Najah al-Katnani was born in al-Jalazun refugee camp in the West Bank. In 1975 she married and moved to Gaza City with her husband. At the time, she and her family could travel freely between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. After the first intifada, Israel imposed restrictions on such passage. The restrictions were tightened after the second intifada, and Israel now permits passage only in “humanitarian cases.” Gaza residents are prevented from visiting their relatives in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Israel.
Maryam Abu Yusef, 67, a mother of five from a-Nuseirat R.C in Gaza, has to plan her life around the limited hours when her home receives electricity and water. Both vital services are provided only once every few days, and not always together. The family does not receive enough water, and what they do get is unfit for drinking. This forces them pay large sums of money to purchase additional water privately.
“I used to use candles for lighting … but I stopped because of something that happened about five years ago. My children, who got up at 5:00 A.M. to go to school, lit a candle and set it down on the TV... They forgot the candle and left… I woke up in a panic from the smell of smoke. The candle had fallen over and the TV caught fire. The whole house was full of black smoke. I started screaming and woke my husband. He put out the fire. ... Now we use battery-operated LED lights … but the power isn’t on long enough to charge the battery, and the lighting in the house is dim because the battery is nearly drained.”
“My washing machine broke down about two months ago, because of the irregular power supply. Before that, when we got power at regular hours, I’d set an alarm clock to get up and run a load when the power came back on at night. I’d also knead dough and bake a few dozen pita breads in an electric pita-bread pot for us and for my husband’s family. My hands ache, but we can’t afford to buy ready-made bread. When the power shut down, I’d move on to housework that doesn’t require electricity.” Click here to read the full account.
Hamas is reportedly holding at least two Israeli citizens - Avera Mengistu and Hashem a-Sayed -in Gaza as bargaining chips for the release of Hamas prisoners. A third Israeli crossed into Gaza 18 months ago and might also be held by Hamas. Holding people by force to be used as bargaining chips is immoral and unlawful. Hamas must immediately and unconditionally release the Israeli civilians it is holdings. Pending such release, it must treat them humanely and allow the ICRC to visit them.
Iman Hassan, a mother of six who lives in al-Bureij Refugee Camp, shares her story: “We’ve been suffering from the power cuts for over a decade, but things have become unbearable the past few months. We have power cuts for more than 12 hours a day. Our life, our sleep, everything is shaped by whether or not there’s power. Our roof is made of metal, so it’s hot as hell inside in the summer, but we can’t use the fan because there’s no electricity. The kids and I have to keep taking cold showers, otherwise it’s too hot to fall asleep. My baby boy, Ibrahim, sometimes gets a rash because it’s so hot. He cries at night and can’t fall asleep.”
On 15 May 2017, Israeli navy soldiers shot and killed Muhammad Baker, 25, from a-Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza. B'Tselem’s investigation found the soldiers opened fire when Muhammad’s boat was 3 nautical miles off the coast within the zone in which the military permits Gazans to fish. As long as this routine continues, innocent fishermen will continue to risk arrest, injury or death to make a living. No one in Israel will be held accountable for the attacks and the usual whitewashing formalities will be applied.
The Gaza Strip is in the throes of a humanitarian disaster. Without a regular power supply, all aspects of life are harmed. This reality is part of an Israeli policy, of the blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza for the past ten years. Despite this intolerable reality, the Israeli cabinet has decided to accept the Palestinian Authority’s cruel plan to further reduce the power supply to Gaza. This is not some sort of natural disaster. The reality in Gaza is the result of Israel’s handiwork. Israel can, and must, change this reality.
On 21 March 2017, two Gazan men and a minor went from Rafah towards the perimeter fence, hoping to enter Israel for work. Around midnight, before they tried to cross the border and although they posed no danger, the military fired a shell at them. They fled, but another shell killed Yusef Abu ‘Athrah (15) and injured one man. The military's statement, that the suspicion the three had been trying to plant an explosive device on the fence was investigated after the fact, attests to a ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ policy.
In 2016, Israeli security forces killed 101 Palestinians, incl. 31 minors – 90 in the West Bank (incl. East Jerusalem), 8 in Gaza, and 3 in Israel. Ten women and one female minor were among the casualties. Seventy-five (74%) were killed in attempted, alleged or real assaults on Israelis; another 17 (17%) were killed in clashes, protests, and stone-throwing incidents. The responsibility for these deaths lies with the top levels of Israel’s military and government, which allow this open-fire policy and the subsequent lack of accountability.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.