Updates on Gaza’s Water Crisis

A Public Affair, November 15, 2018

On today’s episode, we take a look at the water crisis in Gaza and its effects on the inhabitants there, particularly the children. The discussion also highlights people-to-people grassroots efforts happening here in the U.S. to respond to the disaster, along with local ecumenical projects for peace in the Middle East.

Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch is executive director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), a non-profit humanitarian aid organization based on Berkeley, California that supports children and families in Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon. He is a Palestinian refugee from Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank and is co-founder of the Ibdaa Cultural Center in Dheisheh. He was co-producer and production manager of the documentary film Promises, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002.

Jeff Spritzer-Resnick is a Madison-based civil rights attorney. He is the president of Madison’s Shaarei Shamayim congregation and chair of the Madison chapter of J Street, a non-profit advocacy group working for a peaceful resolution between Israel and Palestine.

Cover photo by Oxfam International on Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Israel kills Gaza fisher despite ceasefire

Palestinian fishing boats in the Gaza City seaport in July 2018. (Ashraf Amra | APA images)

Maureen Clare Murphy, The Electronic Intifada, 14 November 2018

Israel killed a fisherman in Gaza less than 24 hours after a ceasefire ended intensive bombing against and rocket fire from the territory.

Gaza’s health ministry identified the slain man as Nawaf Ahmad al-Attar, 20.

The head of Gaza’s fishers union said that Israeli soldiers positioned on land shot at al-Attar when he was only 30 meters into the sea in northern Gaza.

Israel restricted access to the sea for fishing since Monday evening, according to the rights group Gisha.

On Wednesday Israel partly lifted the restrictions but banned fishers from working in the waters of northern Gaza, accounting for one-third of the coastline.

The permitted fishing areas off of other areas of Gaza range from six to nine nautical miles.

Under the 1993 Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Gaza’s fishing zone was supposed to extend 20 nautical miles out from shore. But Israel has never allowed this and the furthest Gaza’s fishers have been able to sail out has been 12 nautical miles.

“These restrictions and practices further impoverish fishers who live below the subsistence level,” the rights group Al Mezan stated on Wednesday.

Nine fishers have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since the year 2000.

Two Palestinian fishers were killed by Egyptian naval forces this year, including Mustafa Khalil Abu Odeh, 30, who was shot dead off the coast of Rafah, southern Gaza, last week.

The use of lethal force against fishers in Gaza is part of a militarily enforced land, air and naval blockade imposed on the territory for more than 11 years.

The human rights group Al-Haq stated this week that the blockade, which amounts to unlawful collective punishment, has created “a human-made humanitarian crisis” for its two million residents, “more than half of whom are Palestinian refugees.”

The ceasefire agreement announced on Tuesday, essentially a return to the status quo that followed the ceasefire ending a massive assault on Gaza in 2014, is not enough to prevent further escalation and bring normal living conditions to the territory, Gisha stated on Wednesday.

“In the four-plus years since the ceasefire was reached, there has been a gaping chasm between Israel’s official rhetoric and its actions on the ground in Gaza,” Gisha stated.

“Israeli officials pay lip service to the difficult situation and the need for economic recovery in the Strip, while harsh restrictions on movement of people and goods continue in a way that renders recovery a distant dream.”

Over the past eight months nearly 175 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during mass protests against the blockade. The protests also call for the realization of refugees’ right to return to lands of origin on the other side of the Gaza-Israel boundary.

This week Al-Haq reiterated its call for sanctions on Israel over its “systematic suppression of the Great Return March protests.”

A man holds a tray of sweets amid a crowd
Palestinians celebrate the resignation of Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman outside the Gaza City home of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on 14 November. (Ashraf Amra | APA images)

Avigdor Lieberman, blamed by Hamas for the botched commando raid precipitating the crisis earlier this week, resigned from his post as defense minister on Wednesday in protest of Tuesday’s ceasefire and an influx of Qatari cash bringing economic relief to Gaza last week.

Weeks earlier Lieberman had advocated for another war on Gaza to enforce Israel’s blockade on the territory.

