If Gaza Becomes Uninhabitable, It Is Israel's Responsibility
06 October 2015
By Khalid Amayreh
The Gaza Strip, ravaged by devastating wars of aggression
by Israel, could become uninhabitable for residents within just five years, a
United Nations development agency warned this week.
"The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population
density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza
un-livable by 2020, said the report.
Gaza, a tiny enclave of just 362 square kilometers (about 225 square miles)
squeezed between the apartheid state of Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean
Sea that is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians, counts one of the highest
population densities in the world.
The manifestly hermetic blockade imposed on the coastal enclave for close to
two decades effectively "ravaged the already debilitated infrastructure of
Gaza, shattered its productive base, left no time for meaningful
reconstruction or economic recovery and impoverished the Palestinian
population in Gaza," the report said.
The report added that "Short of ending the blockade, donor aid... will not
reverse the ongoing de-development and impoverishment in Gaza."
There is no doubt that Israel bears most of the blame for this gigantic
disaster facing the Gaza Strip. Israel has been in tight control of Gaza
since 1967. Even today, nine years after its symbolic withdrawal from the
coastal enclave, Israel continues to control Gaza border-crossings,
territorial waters, skies. Even poor Gaza fishermen who venture a few
kilometers into the sea are often shot at and injured or killed by Israeli
Since 2009, Israel carried out three major wars of aggression on the already
impoverished Gaza Strip, killing and maiming tens of thousands of people,
mostly innocent civilians.
The three wars also destroyed or seriously damaged as many as a hundred
thousand homes and displaced more than 750,000 civilians. The UN and other
international bodies described Israeli military operations in Gaza as war
crimes or crimes against humanity.
According to the UN report, as many as 247 factories and 300 commercial
centers were fully or partially destroyed, and Gaza's only power station
sustained severe damage.
The overall situation had already been tragic even before the war.
Power supply covered only 40 percent of demand in the Strip. With regard to
water supplies, the report pointed out that that up to 95 percent of water
from coastal aquifers - Gazans main source of freshwater - was considered
unsafe to drink.
Unemployment in Gaza meanwhile reached 44 percent - the highest level on
record - hitting young women especially hard, leaving more than eight out of
10 women out of work. Predictably, the phenomenally high unemployment
seriously affected people's ability to secure food.
The report pointed out that a full 72 percent of all households in Gaza are
struggling with food insecurity. The number of Palestinian refugees who rely
entirely on food distribution from UN agency has skyrocketed from 72,000 in
2000 to 868,000 by last May.
The catastrophic situation in Gaza is made even worse by the Egyptian
blockade of the Strip whereby the Rafah border terminal, Gaza's only conduit
to the outside world is nearly permanently shut off, ostensibly to punish and
torment Gazans for supporting Hamas.
Indeed, many Palestinians have come to believe that the "evil trio" of
Israel, the Sissi Junta and the Ramallah regime, are coordinating their
respective measures against Gaza for the express purpose of creating an
implosion throughout the coastal enclave.
Each of the three parties hopes to achieve a specific goal. The PLO would get
rid of an implacable political opponent while the Sissi regime would vent its
failure to eradicate an increasingly bloody insurrection against the
anti-Islamist coup. As to the Israeli goal, it is to eradicate the last
remaining obstacle impeding the liquidation of the Palestinian cause under
the false rubric of a peace process which virtually has no substance.
It is also widely believed that the PLO regime in Ramallah is conniving or
openly collaborating with Egypt's military junta to keep up the pressure on
Gaza for the purpose of forcing Gazans to rise up against Hamas, the PLO's
main political rival.
The dire situation in the Gaza Strip is getting even direr by the snail-slow
pace of reconstruction, mainly due to the Israeli policy of restricting the
entry of building materials to the Strip.
This means that hundreds of thousands of Gaza civilians will remain homeless
and without shelters, with all the humanitarian and security ramifications
Another refugee crisis looming?
There is no doubt that the world could soon face another huge wave of
refugees from the Middle East, specifically from the Gaza Strip, if the
international community, especially Europe and the US, didn't take immediate
proactive measures to stop the menacingly deteriorating living conditions in
the coastal Strip.
Israel, whether we like it or not, is the number-1 villain because it is
still the occupying power in the Gaza Strip according to international law.
The key to the rehabilitation of Gaza is decidedly in Israel's hands. Hence,
it is imperative that the international community exert a meaningful
pressure, not just words, on Israel now in order to make the Israeli
government responsive to the urgent needs of some 2 million Gazans who have
chosen life over death and are opting to cling to their ancestral homeland
rather than embark on a precarious journey to the shores of Europe
Yes, the people of Gaza, like the rest of Palestinians, don't want to leave
their homeland. They are not even looking for a better life in Germany or
other European countries.
However, the enduring harsh blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt,
which is making Gaza increasingly uninhabitable, might very well produce
inevitable tragic consequences which could be similar or worse than the
phantasmagoric refugee crisis being played out on our TV screens every
The world has a few years to avert the next tragedy. So, to the chief powers
of the world, I say "Don't say we didn't know."
Khalid Amayreh is a Palestinian journalist and political commentator
living in Occupied Palestine.