Friday, January 30, 2009

Israel Blocking Aid to Gaza

Gee, what a surprise. They've turned back all the aid ships, too.

"Gaza Aid Stuck at Sealed Crossings

Sitting in the cab of his truck under the hot sun, Sayed Sorour has come to the conclusion he and his truck load of aid to the besieged people in Gaza Strip are going no where for more days to come.

"I have been sitting here for three days, and before that I was in Arish for four days," the truck driver told the New York Times on Wednesday, January 28. Sorour, whose vehicle is hauling clothing and blankets, is among many truck drivers stuck at El-Auja crossing between Egypt and Israel.

The normally quiet commercial crossing has been turned into a parking lot of stalled, humanitarian aid, carrying loads of foodstuff and humanitarian aid to Gazans who survived an air, sea and ground Israeli offensive.

"The trucks get to Auja and they sit,” said Ahmed Oraby, head of the Red Crescent office in El Arish. "Many trucks that left are now coming back. They don’t take anything."

From the first hours of the Israeli onslaught, which killed more than 1,350 people, and wounded 5,450 others, thousands of tons of humanitarian aid were offered by Arab and Western countries and tens of relief organizations around the world.

Israel, however, has allowed very little aid into the strip, under persistent calls from aid and relief groups. In the Egypt's El-Arish city, there are even greater quantities of food, clothing and essential supplies sitting, waiting and baking in the sun.

"We have trucks we loaded up five days ago still sitting here, waiting," Hany Moustafa, who manages El-Arish stadium, said.... There are five crossings into Gaza - four from Israel and one from Egypt. However, none are open in a regular or consistent way.


Just like the rest of truck drivers, Abdullah has been stuck in a line outside the stadium in El Arish for 24 hours. Abdullah, however, is not as lucky as his colleague Sorour whose tractor-trailer is filled with clothing and blankets.

"All our lunchmeat, it’s all going to go bad,” said Abdullah. "Nobody is telling us anything. Not Egypt. Not Israel. Nobody explains to us why we are stopping here," Sorour fumed.

Officials and volunteers in Egypt blame the Israelis, saying that even before the passage stalled Israel had allowed supplies to pass through for only 19 hours each week. Israeli officials said that Egypt had not done enough to coordinate the flood of aid coming to Gaza.

But relief officials affirm that the only victims in the situation are the Gazans who have been under a stifling Israeli blockade on the impoverished territory of 1.6 million since July 2007, following Hamas's seizure of power.

Food in Gaza is already scarce due to price increases and the lack of currency, and the destruction of farmland is exacerbating food shortages, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said on Tuesday that now after the Israeli offensive, far more than the usual movement of aid is needed urgently.

"We can't really perform that operation fully, none of the (UN) agencies will be able to do that, unless the crossing points are open on a sustained basis," Holmes told reporters at the United Nations. "Enough will always be allowed in for people to exist, but not enough for the conditions for people to live."


"Blockade thwarts any postwar building boom in Gaza

GAZA, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Whole streets lie in ruins, many thousands of Palestinians are homeless after weeks of Israeli bombing and foreign aid cash is piling up. As a builder in the Gaza Strip, this should be Anwar al-Sahabani's big moment.

Instead, though, he sits at home, angry and sad, not just at the wounds he suffered on the first day of bombardment, but with frustration at being denied the basic supplies he needs to start rebuilding. Israel will not let in cement, steel pipes and other materials it says its Hamas enemies might use to make war.

"The fighting stopped over a week ago but people are still sleeping in the open air," said Sahabani, whose firm employs up to 100 craftsmen and labourers when working at full capacity.

Please see:
Homeless in Gaza

"We should have started reconstruction the day the war ended. But we have no supplies." His men, like him, sit idle, he said: "I am sad and angry and I feel a pain beyond words."

Along the 45 km (30-mile) strip of Mediterranean coastline, half-finished construction sites stand silent, and, amid the ruins left by this month's violence, families are building makeshift wood-and-plastic shelters to escape the cold....

Peter Lerner, a Defence Ministry official dealing with trade for Gaza, said Israel was helping international aid agencies in their efforts to move in the food and other vital supplies for the 1.5 million Gazans, most of whom are refugees, from families that fled or were driven from what is now Israel in 1948.

Yeah, ISRAEL is a big fat help, uh-huh!

: Photographing the Children of Gaza

How about those WAR CRIMES charges, 'eh?

But until Israel was satisfied that cement would not be used by Hamas for fortifications and that steel pipes would be used only for plumbing and not to build improvised rockets for firing at Israeli towns, the embargo on construction material remained:

"We are working together with the international community to assist those needs that are beyond the humanitarian issues, such as building and reconstruction," Lerner said. But he added: "We are not interested today in rebuilding Hamas, their bunkers. We are not interested in supplying them with pipes that will be used for rockets."


.... Even before losing some 5,000 homes this month and sustaining damage worth up to $2 billion by international estimates, Gaza was in dire need of a construction boom. At its present growth rate, the population is doubling with every generation, creating an acute shortage of schools and housing.

"It is just not acceptable in the 21st century that 1.5 million people are imprisoned like this," said Zaeem, dismissing Israel's security concerns about uses of cement as a "pretext".

U.N. officials have described Israel's blockade as illegal "collective punishment" of civilians....


Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel's infrastructure minister, made clear this week, however, that the government, which faces an election battle against the right-wing opposition on Feb. 10, has no intention of opening up the crossings in a hurry....


Attacks by Israel still happening in Gaza

MIDEAST: Peace Recedes as Israeli Settlements Expand