Distressing Dispatches from Gaza

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While rocket attacks in Gaza have subsided since a ceasefire was brokered in late January, the devastation for those living in the war zone has hardly ebbed.

Writing for the New Statesman, Sami Abdel-Shafi describes post-ceasefire Gaza as “almost exactly as it was before the war.” Abdel-Shafi continues that, “[d]esperation and hopelessness are now soaring to new levels,” and despite the death and destruction incurred by the fighting, “[t]here seems to be no victor in this war.”

Blogging for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s Untold Stories, Elliott Woods, an American reporter, describes a state of persistent fear that continues to shroud Gaza:

When I first arrived, my Gazan hosts practically wet their pants laughing when they saw how I shuddered at the sound of nearby explosions. But one of them–middle-aged, thick-necked Mahdi–later admitted to me, “We’re all scared, all the time.”

Now that I have been here for almost a month–mostly during the so-called cease-fire–I can feel the continual threat in my bones. It’s an ever present unease, like a headache or a hangover that doesn’t keep you in bed, but keeps you conscious of the fact that something isn’t quite right.

Israeli attacks aren’t the only source of that “ever present unease.” According to the Guardian, Hamas has been conducting a “new and violent crackdown” on “all perceived internal opponents,” supposedly out of concern that the war weakened its grip on power in the Gaza Strip. Amnesty International alleges dozens have been murdered, beaten, or shot, though not killed.

“People are afraid to live normal lives, to express their opinions freely,” one activist told the Guardian. “There is no freedom of speech, of movement, of travelling or having real healthcare. Hamas is raising George Bush’s policy: those not with us are against us.”

The United Nations reports that, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Israeli attacks killed 1,440 (pdf), injured 5,380, and displaced hundreds of thousands in Gaza. Additionally, some one million Israelis had their lives “disrupted” in some way by Hamas attacks. But post-ceasefire, getting aid to Gaza–where it’s desperately needed–has been particularly difficult (pdf) due to restrictive and inconsistent access.

Image by Al Jazeera, licensed under Creative Commons.

Sources: New Statesman, Untold Stories, Guardian, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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