Continue reading

The health system in Gaza cannot handle another war

A new war would lead to the collapse of an already-debilitated medical infrastructure in Gaza, Palestinian health officials warn.

A wounded Palestinian protester is evacuated and treated at Al-Awda Hospital in Gaza City, after the Israeli navy tried to block a flotilla that set out to break the decade-long blockade with gunfire and tear gas canisters on September 24, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Amjad Yaghi, +972 Magazine, November 13, 2018

GAZA CITY — Fear has been palpable across Gaza for the past couple of days, not only in homes but also in hospitals and medical clinics. For years, health professionals have warned of a looming collapse of medical services. If Tuesday’s nascent, Egyptian-brokered cease-fire doesn’t hold, a war would devastate Gaza’s medical infrastructure, Palestinian health authorities say.

On Monday, Gazans experienced one of the most difficult nights since the war in 2014. After Israeli special forces bungled a covert operation deep inside the strip, the ensuing firefight nearly led to a full-fledged war. The barrage of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket fire into Israel that followed, only made the situation worse.

It’s not just that Gaza’s hospitals and clinics are in bad shape: they are still busy treating people who were wounded in previous rounds of violence, most recently during the Great Return March. Israeli snipers shot thousands of demonstrators, leaving Gaza’s hospitals overwhelmed to the point that hundreds of patients had to make do with treatment in hospital corridors, sometimes on the floor.

Health services in Gaza have been stretched even thinner since early November, when 12 people contracted the swine flu, six of whom ended up dying. There is no vaccine for the virus in Gaza, neither in the Ministry of Health’s stocks nor in private practices, which is emblematic of a far broader problem.

A Palestinian man walks through the wreckage of a building that was damaged by Israeli air strikes in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 13, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A Palestinian man walks through the wreckage of a building that was damaged by Israeli air strikes in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 13, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The shortfall of medicine and equipment is threatening entire medical care programs, said Maher Shamieh, the general director of primary care at Gaza’s Health Ministry. Of the 143 drugs currently available, Gaza has run out of almost 100, with 16 more medicines expected to be used up in the next month. A war in Gaza will lead to an “uncontrollable medical crisis,” he said.

Compounding the deficit in medicine is a lack of specialists, according to the director of government hospitals in Gaza, Dr. Abdel Latif al-Hajj. There are 12 government hospitals in Gaza that employ about 2,000 doctors, of whom 800 are specialists, explained al-Hajj. Part of the problem, he explained, is that various issues resulting from the Palestinian political division between the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza have disincentivized younger doctors from joining government hospitals.

Israel has imposed a land, air and sea blockade on the densely-populated Gaza Strip since June 2007, when Hamas became the governing authority there. The restriction on movement of people and goods has created a situation where more than 80 percent of Gazans rely on humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. With critical aid to Palestinians at an all-time low, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has deteriorated even further in the past months.

International organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and International Medical Corps have helped fill some of the demand for medical staff and equipment, but “a new war would be a disaster for Gaza,” said al-Hajj.

Gazans with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma — who have already been deprived of necessary care for several months at times — are likely to become even more vulnerable should war break out, explained al-Hajj, since their treatment would be delayed even further.

The most difficult medical cases are treated at Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in the Strip. Unlike medical staff in most countries, a doctor in Gaza might have to conduct eight surgeries in a single day; around 50 surgeries are scheduled every day, five days a week, not including urgent operations, said Dr. Usama Abu Jabal, director of outpatient clinics at the hospital. But thousands more Gazans await operations — and the list of patients is only increasing.

Continue reading

Israeli Incursions into Gaza Are the Rule, Not the Exception

Israeli troops have crossed into Gaza over 70 times this year alone, according to the UN. And those are only the incursions we know about.

File photo of Israeli troops deployed along the Gaza border. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
File photo of Israeli troops deployed along the Gaza border. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Henriette Chacar, +972 Magazine, November 14, 2018

[Editor’s note: In accordance with our legal obligation, this article was sent to the IDF Censor for review prior to publication. We are not allowed to indicate if and where the article was censored.]

