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Associated Press: Pity The Poor Palestinians

Get out your handkerchiefs.

The terrorist lovers at the DNC’s Associated Press have a tale of woe:

Atef Abu Said, 46, right, has dinner, lit by a gas lamp and candles, with his family at the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah in this Monday, July 3, 2006 file photo. The United Nations warns of food shortages. Hospitals refuse all non-emergency care to avoid running out of medicine. Power outages are widespread, and a lack of fuel for generators threatens water supplies.

Signs of humanitarian crisis grow in Gaza

By THOMAS WAGNER, Associated Press Writer

Tue Jul 11, 4:35 AM ET

The United Nations warns of food shortages. Hospitals refuse all non-emergency care to avoid running out of medicine. Power outages are widespread, and a lack of fuel for generators threatens water supplies.

Israel’s military offensive, and its closure of the territory’s border crossings, has worsened the plight of Palestinians in the already devastated Gaza Strip.

Signs of a humanitarian crisis are appearing in villages such as Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, where Israeli tanks and bulldozers have damaged homes, leveled crops, toppled electricity poles and torn up underground water pipes while searching for tunnels and explosive devices used by militants to attack southern Israel.

"I am a nationalist, but this poverty — the fact that I cannot even feed my kids three meals a day — makes me hate myself," Musbah al-Sultan, 36, said in his bullet-ridden home, surrounded by his wife and seven children.

In the two-story house that he inherited from his father, the kitchen and refrigerator contained little food. Typical meals consist of water, tea and biscuits, he said.

Before the offensive, al-Sultan and his wife, Khadija, got by operating a shop that sold household products and accepting food donations from local charities.

But on Friday, Israeli forces destroyed the store after a militant hiding behind it shot a Kalashnikov at a tank and troops returned fire, al-Sultan said. He showed reporters the wreckage of the building in an area that had been cleared by bulldozers.

Israel acknowledges the situation in Gaza is difficult, but denies the Palestinians face a humanitarian crisis. Israel says it continues to transfer goods into the coastal strip, despite border crossing closures.

Poverty has long been the status quo in the Gaza Strip, with each year of Israeli-Palestinian fighting compounding the hardship. But the plight has grown desperate since the Hamas militant group took power in March. Israel and international donors cut off funding because Hamas refused to recognize Israel.

Today, nearly 80 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line on $2 or less a day, and unemployment has reached 40 percent, aid agencies say.

In its two-week-old offensive aimed at freeing a captured soldier and halting Palestinian rocket fire, Israel destroyed the territory’s only power station and closed border crossings — through which fuel and food are imported — for all but three days, citing security warnings.

As a result, Gaza residents contend with widespread power outages of 12 to 18 hours a day, and generators, which can only make up for a fraction of the lost power, are using up much of the available fuel.

Just before the offensive began, the U.N. had extended its daily food rations for Gazans from 635,000 to 735,000 people in a territory with a population of 1.4 million.

On Saturday, the U.N. opened a shelter in a school in southern Gaza for 235 people who fled their homes because of fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants there.

By Monday, the number being housed and fed in two schools had grown to 1,000, said John Ging, the new head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, the agency that deals with Palestinian refugees.

The U.N. also has 230 containers of food waiting to pass through the Karni cargo crossing between Israel and Gaza, which was closed Monday, he said. If the containers don’t reach Gaza, aid agencies would begin to run out of beans and whole milk this week.

"This is just humanitarian relief, to keep the U.N.’s emergency food distribution going. But commercial food shipments also are not getting through, and that’s driving up the price of foods as basic as sugar, flour and powdered milk beyond what many Gazans can afford," he said.

The Karni border crossing, one of the few places where Gaza’s Palestinians can get close to Israelis, has come under repeated attacks in the past. On Monday evening, Israel launched an airstrike at a group of militants who had an anti-tank missile near Karni, the army said. The airstrike killed one person, hospital officials said.

Acknowledging the potential for a crisis in Gaza, Israel opened Karni for three days last week to let in food and medicine. It also opened a pipeline to replenish Gaza’s dwindling fuel stocks.

But Col. Nir Press, head of Israel’s liaison team at the Erez border crossing, said the Palestinians have at times refused to allow goods to enter Gaza, including five truckloads of dairy products headed for the coastal area on Tuesday.

"They are trying to create a crisis or make it look like a crisis," Press said. "I don’t think we are moving toward a humanitarian crisis."

Major hospitals treating scores of Palestinians who have been wounded in the offensive said they are restricting non-emergency care to make sure their medical supplies don’t run out.

The World Health Organization said Monday there has been a 160 percent increase in diarrhea cases in Gaza in the last week, compared with the same period last year, apparently because of shortages of clean water for drinking and bathing. WHO estimates that 23 percent of the essential drugs will be out of stock within one month.

The U.N. is supplying municipal companies with fuel for backup generators to operate 130 water wells and 33 sewage pumping plants at one-third capacity, and for use in garbage trucks, Ging said.

Liz Sime, CARE’s country director, said she believed a humanitarian crisis was looming, but had not yet hit. "The offensive has left Gazans right on the edge. They are coping by and large, but only just," she said.

This part:

The World Health Organization said Monday there has been a 160 percent increase in diarrhea cases in Gaza in the last week

I believe.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, July 13th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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