Israel will let Gaza live, but just for one day so far

By staff writers
January 22, 2008

Following protests from civic, human rights and church groups, Israel has said that it will allow some fuel and medicine into the Gaza Strip - but only for one day. Its blockade has contributed to a large humanitarian crisis.

The Israeli authorities had closed the border to the Gaza Strip and temporarily banned imports, including the fuel necessary to run Gaza's power plant, following a sharp increase in the number of rockets Palestinian militants fired into Israeli border towns.

The recent attacks have not led to any fatalities, unlike Israeli reprisals, and have been criticised by moderate Palestinians. The Hams authority says it is not responsible for them, but Israel says it is.

Human rights groups argue that the cycle of attacks between the two parties should not be an excuse for a blockade which is significantly contributing to human misery.

On 20 January 2008 the Hamas government shut down the city's only electrical power plant the because Israel blocked a shipment of fuel that it needed to keeping going.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said the blackout was "a Hamas ploy" to pretend there is a crisis in order to attract international sympathy. Fuel scientists dispute this.

Monsignor Manuel Musallam, priest of Holy Family Church in Gaza, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview: "This lack of electricity is stopping civilization, stopping life in Gaza."

He added that while Holy Family School has a generator for its electrical needs, it would soon run out of the gasoline needed to run it. The school attached to the church can function without electricity, he said, but it the hospitals were in dire need of fuel to run their generators.

Fr Musallam said that he had donated his last fuel to Shifa Hospital, which was now requesting donations in order to get equipment to be able treat patients.

"We can manage with not using our computers, but in the hospitals the sick people need the electricity to survive," commented Msgr Musallam.

The priest said that children arrived at the local school without having eaten breakfast because there was very little food to buy in the shops, and bakeries stopped baking bread because they had no electricity.

Teachers, who had nothing to offer their students to eat, he commented, readjusted their teaching schedules because the children were tired, complained of headaches and were unable to sit through two hours of lessons.

Over the weekend of 19-20 January, two of the school's students were injured by shrapnel following an Israeli missile attack, the priest said, and after receiving initial first aid treatment at the hospital, they were sent home because there was no possibility of giving them further treatment.

He concluded: "We [Palestinians] must stop shooting, but also the (Israelis) must stop. That is it."

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