … The number of internally displaced persons reached 500,000, or 28 percent of the population.”
Because the Gaza Strip is hermetically sealed, little of the construction material necessary for repair of the housing and infrastructure has been allowed into Gaza since the war so that much of the water supply has been contaminated and people are still spending their winters in caves dug out from the rubble of their homes and destroyed apartment buildings.
Because Israel controls the borders, it is able to maintain Gaza in a state of economic depression. Only a small amount of the good produced in Gaza, mostly agricultural, are allowed for export
The unemployment rate in Gaza is about 60%.
Electricity is typically only available for 8 hours a day which is a problem for the hospitals as well as everyone else. Sometimes there is not enough fuel to run the electric generators.
There is speculation that by 2020, Gaza may become uninhabitable mainly due to the degradation of the water supply.
According to John Ging, the Gaza Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency of which some 200,000 Gaza school children attend schools, says that many of the children come to school ‘hungry and unable to concentrate due to the fact that many Gaza families can only afford to provide their families a single meal a day. The children also experience many nights of lost sleep due to sonic booms or air or artillery bombardments. UNRWA reports high rates of failure in its schools. (Makdisi, Palestine Inside Out, 2007)
Dov Weisglass, a former senior adviser to the Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert stated:
“The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
The Red Cross says the siege has led to a steady rise in chronic malnutrition among the 1.5 million people living in the strip. According to the UN, 80 per cent of the population is dependent on foreign aid and 61 per cent is classified as “food-insecure”; it also says 90 per cent of the water supplied to residents is not suitable for drinking.
A joint report by U.S.-based NGO Save the Children and British aid group Medical Aid for Palestinians titled, “Gaza’s Children: Falling Behind“, cites a number of ailments suffered by Palestinian children in Gaza. Ten percent of children under 5 have stunted growth due to prolonged exposure to malnutrition. Anemia, caused by an iron-deficiency, affects 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, 68.1 percent of children nine to 12 months old and 36.8 percent of pregnant mothers.
Incidents of water sanitation-related illnesses such as typhoid fever and diarrhea have increased sharply with cases doubling in children under the age of 3, which will carry with it long-term health implications, the report added.
Gaza’s medical facilities are underfunded, outdated and lack essential supplies. Travel restrictions make it difficult for Gazans to seek medical treatment elsewhere.
It appears to be Mr Netanyahu’s goal to destroy the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people are in the way of an expanded Jewish state, as they always have been since the advent of Zionism. He cannot do it rapidly, but he can do it year by year, month by month and day by day. Almost every day, Palestinians are killed by the Israeli army, and more Palestinian land and resources are confiscated by the state of Israel as the settlements expand into the West Bank.
Zionism, we should all understand, has always been a program of European Jews taking over Palestine and displacing the indigenous Palestinian people so as to create a state exclusively for Jews.
– William James Martin contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: [email protected]