Death blow? No!

IssueFebruary 2009
Feature by Milan Rai , Emily Johns

Gaza desperately needs aid, but more than that it needs Israel to lift the near-total closure of Gaza’s borders, according to aid experts. Palestinian estimates of the cost of the first fortnight of the Israeli assault range from $976m to $1.7bn.

Even before the latest attack, Gaza was reeling from the effects of the Israeli blockade. Unemployment was nearly 50%, almost all of Gaza’s 3,900 manufacturers had been forced to shut down, 80% of drinking water was substandard, electricity was intermittent and tens of millions of gallons of sewage were thrown into the sea every day because treatment facilities had insufficient supplies. While the government of Saudi Arabia has promised to donate $1bn to Gaza, aid can only be effective if the Israeli siege is lifted. If concrete cannot enter the territory, for example, buildings can be reconstructed. All border crossings must be open, says John Holmes of the UN.

Tor Wennesland, the top Norwegian diplomat in the Palestinian territories says: “You cannot rebuild Gaza without open borders.”

“A continuation of the [Israeli] closure means the final death blow to Gaza,” says Palestinian economist Mohammad Shtayyeh, who assists in liaising between the non-Hamas government in the West Bank and donor countries.