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Gaza: from silent crisis to conflict

Damage in Gaza caused  by the conflict in November 2012
Damage in Gaza caused by the conflict in November 2012

Earlier this year, when I was in Gaza, people everywhere asked me the same thing:

Ah, how do you find it here? What do you think of this place?

It’s a challenging question. How do I find Gaza?

Unexpectedly beautiful. Impossibly sad.

Beauty without freedom

People in Gaza were charming, warm, welcoming. The military borders, drones and endless patrols were cold and forbidding.

The beach sands glowed golden and were punctuated with colourful huts, but the water was dangerously polluted and very few braved the swim.

Tiny boats dotted the water, but military-enforced boundaries mean fishermen must keep within a strict limit (six nautical miles) along the entire coastline.

Venture any further and gunships fire. That endless blue horizon is only a mocking illusion of freedom.

The traditional food there was wonderful, but scarce for most: 80% of all families survive on food packages from international aid agencies.

95% of the water supply is contaminated

Water-borne diseases are increasing, which is particularly dangerous for infants. Fuel shortages, electricity blackouts and the blockade on essential medicines and supplies meant that the humanitarian situation was dire when I was there.

Yet it was not considered an emergency then – rather a low-level, continuous, insidious crisis.

And now it’s taken a turn for the worse, with an escalation of tension between Israel and Gaza.

Spiralling violence is resulting in a steadily rising death toll and scores of injuries on both sides. Essential supplies such as food, medicine and fuel, already scarce, are now running out in the tiny blockaded enclave of Gaza.

Operating on adrenalin alone

Save the Children’s team on the ground in Gaza are exhausted from four nights of bombings. They are operating on adrenalin alone.

Families tell us that their children are terrified, with nowhere that’s safe to go for refuge. Israeli families are also living in fear as rockets fall indiscriminately from Gaza, and their children too are suffering.

Killing children and destroying infrastructure

“Children are the ones who always, inevitably, bear the worst consequences of any armed conflict”, said our co-Country Director for the occupied Palestinian territory, David Hassell, and he went on to explain that impact.

“The use of explosive weapons in populated areas kills children and destroys vital infrastructure.

“International law is clear that indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Israeli and Palestinian children have the right to be freed from the fear that comes with living under constant fire.”

Diplomacy is the solution

The only solution is diplomacy. Save the Children is calling on all parties to stop the violence, re-establish a ceasefire and agree to long-term measures that would allow innocent civilians on both sides to live without the fear that has dominated their lives for far too long.

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