RAMALLAH Humanitarian aid is being rushed into Gaza as Israel and Egypt
open their borders temporarily to allow convoys of aid to pass through.
While Israeli drones circle the skies above, Hamas security men are back on
the streets attempting to restore some semblance of law and order. Policemen
are directing traffic. Several looters have been arrested.
Gazans who survived the battering inflicted by Israel's 22-day military campaign,
code-named Operation Cast Lead, are venturing out and trying to pick up the
pieces of their lives.
"People are feeling dazed and confused. Many are desperately trying to
contact family members and friends on the few remaining phone lines that operate
to see if they are still alive or if they are injured," Abdallah al-Agha
from Khan Yunis in the south of Gaza told IPS.
"Others are leaving UN shelters for the first time in days to see if
and what remains of their homes," added al-Agha.
Elena Qleibo, a Gaza-based aid worker from Oxfam and an ex-Costa Rican ambassador
to Israel, said parts of Gaza resembled an apocalypse.
"The destruction wrought on Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, and the Zeitoun
suburb in eastern Gaza city is immense," Qleibo told IPS. "The sewage
is flowing in the streets. Electricity pylons, water and sewage works, municipal
and medical buildings, and homes have been leveled."
Initial estimates state that 15 percent or 20,000 of the Gaza Strip's buildings
have been damaged, with nearly 30,000 Palestinians forced to find shelter in
UN Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) shelters and with family.
Nearly 1,300 Gazans lost their lives, around a third of these children, with
a total of more than half of the deaths civilian. The number of injured is
"People are extremely angry, and the level of hate against Israel is
very high. I have lived and worked in Gaza for many years, and I have never
seen such hatred from the population," said Qleibo.
Gazans are not blaming Hamas, contrary to Israel's wishes. "People laugh
at Israel's claims that this was a war against the Islamic resistance organization
and not one aimed at civilians."
"They see this as a war against all Palestinians. The number of civilians
killed and maimed and the destruction wrought was way too extreme," said
"The scale of death and destruction is most definitely counterproductive.
Throughout this conflict so many experts and global leaders have highlighted
there is no military solution to this conflict an effective political
solution is needed," John Ging, the head of Gaza's (UNRWA), told Maan
UNRWA's main compound in Gaza city, which feeds 750,000 Gazan refugees, half
of the total population, was destroyed in an Israeli attack Jan. 15.
Ging said that 50 aid trucks entered Gaza Saturday, the day Israel announced
its unilateral ceasefire.
"But we need hundreds of trucks. The needs are growing exponentially,
and the pipeline for humanitarian supplies is very narrow. Even those, such
as Palestinian Authority [PA] employees, who were not dependent on UNRWA assistance,
have become dependent. There is nothing on the market, and there is no cash,"
Ging told Maan.
"We cannot contemplate that the crossings will remain closed; there must
be a better future. The ordinary people here during this siege have paid the
price of this conflict and this operation. For them, their singular priority
is access to restore dignity to their existence."
"The closures have driven thousands into aid dependency against their
will that has to end. A solution that prioritizes the needs of the ordinary
people must be found," said Ging.
Egypt allowed 42 seriously injured Gazans to pass through the Rafah crossing
in the south to travel to Egyptian hospitals. Tons of international medical
supplies and three ambulances from Qatar entered Gaza from Rafah. Forty-nine
doctors from abroad are supplementing exhausted teams of Palestinian medical
staff at Gaza's main hospitals.
In addition to medical supplies, 401 tons of food donated by Libya, Morocco,
Oman, and Jordan entered Gaza from Egypt. Ninety tons of food entered Gaza
from an Israeli crossing point.
Egyptian civil society organizations donated nearly 12,000 blankets to replace
those destroyed during Israel's attack on the UN warehouse.
"While international food and medical aid is desperately needed, it is
also imperative that in the longer run urgent socio-psychological treatment
is extended to a severely traumatized civilian population," Qleibo told
Meanwhile, rescue teams are pulling out bodies from underneath mountains of
rubble, something Israeli soldiers stationed in the area previously prevented.
Once all bodies are recovered, the death toll may rise significantly.
Muawiyah Hassanain, director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Health
Ministry in Gaza, said that dozens of bodies were extricated on Sunday alone.
The full scale of the horror is yet to be revealed, as the international foreign
corps based in Israel continues to fight for unrestricted access into Gaza
to report firsthand. Israel has enforced a ban for close on two months on all
media other than a few handpicked reporters embedded with Israeli forces, who
were permitted entry.
"Professionals should be allowed into the battlefield," said Foreign
Press Association secretary Glenys Sugarman, unimpressed by the reporters the
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson's unit let in.
"You can't just send journalists to join the military forces who show
them around. That is not independent and open reporting. In the modern, open
world, when there are people that see and are willing to comprehend what's
going on here this is an important message," added Sugarman.
(Inter Press Service)