Israeli closures prevent import of aid, cement to Gaza

GAZA CITY (IRIN) - Aid agencies are becoming increasingly frustrated with the difficulties of getting humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip. “For us to move ahead with rehabilitation and repairs, we must get building materials into Gaza,” Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told IRIN by telephone. “Two hundred and twenty-one schools for 200,000 children only have 40 percent of their books because we can’t get paper and glue into Gaza.” 

Hamas is not going away

RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) - Despite intensive efforts by Israel, the international community and a number of Arab leaders to weaken and destroy Hamas through economic, punitive and military action, the Islamist organization continues to be a force to reckon with. Hamas won free and fair democratic elections in January 2006. The United States pushed for these elections, which were monitored by international observers including ex-US President Jimmy Carter, and Israel permitted them to be held. 

Gaza slowly reemerging from the rubble

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - The United Nations is urgently appealing for 613 million dollars to aid more than a million desperate civilians in the ruins of Gaza, where schools, hospitals, houses, factories and even farmland were obliterated during the three-week assault by Israeli air and ground forces. At least 1,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,300 injured in the war, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Some 21,000 homes were reported destroyed or badly damaged, and more than 50,000 people were displaced into temporary UN shelters. 

Hamas' political victory

CAIRO (IPS) - Despite declarations of victory by Israel, the military assault on the Gaza Strip failed to achieve its stated aims, many analysts say. The assault, and even its exceptional brutality, may only have vindicated the notion of resistance among the Arab public. “The steadfastness of the resistance in Gaza in the face of Israeli military power has resuscitated the idea of armed resistance,” Gamal Fahmi, political analyst and managing editor of the Egyptian opposition weekly al-Arabi al-Nassiri told IPS

Aid worker: Gaza an "apocalypse"

RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) - As fears rise of renewed violence in Gaza, Elena Qleibo, a French-Costa Rican aid worker from Oxfam, gives IPS a first-hand account of surviving Israel’s three-week bombardment of Gaza: I was attending a meeting at Gaza City municipality on 27 December when suddenly the meeting was interrupted by heavy booming sounds coming from a short distance away. Plumes of smoke were rising from a number of bombed areas surrounding the building I was in. I and a number of colleagues rushed outside to try and establish what was happening. 

Sewage may contaminate Gaza drinking water

GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IRIN) - With Gaza’s sewerage system on the verge of collapse, a top water engineer has warned of the risk of groundwater contamination in the enclave, making clean water scarcer than it already is. Gaza is particularly vulnerable to groundwater contamination since its sandy desert soil easily absorbs water — or sewage from leaking sewage pipes. Compounding the risk is the fact that groundwater is relatively near the surface, and wells dug to access it tend to be shallow. 

Israeli clinic closes after treating five Palestinians

TEL AVIV (IRIN) - The Israeli emergency clinic at the Erez crossing, which opened on the day Israel declared a ceasefire in Gaza (18 January), has closed after treating only five wounded Palestinians. The original purpose of the clinic, according to press releases, was to provide emergency care and evacuate those needing further care to hospitals in Israel. 

Aid reaching Gaza, but is it enough?

RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IRIN) - Israel says 453 trucks entered Gaza 18-23 January, but only about half of them carried humanitarian aid — not nearly enough for 1.5 million Gazans, say United Nations agencies and international aid groups. “The donors and the general public have mobilized from all over the world but the aid is stuck outside Gaza,” said John Ging, head of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza. 

Gaza tensions shadow UN Holocaust ceremony

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - The president of the United Nations General Assembly was a last-minute no-show at the UN’s annual ceremony commemorating the Holocaust, following an intense lobbying campaign by pro-Israel organizations to have him removed from the program. Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann had come under fire for his harsh criticisms of Israeli policies, leading to suspicions that his failure to deliver a scheduled speech at the event was due to political considerations. 

Gaza's displaced seek shelter from cold

TEL AVIV (IRIN) - One of the chief concerns for displaced Palestinians in Gaza and aid agencies is to find adequate shelter in temperatures that can drop to less than 7-8 degrees Celsius at night. Thousands are still holed up in United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) shelters or schools. Some are able to return to their homes; others are erecting tents where their destroyed homes used to stand, according to local news agencies.