A 27-year-old Palestinian man was hospitalized today after being shot and injured by Israeli security forces on a beach in the Gaza Strip in a direct violation of the ceasefire enacted after the end of the recent 50-day war. The victim, whose name has not been released, was allegedly wounded in the thigh after being fired upon. He was later taken to the Kamal Udwan hospital.
The incident has further served to highlight some of the daily struggles faced by the Palestinian people residing in the Gaza Strip as they try to rebuild their destroyed homes and businesses and continue living in a society overshadowed by the constant threat of violence. Several ceasefire violations in recent weeks and the constant danger of buried ordnance, left over from three wars in five years, have only made it harder.
The most recent Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip lasted 50 days and claimed the lives of 2,100 Palestinians and approximately 65 Israeli soldiers. Thousands of structures were destroyed in the conflict by both airstrikes, shelling and the ground invasion. At the end of the conflict a fragile ceasefire ensued, allowing the civilians within Gaza to begin the long and tiresome process of rebuilding their shattered lives.
However, their progress has been stalled by several factors outside of their control, including the Israeli Naval blockade on Palestinian fisherman, who are currently limited to fishing within six nautical miles of the shoreline. While Israel honored its initial promise to expand the fishing zone from three miles offshore to six at the end of the conflict, it has since failed to continue this expansion, instead firing on fishing boats who venture outside the area. There have also been widespread allegations of Israeli naval fire on fishermen within the six-mile zone. The Israeli Naval blockade, which has now been in effect for eight years, is also thought to have significantly contributed towards the current humanitarian crisis within the Gaza Strip by crippling the region’s economy.
Aside from the more obvious ceasefire violations, a more obscure struggle that the Palestinian people must face is the continued threat of unexploded ordnance, leftover from the 50 day war, as well as from the last two conflicts in 2008-09 and 2012. Since the ceasefire was enacted in late August a total of 10 civilians have died as a result of coming into contact with unexploded ordnance throughout the Gaza Strip. The most recent of these was four-year-old Muhammad Sami Abu Jrad, who died from wounds he received when a bomb went off last week. According to a report by the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, 111 civilians were killed from unexploded ordnance between 2009 and 2012, including 64 children.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating problems the Palestinians have had to face is the stalled delivery of construction materials, which have been delayed by the Israeli/Egypt blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip in 2007, and also by continued squabbling between the Hamas party and the newly instated Palestinian unity government headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. So far only a tiny fraction of the required materials have been delivered into the Gaza Strip, approximately 400 tons of cement, and the company currently storing the material has not yet been authorized to sell it. In the meantime tens of thousands of Palestinians continue to live in communal shelters or the remains of their ruined houses after an estimated 100,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the most recent war.
These issues and the most recent ceasefire violation that caused the hospitalization of the anonymous Palestinian man is just a hint of the struggles faced on a daily basis by the civilians residing within the Gaza Strip. But their troubles still appear to be growing worse, according to Shehda Abu Wok, who said that the coming winter will “cause worse damage than the war.” Wok is the head of the village council in Khuzaa, where many hundreds of people have lost their homes. He now lives in a trailer camp where even the few houses left standing have no windows, providing little shelter from the approaching winter.
By Mathew Channer