Palestinians living in Gaza have had no direct access to international air transport ever since the Gaza International Airport, located in the south of the Strip near the border with Egypt, was bombed and destroyed by Israel in 2000. Under the terms of the 1993 Oslo accords, Israel had agreed to the opening of the airport.
According to The Guardian, “Israel bombed first the control tower, then the runway, and finally the elegant Moroccan-designed terminal,” completely destroying an airport built from $86 million of international funding. Fathi Sabbagh, a Palestinian journalist who was on the inaugural flight at the airport when it officially opened back in 1998, told the newspaper: “That moment felt like an honour. When Israel destroyed the airport, a dream vanished.”
During the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian factions in summer 2014 to end the fighting in Gaza, Hamas demanded for the airport to be reopened for the movement of people and goods; however, the airport continues to remain in ruins.
Meanwhile, Israeli drones constantly fly in the skies overhead, recalling the trauma of the latest war, which for Palestinians living in Gaza is never too long ago. See what life is like for one Palestinian family after their home was bombed during the brutal summer 2014 war in “24 Hours in Gaza”, an interactive diary by Al-Jazeera English.
Read more first-hand stories of Israel’s 2014 aerial bombardment at Voices from Gaza.
The children of Gaza are particularly scarred. According to The Telegraph, after Israel’s assault on Gaza in summer 2014, “Children who saw their siblings or parents killed, often gruesomely, have been left stricken and around 35 per cent to 40% of Gaza’s [one] million children are suffering from shell-shock according to Hasan Zeyada, a psychologist with the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.”
Shell-shocked and missing their friends and loved ones, the children of Gaza are forced to attend overcrowded schools in buildings that still bear visible signs of the wars. During the last three military assaults, Israel repeatedly targeted UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools, while preventing the entry of construction materials to build more schools for Gaza’s children. As the Brookings Doha Centre notes: “Construction materials for schools, books, textbooks, and pencils are repeatedly denied entry into Gaza, hampering the ability of the [government and] international community to increase access to education, particularly the construction of an additional 250 needed schools. A lack of fuel in addition to frequent power cuts meant that in 2012 nearly 95% of primary and secondary school students in Gaza had insufficient electricity to complete their homework most of the time.”
Read Sami Kishawi’s article on “Israel’s historical fear of the Palestinian mind witnessed in Gaza today”.
And there is nowhere else for Palestinians to go. With both the Rafah Crossing with Egypt and the Beit Hanoun/Erez Crossing with Israel – Gaza’s only two civilian gateways to the outside world – dramatically restricted, this means that Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip who wish to study or train abroad cannot; who require special medical assistance are denied treatment; and who have family members living outside of Gaza cannot visit their relatives.
According to Richard Falk, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights: “The entrapment of the Gazan population within closed borders is part of a deliberate Israeli pattern of prolonged collective punishment that has for the past several years been imposed on Gaza. This amounts to a grave breach of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which qualifies as a potential Crime Against Humanity.”