Gaza: breaking the siege

IssueMarch 2008
News by Jill Evans

On 5 February, I was one of ten Members of the European Parliament who broke through the Israeli siege and travelled to Gaza to see the situation for ourselves.

The anger I feel following the visit could drive me to write several books. Here, I have focussed on what the occupation means for the children.

In the Al-Shifa Hospital I visited the ward where thirty premature babies lay in incubators. These tiny children are completely dependent on the electricity supply.

If it went off they would die in half an hour.

But the Israeli government had been cutting the electricity supply and preventing supplies of fuel from coming over the border to Gaza. The hospital was running on generators, but gasoline supplies were dwindling.

How could anyone threaten the lives of little babies?

I also met a little boy who was receiving treatment on a dialysis machine. So many of the machines have broken down because of the ban on spare parts and so many drugs have run out that they have difficulty coping.

An application had been made for him to travel to Israel for treatment but he had been turned down on the grounds of security.

When a state sees a sick little boy as a threat to its security, there must be a sickness in the state itself. This illegal collective punishment of the citizens of Gaza is inhuman and must be stopped. People are running short of all the essentials needed to live a normal life. I met Palestinian business people who had literally run out of supplies - 3,000 businesses had closed because of the siege. 80% of workers in Gaza are unemployed.

The United Nations agencies were struggling to carry out their humanitarian work - like food distribution.

Little wonder the Palestinian people have lost faith in justice.

While Gaza is at breaking point, the people of the West Bank fare little better.

The mayor of the ancient city of Hebron felt passionately about education. 60% of the population of Hebron are under eighteen years old.

But under the Israeli occupation they had to send pupils to school in two shifts because so much of the city was blocked off by 146 military checkpoints and they did not have the resources to build new schools to cope with demand.

We held a press conference, broadcast by the major Arab TV channels, to express our solidarity with the Palestinian people and our hope that their parties would soon find unity.

We called for the siege to be lifted and for an end to the military occupation. We called on the international community to secure the release of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners, including over 300 children held in Israel under adult conditions.

For children growing up in Palestine today the occupation is normal life. For me it is unimaginable and indefensible.

See more of: Wales