Since Israeli special forces troops got into a deadly firefight with Hamas commandos deep inside the Gaza Strip Sunday night, Israel has dropped dozens of bombs and missiles into Gaza and Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

The New York Times described the special forces raid as “the first known Israeli ground incursion into Gaza since Operation Protective Edge, in July 2014.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Since the start of 2015 through the end of October 2018, the Israeli army made 262 known ground incursions and operations to level land inside the Gaza Strip, including over 70 this year alone. This does not include the unknown number of covert operations like the one that went awry on Sunday.

As one retired Israeli general explained on national television, such covert raids across enemy lines are actually rather routine. “Activities that most civilians aren’t aware of happen all the time, every night and in every region,” Tal Russo told Israel’s Channel 10 while discussing the events in Gaza.

According to data obtained by +972 Magazine from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel carried out 21 incursions into Gaza in 2014 (excluding the seven-week war). The next year, in 2015, that number more than doubled, to 56 incidents. In 2016 and 2017, 68 and 65 incursions took place, respectively. By end of October 2018, 73 such incidents had been recorded, according to the UN data.

What is exceptional about Sunday’s action is not that Israeli soldiers crossed into Gaza, but that the military operation was exposed. Most of the time when Israeli forces infiltrate the coastal enclave, they remain within 200 to 300 meters of the border fence, Ibtisam Zaqout, head of field work at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights explained to +972.

Soldiers routinely cross in military bulldozers, not by foot, mostly to raze and level land in order to maintain line of sight in the Israeli-maintained “buffer zone” along the border, she added.

Israel hasn’t consistently determined the perimeter of this access-restricted area along the fence with Gaza, and it has often employed deadly violence to ward off Gaza residents. Between 2010 and 2017, Israeli security forces killed at least 161 Palestinians and injured more than 3,000 near the Gaza-Israel fence, according to a Gisha report published in August.

These regular restrictions of movement near the fence, which the report describes as “arbitrary” and “inconsistent,” are not only life-threatening, but they also severely harm the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Gazan farmers and herders, and stifle the strip’s economic development.

The restriction of movement along the fence, in addition to the daytime, overt incursions that affect farmers and scrap collectors, are just two examples of the ways in which Israel continues to exert control over Palestinians in Gaza despite the “disengagement” of 2005. Since Hamas took control of the strip in June 2007, Israel has also maintained a strict land, air and sea blockade.

The covert incursions we learned about Sunday night demonstrate something even broader, however. The raid came at the height of the most serious cease-fire talks we’ve seen between Israel and Hamas since 2014. That it occurred just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared he was doing everything to avert another war, suggests that Israel did not intend for it to actually spark an escalation. In other words, there was nothing special about the cross-border raid other than the fact that it left seven people dead.

Asked on Monday about the frequency of cross-border incursions into Gaza in recent years, an IDF spokesperson would only say that the army “does not discuss such matters.”

Continue reading

November 15, 2018
Gaza Water Crisis on WORT

Thursday, Nov 15
12 noon – 1 pm

A Public Affair with host Allen Ruff will feature guests Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch, Executive Director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, and Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, President of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, discussing the water crisis in Gaza in advance of Madison’s November 20 fundraiser for Clean Water for the Children of Gaza.

Tune in at 89.9 FM or Listen Live online, and call in at 256-2001. There will also be a discussion of this week’s escalation of violence in Gaza. If you can’t listen live, you can find the show later in the WORT Archives.

Gaza’s drinking water spurs blue baby syndrome, serious illnesses

Contaminated and scarce water owing to Israel’s brutal siege and bombing of infrastructure leads to death and disease.

A Palestinian woman bathes her son with water from a tank filled by a charity inside their dwelling in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 3, 2017 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Sandy Tolan, Al Jazeera, 29 Oct 2018

This article is the first of a two-part series on Gaza’s water crisis. The second, which examines solutions to Gaza’s water and health catastrophe, was published on Tuesday, October 30.

Gaza – The unshaven doctor with circles under his eyes enters the children’s ward at Al Nassar hospital in Gaza City. It’s a Thursday evening, almost the weekend. The ward is bleak and eerily quiet, but for the occasional wail of an infant.

