Humanity, where are you?
Why do you turn your face away?
Why do you keep looking the other way?
I am here
In Gaza's alleyways
Humanity, where are you?
Look at me
— Nahida Izzat, from “Look at me”
In Gaza, every aspect of life is affected by the Israeli siege. Food security, water, sanitation services, healthcare and education are all threatened by daily interruptions of electricity. In recent years, the capacity of Gaza’s only power plant has been limited because of fuel shortages; but after being bombed in July 2014, the plant is now inoperable.
Israel’s latest assault on Gaza caused extensive damages to the Strip’s electricity network, estimated at around $42.5 million. Amidst the many hardships that Palestinians endure, blackouts are now amongst the most pervasive, affecting virtually every aspect of daily life. Power outages of up to 18 hours a day continue in most areas across Gaza.
Critically, power outages severely limit Palestinians’ access to water. Around 95% of the water in the Gaza is undrinkable because, as Haaretz reports, Israel requires the Palestinian Authority — which is responsible for the water system — to make do with the groundwater located inside the Strip itself, despite the enormous growth of Gaza’s population. This has led to constant overpumping, which in turn has resulted in seawater and sewage contaminating the groundwater. As a result, Palestinians in Gaza depend on purification plants for drinking water, which require a constant supply of electricity to run them.
During the latest war, Israel also damaged 33,000 meters of water and wastewater networks in Gaza, a figure that excludes areas in the north. The Palestinian Water Authority said that 11 wells and two purification plants were completely destroyed by the bombing, while 15 wells and four purification plants were partially destroyed. Furthermore, 5% of main lines, 3% of distribution lines, and 12% of household connections were damaged during the conflict. Water quality has subsequently been inconsistent, with complaints of sewage entering water pipes due to damage and around 450,000 people unable to access municipal water. Farmers are particularly impacted by the constant shortages of water.
Farming in Gaza is already severely restricted due to Israel's so-called “buffer zone” – a unilaterally demarcated and militarily patrolled area that, according to Harvard researcher Sara Roy, “now absorb[s] nearly 14% of Gaza's total land and at least 48% of total arable land.” This is after 7,800 acres of agricultural land were destroyed during “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008/2009. Although the ”buffer zone” officially extends 300 meters into Gaza's territory, “attacks against civilians take place anywhere up to approximately 1.5 kilometres inside the border fence,” according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).
And yet the Western media rarely cover Israel’s violent repression of Palestinians non-violently resisting these “buffer zones” or merely trying to go about their everyday lives inside them. From June 2007 until July 2013, Israel killed 214 Palestinians, including at least 127 civilians, and injured 825, including at least 761 civilians, along the “buffer zones”.
As PCHR points out, these behaviours amount to war crimes: “Preventing Palestinians from accessing their lands and fishing areas violates numerous provisions of international human rights law, including the right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Enforcing the ‘buffer zone’ through the use of live fire often results in, inter alia, the direct targeting of civilians and/or indiscriminate attacks, both of which constitute war crimes.”
However, Israel is not the only country currently oppressing the Palestinians living in Gaza. Since the July 2013 military coup in Egypt that ousted the country’s first democratically elected government, the Egyptian authorities have severely restricted entry into and exit from Gaza through the Rafah Crossing, impacting thousands of students, patients with illnesses and others. Lives are being ruined on a daily basis, simply because of politics.