Six months after a deadly Israeli offensive and two years of a stifling blockade, Palestinians in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip are “trapped in despair” as they struggle to survive, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report on Monday, June 29.
“The people living there find themselves unable to rebuild their lives and are sliding ever deeper into despair,” said the “Gaza: 1.5 Million People Trapped in Despair” report.
The ICRC says that the more than six months after the three-week assault Israeli launched last December, Gazans still can not rebuild their shattered lives.
The onslaught, which killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, wrecked havoc on the Gaza infrastructure, leaving nearly 20,000 homes and thousands of other buildings damaged.
The ICRC affirms that thousands of Gazans whose homes and belongings were destroyed remain without adequate shelter.
Residents still lack basics and patients can not have and medical care, the report said
The ICRC heaps the blame over the territory’s crisis on the continuing Israeli blockade.
“This small coastal strip is cut off from the outside world,” said the report.
“Even before the latest hostilities, drastic restrictions on the movement of people and goods imposed by the Israeli authorities… had led to worsening poverty, rising unemployment and deteriorating public services.”
Israel has clamped a siege on the Gaza Strip since Hamas was voted to power in 2006.
It further tightened the blockade and closed Gaza’s crossings to the outside world after Hamas assumed control in 2007 following clashes with Fatah rival.
Israel blocks humanitarian aid including harmless goods such as cheeses, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and toilet papers.
The humanitarian catastrophe created by the siege further aggravated after the December war.
With Israel blocking construction materials needed for rebuilding, thousands of Gaza civilians have been forced to take shelters for months in makeshifts tents.
The ICRC describes in its report a bleak picture on how Gazans are “caught up in an unending cycle of deprivation and despair” for more than two years.
“Most people struggle to make ends meet,” says the report.
The report says that most of Gazans have exhausted their “coping mechanisms” with the unbearable living conditions.
“Many have no savings left. They have sold private belongings such as jewellery and furniture and started to sell productive assets including farm animals, land, fishing boats or cars used as taxis.
“They are unable to reduce spending on food any further.”
The report also warned that the worst affected in Gaza are the children, who make up more than half of the population.
The report cites the accounts of many Gazans who describe how they have lost any hope in life as their sufferings go untreated.
"Being stuck here gives me a somber view of the future,” Ibrahim Abu Sobeih, a 24-year-old student who received a scholarship from a US University, but was not allowed through Israel to go there, says in the report.
“I would like to be educated and to make something of myself. I want to be able to help my family financially. But it is very difficult when I am trapped.
“I feel very angry and hopeless.”
Do’aa, 26, who has been waiting for months for permission to transit through Israel for an operation in Jordan, is no less pessimistic in life.
"I have a pancreatic tumor. At first, there was hope that I would be given an operation,” she told the ICRC.
“But as time went by I stopped hoping.”
The ICRC concluded the report urging the international community to press Israel for breaking the cycle of despair and destitution in Gaza.
“The ICRC once again appeals for a lifting of restrictions on the movement of people and goods as the first and most urgent measure to end Gaza’s isolation and to allow its people to rebuild their lives.”
The report also stresses that humanitarian help alone is not enough, as a courageous political process involving all players could be the only way to address the plight of Gaza and restore a dignified life to its people.
“The alternative is a further descent into misery with every passing day.”