At each cubicle, sectioned off by curtains, it’s a similar image: A baby lies alone in a bed, hooked up to tubes, wires and a generator; a mother sits in silent witness at the bedside.

Dr Mohamad Abu Samia, the hospital’s director of paediatric medicine, exchanges a few quiet words with one mother, then gently lifts the infant’s gown, revealing a scar from heart surgery nearly half the length of her body.

At the next cubicle, he attends to a child suffering from severe malnutrition. She lies still, her tiny body connected to a respirator. Because electricity runs only four hours a day in Gaza, the baby must stay here, where generators keep her alive.

“We are very busy,” the overwhelmed doctor says. “Babies suffering from dehydration, from vomiting, from diarrhoea, from fever.” The skyrocketing rate of diarrhoea, the world’s second largest killer of children under five, is reason enough for alarm.


But in recent months Dr Abu Samia has seen sharp rises in gastroenteritis, kidney disease, paediatric cancer, marasmus – a disease of severe malnutrition appearing in infants – and “blue baby syndrome”, an ailment causing bluish lips, face, and skin, and blood the colour of chocolate.

Before, the doctor says, he saw “one or two cases” of blue baby syndrome in five years. Now it’s the opposite – five cases in one year.

Asked if he has studies to back up his findings, he says: “We live in Gaza, in an emergency situation … We have time only to relieve the problem, not to research it.”

Yet Palestinian Ministry of Health figures support the doctor’s findings. They show a “doubling” of diarrheal disease, rising to epidemic levels, as well as spikes last summer in salmonella and even typhoid fever.

Independent, peer-reviewed medical journals have also documented increased infant mortality, anaemia, and an alarming magnitude” of stunting among Gaza’s children.

A Rand Corporation study has found that bad water is a leading cause of child mortality in Gaza.

Simply put, Gaza’s children are facing a deadly health epidemic of unprecedented proportions.

Continue reading

How can Gaza’s contaminated water catastrophe be solved?

Barely three percent of Gaza’s drinking water wells is fit for human consumption, and the crisis is claiming lives.

Mousa Hilleh, 48, rebuilt his home after the 2014 Gaza war and says not having access to clean water is a major concern [Abdel Kareem Hana/Al Jazeera]

Sandy Tolan, Al Jazeera, 30 Oct 2018

This article is the second of a two-part series on Gaza’s water crisis. The first, which examines Gaza’s water and health catastrophe, was published on Monday, October 29.

Gaza – When it comes to survival in Gaza, safe, clean drinking water is not at the top of Mousa Hillah’s list of priorities.

Since the 2014 war, Hillah, known to neighbours and family as Abu Ali, has had far bigger worries, which are etched deeply into the exhausted face of the 48-year-old grandfather.

Dodging shell fire from Israeli tanks, he fled with his family from the destruction of his Shuja’iyya neighbourhood, flattened by Israel in an attack so devastating – 7,000 shells in barely an hour – that it astonished even US military officials. (“Holy bejeezus!” one retired general exclaimed.)

The family took refuge for months in an in-law’s house near the sea, along with 50 other people. When they returned, Abu Ali found his home – the one he had built after 30 years of working construction in Israel – utterly destroyed.

Brick by board, he rebuilt it, adorning his front entrance, in a dose of biting irony, with repurposed tank shells.

And now, as he sits in the filtered morning light beneath a lattice of grape leaves, he worries less about potable water than the Israeli drone buzzing overhead – often the harbinger of another attack.

God forbid if the military on either side, Israel or Egypt, starts shooting people approaching the fence, desperate for clean water.

Gidon Bromberg, director of Ecopeace Middle East, based in Tel Aviv

“I want to sleep well,” Abu Ali says, as his family takes refuge inside the rebuilt house. “I don’t feel safe in my home.”

So the brackish, undrinkable water that sputters from his tap, or the sweet water with possible faecal contamination in his rooftop tank: these are issues Abu Ali files under the category of extreme nuisance.

This very morning, for example, the electricity came on only from 6:30 to 8:30.

