Theater of Cruelty

The environmental situation chokes everything that gives life

Countdown: It will be unbelievable in Gaza within five years.


It squeaks from electric saws in a small carpentry workshop where eucalyptus trees are cut to three meters in length. They will be sold as roofing for temporary houses built by the owners of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Workers with masks to protect against fine sawdust say they have cut dozens of eucalyptus trees that stood in a row along the 15-kilometer-long Salah al-Din road between the cities of Khan Younis and Rafah. These trees, planted by the British mandate authorities in 1934, have disappeared completely in just the last four months as hundreds of local residents repair the roofs of houses destroyed during the Israeli attacks last summer. In the seventh year, green space on the 360-square-kilometer coastal strip disappears after Israel started wars in 2008, 2012 and the summer of 2014. Government spokesmen say there was a systematic destruction of the environment and that people can not be denied the use of things they need to repair their house, although it may further impair the environment. Mustafa Abu Jazar has just bought almost 50 eucalyptus slabs for the roof of the house which was blown to pieces during a tank bombing in the eastern part of Rafah when the war broke out. Mustafa is a 44-year-old fisherman, who says that he is no longer sad that these historic trees are disappearing. "In Gaza, everything is destroyed and polluted, even the sky is polluted by hundreds of Israeli drones, and has been for ten years." People here are suffering from delayed reconstruction of their homes, and they do not want to sit still in the streets. They are tired of promises from donor countries about funds for reconstruction, there is no solution in sight, and these eucalyptus can in any case be smashed by Israeli tanks in the next war, Mustafa tells Ny Tid. According to a UN report from 2012, Gaza will no longer be a viable place in 2020 due to the great environmental pollution and the severe destruction. The disappearance of the trees is, after all, a small matter in the violent destruction of the infrastructure in Gaza, where more than 2,5 million tonnes of concrete scrap lies in the streets after rocket attacks on more than 14 houses during the 000 days of the last war. Gaza's Ministry of Labor and Housing says heavy equipment is needed to remove the huge rubble, and needs a budget estimated at $ 51 million. Yellow water. Five kilometers from the remains of the eucalyptus trees, Rafiqa Abu Slaima transports 15 bottles of filtered water on a small cart. The water comes from a small water treatment plant in the Swedish town southeast of Rafah. "I have to buy this amount of filtered water every day," said Rafiqa, 34, a mother of four. She adds: "The tap water comes only two hours a day, and it is yellow and too salty." Rafiqa is sure that the water pipes in the camp she lives in are connected directly to the sea. It is the camp called Svenskebyen. It is named after Scandinavian soldiers who once served here during a UN peacekeeping operation in 1965. But now residents say the camp lacks the basic necessities of life. Rafiqa spends three dollars a day on water, and otherwise makes a living from monthly meals distributed by UNRWA, like 70 other families in the camp in an area of ​​2,5 square kilometers. Environmental expert Hussam Zaqqout says that 95 percent of the water in Gaza is salty, and to varying degrees polluted by both organic and inorganic toxins. He emphasizes that the deficit of water is up to 80 million cubic meters. Each person disposes of 80 liters daily, while the World Health Organization recommends doubling that amount. Eight water treatment plants in Gaza were destroyed by the Israeli army, authorities say. It directly affected 940 people, depriving them of the natural right to drink clean water. Many Gaza residents flock to the beach as the only arena for entertainment – but the sea has also become a reservoir of disease for those trying to swim in it. Residents of the Al-Shati refugee camp, located 000 meters from the beach west of Gaza, say: "Sharks threaten swimmers and surfers in Australia and America, but here the Entamoeba parasite represents real sharks that penetrate the intestines of our young." Mahmoud Ghannam is 30 years old and lives in the Al-Shati area. He has refused his kids to swim in the sea this summer, and says that they have no choice but to play in the streets and fight with the neighbors during the summer holidays. In 40, Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip. It was further tightened after Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2006, and Egypt continues to keep the border crossing at Rafah closed, the only gateway for the people of Gaza to the outside world. The Ministry of Health says that 2007 percent of the predominant diseases in Gaza are due to polluted water. Most are caused by the parasite Entamoeba histolytica, which can cause dysentery and typhoid fever. The underlying cause may be a swim in the ocean or polluted tap water.

"The tap water comes just two hours a day, and it's yellow and too salty." Rafiqa Abu Slaima

Gaza local authorities are forced to release a volume of water equivalent to 73 million mineral water bottles uncleaned every day (110 cubic meters). This has made 000 percent of the beaches a risk area for swimmers. The power cut that lasts 60 hours a day, and the lack of fuel needed to operate the only Gaza power plant, is what is pushing the authorities to use this method. The people of Gaza have been living in a crisis in the electricity supply for over nine years now, after Israeli aircraft bombed the power plant in the summer of 14. Agriculture. In the same areas of the narrow Gaza Strip, hundreds of refugees line up every week to receive food rations from UNWRA centers. Eman Bannoura (44) is trying to bring a 20 kg milk bag and two cans of corn oil that she has just collected at the distribution center. She says she wants to sell them for ten bucks. While holding a cardboard box to protect her from the sun, she says she wants to sell what she has been given to buy two chickens for the family. "We don't want flour and oil anymore, the family has been dreaming of chicken for a long time." “It's good to get free food worth ten bucks, but the distribution is chaotic. "People are losing humanity in the chaos, and the queues are similar to what you see in Somalia," Eman told Ny Tid. The area of ​​cultivation in Gaza makes up almost 38 percent of the total area of ​​360 square kilometers, but much was destroyed during the war. The loss is estimated by the Department of Agriculture at $ 500 million. According to the same ministry, 58 percent of families were affected by food insecurity before the last war. Farmer Mamoun Quidah says he went to his land east of the town of Khan Younis immediately after the ceasefire agreement 29. August, but he had trouble identifying it because of the massive devastation. “Israeli tanks crushed my yard of about 32 targets. There were tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers, there was a watering system, pumps and a plastic greenhouse. The loss is $ 11, ”says Mamoun. The ceasefire agreement signed in Cairo contains proposals to cut the buffer zone along the Gaza-Israel security wall. But Mamoun believes these areas need severe water pipeline and electricity poles repairs, and the soil needs to be cleaned of rocket debris. In the long run, however, the areas can still help 29 Gaza residents to earn money in the agricultural sector. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, warned 14. August 2014 that the local shutdown in food production will have a major impact on living conditions and that getting agriculture back on foot will require long-term external support. Yousef Mohammadain, a vegetable seller at the Sheikh Radwan market in Gaza City, says that the high prices make customers prefer semi-perishable fruits and vegetables because they are cheaper. While putting up pears and Japanese mash in luxury wrapping, he says that these products are rare and only purchased by rich people. The half-good products are waiting for middle and lower-class customers. Others cannot buy them at all. Observers believe that Israel destroyed agricultural land for fear of concealing underground tunnels and rocket launching ramparts, without regard to the devastating economic impact of these actions. Economist Maher Al Tabba believes that the war damage to agriculture has led to an uncertain food situation in Gaza, and that it has increased unemployment because so many jobs in agriculture have disappeared. "There is no life in Gaza, the only pleasure is meeting friends and family," says Mahmoud Ghannam. And he adds, "In the summer, we just go to the beach, cook and eat there to enjoy the sunset, and wait for the power to come back." “You have to create your own happiness, it does not depend on work or money, but the freedom to do what you want in life.

Alkabariti is a regular correspondent for Ny Tid.

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