Video report: Gaza is being strangled and its people are suffocating

“I feel so depressed, I feel detained and humiliated and violated because I’m denied one of the most basic rights, the right to have an education, the right to travel,” says Shahd Abusalama in this video report from Gaza by The Real News Network’s Yousef Al-Helou.

Abusalama, who blogs regularly for The Electronic Intifada, is one of thousands of Palestinians trapped in Gaza, unable to travel due to Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing.

The Rafah crossing is the only connection to the outside world for the vast majority of Gaza’s almost 1.7 million residents, since Israel imposed its tightened siege beginning in 2006.

Among the stranded are hundreds of students, like Abusalama, hoping to take up university places or scholarships abroad, as well as many medical patients.

Egypt has closed the border completely for the past week, citing the “security” situation in its Sinai peninsula, where it is engaged in military operations against what it calls Islamist militants.

Since the 3 July military coup that overthrew elected president Muhammad Morsi, Egypt has severely restricted the crossing and on average the number of people passing through the crossing is just 30 percent of what it was before the military takeover.

Egypt opened the crossing for four hours each day on Wednesday and Thursday this week but only for “emergency cases.”

As Al-Helou’s report shows, thousands of people remain at the crossing terminal desperately waiting for their names to be called out by officials.

In another horrifying development, two Palestinian refugees were reported killed on Tuesday when the Egyptian navy opened fire on a boat carrying Syrian and Palestinian refugees from the port of Alexandria toward Italy. Hundreds of other Syrian and Palestinian refugees have been detained.

An Egyptian military court this week sentenced five Palestinian fishermen to one year in prison, allegedly for fishing in Egyptian waters.

Political analyst Haidar Eid told Al-Helou that “what the new Egyptian regime has been doing to Gaza is a form of collective punishment.”

This adds to the collective punishment meted out by Israel. Gaza remains “occupied territory” under international law, says Hamdi Shaqqoura of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and Israel is therefore responsible for the welfare of the population.

The effective imprisonment of the entire population comes amid near economic collapse in the territory as Egypt has moved to destroy almost all the underground tunnels that have served as a lifeline to bring in basic supplies that are severely restricted by the Israeli siege.

Further reading: The Electronic Intifada’s Rami Almeghari reports on the impact of the border closing on Gaza student Malaka Mohammed, who risks losing a hard-earned scholarship in the UK.