It shut off before the water delivery truck arrived – “too late to pump the water to the roof,” Abu Ali complains.

A shortage of drinking water is a major concern, but clearly, worrying about the buzzing drone takes priority.

Gaza’s water catastrophe

Yet if the Gaza Strip truly becomes “uninhabitable” by 2020, as the UN and humanitarian groups warn, it will be largely because of the utter collapse of the system for delivering safe drinking water and properly disposing of disease-causing sewage.

Continue reading

Scars of Freedom

Addameer, 16 October 2018

“Scars of Freedom” describes the Palestinian experience of arrest, interrogation, and life in captivity that carries great political, economic, and social impact.

From the beginning of the occupation to the present day the arrest and incarceration of Palestinians has been used continuously to suppress their aspirations for independence and freedom, to oppress Palestinian prisoners, and to inflict collective punishment on their families.

Addameer has also published I’ve Been There: A Study of Torture and Inhumane Treatment in Al-Moscabiyah Interrogation Center.

The Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. Established in 1992 by a group of activists interested in human rights, the center offers free legal aid to political prisoners, advocates their rights at the national and international level, and works to end torture and other violations of prisoners’ rights through monitoring, legal procedures and solidarity campaigns. Addameer is Arabic for conscience.

ADC Condemns Israel’s Attacks on Gaza

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) | November 13, 2018 |

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) condemns in the strongest terms Israel’s recent airstrikes against the Gaza Strip. On November 12, 2018, Israeli military aerial attacks killed at least seven Palestinian civilians. Additionally, Israel has bombed and destroyed several civilian buildings in Gaza, including family homes, a hotel, the office of the human rights organization Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and a T.V. station office. ADC firmly calls on Israel to immediately stop its military air campaign against the Gaza Strip and to halt targeting and killing Palestinians. Israel continues to commit human rights violations against the Palestinian people with impunity. ADC condemns attacks on all civilians.

Since March 30, 2018, Israel has killed over 200 Palestinians in Gaza, including children, humanitarian aid workers, and marked members of the press. In 2018 alone, Israel has killed 46 children in Gaza and 52 children throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). ADC calls on the U.S. administration together with the international community to hold Israel accountable for its repeated gross human rights violations against the Palestinian people.

Additionally, Israel’s eleven-year illegal siege of Gaza has created what the UN defines as “one of the world’s largest open-air prisons.” Over 95% of the water in Gaza is deemed undrinkable, electricity is limited to only 3-6 hours per day, and the deteriorating health care system in Gaza operates in a constant crisis mode. The U.N. reports that the humanitarian disaster in Gaza is so severe that Gaza will be unlivable by the year 2020. ADC support the UN’s repeated calls on Israel to lift the siege on Gaza.

We call on the U.S. administration to uphold its domestic laws that stipulate the U.S. must immediately halt financial aid and training to foreign military units that commit gross violations of human rights, as it is stated in the U.S. Leahy law. The U.S. has a responsibility to uphold the values of human rights, peace, and dignity for all people. The Palestinian people are not an exception.

Israeli Cabinet decides to continue airstrikes on Gaza ‘as necessary’

Ma’an News, Nov. 13, 2018

BETHLEHEM — The Israeli Cabinet reportedly decided on Tuesday afternoon to resume the offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip, following a nearly seven-hour meeting.

Hebrew-language news sites reported that following a meeting that lasted for nearly seven hours, the Israeli Cabinet decided to continue airstrikes targeting the Gaza Strip “as necessary.”

According to a statement released by the Cabinet and published on Israel National News, “The Political-Security Cabinet discusses events in the south. The cabinet heard reports from the IDF and security sources about the attacks and the widespread actions against the terrorist elements in Gaza, and instructed the IDF to continue its operations as necessary.”

UN and Egyptian officials will reportedly visit Gaza on Wednesday.

Earlier Tuesday, sources told Ma’an that the Palestinian factions agreed to a ceasefire agreement upon request by Egypt and the United Nations (UN).

A total of seven Palestinians have been killed since Monday evening, while more than 30 were injured.