Wednesday

26th Jun 2019

Millions needed by mid-June to feed war-stricken Gazans

  • The 12-year blockade has wrecked the economy, created massive unemployment, and disenfranchised a youth with few if any future prospects. (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

Earlier this month, war reached the Gaza Strip, compounding the misery of some two million people largely locked within the crumbling territory.

"The intensity of missiles and rockets flying back and forth was higher than in 2014 on a daily average basis," Matthias Schmale, who directs the United Nations relief for works agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), told EUobserver in an interview in Brussels.

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  • Mohammed Abu Dagga was shot in the leg in April 2018 (Photo: Oxfam 2018)

The German director oversees the operations from an office inside a large white UN compound in Gaza's city centre and was in Brussels to shore up an extra $60m [€54m] by mid-June to help feed some one million trapped residents.

When this website visited Gaza and Schmale's Gaza office earliter this year, the Israeli air force was already pounding the city with targeted but limited strikes in response to Hamas rocket fire and bomb-laced balloons.

At that point, close to 200 Palestinians had died over the past year following mass weekly protests near the border wall and fence with Israel.

An independent UN commission inquiry report on Gaza had also found credible evidence of Israeli soldiers opening fire against children, disabled people, journalists and medics.

But the two-day war in early May reflected an altogether different intensity and one that highlights the wider desperation of a people cut off from the rest of the world.

Twenty-five Palestinians and four Israelis were killed within 48 hours. In Gaza, 19 buildings were leveled to the ground and when everything began to settle, talks of a ceasefire came unusually late.

"Right now it is a bit quiet again and I repeat, it feels a bit like the quiet before another storm," said Schmale.

The prospect of the Eurovision contest, which took place in Israel, and $480m of Qatari money, is likely to have tempered the tensions and any further bloodshed.

Gaza remains Israel's flashpoint where electricity shortages are frequent and where the equivalent of some 42 Olympic-sized pools of raw sewage pours into the waters of the Mediterranean every single day.

The 12-year blockade has wrecked the economy, created massive unemployment, and disenfranchised a youth with few if any future prospects.

Amjad Al Shawwa, who heads the Palestinian Civil Society, says the weekly demonstrations by the fence reflect the loss of hope. "We are dying," he told reporters earlier this year.

Ismael Qudiah, a 63-year old farmer whose lands brushes up against the eastern border with the Israeli built fence, made similar comments.

"It is heavily monitored by the Israeli forces. We don't feel safe," he told this website, noting the Israelis bulldozers sent in to destroy the harvests. Israeli drones are also dispatched to spray chemicals, killing the plants meant to feed people, he said.

"Even if the plants don't die, we can't feed them to the animals," he said of the loss.

Three years ago, the United Nation's had come out with a report warning that the Gaza Strip would be unliveable by 2020, only seven months away.

But for many, Gaza is no place to live or raise a family. Over 50 percent are jobless. Seventy percent of young people under-30 have no work. Another 80 percent of the refugees in the Gaza Strip live below the poverty and depend on food hand outs.

"We don't have to wait for 2020 for a majority of people to be in unliveable circumstances. The question for me more at this point is what prevents total collapse," said Schmale.

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