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Homeless in Gaza

Written by Subject: Israel - Palestine
Homeless in Gaza

by Stephen Lendman

UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the near east (UNWRA) Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl called for ending Gaza's blockade.

Otherwise, reconstruction will take over a decade, he said. Others estimate much longer.

Shelter Cluster is an Inter-Agency Standing Committee involved in helping people affected by natural disasters or conflicts.

Rebuilding Gaza will take 20 years under Israeli-imposed restrictions, it said. Palestinian officials estimate a cost of at least $6 billion to do so.

Krahenbuhl estimates at least 20,000 homes destroyed as well as extensive infrastructure destruction.

He called it "imperative for the international community and for the people of Gaza to reconstruct after the devastation." Israeli aggression bears full responsibility.

"I visited Gaza three times during the recent conflict and the impact of the fighting on individual human lives, particularly the young, is palpable and profound," he said.

"Hundreds of thousands of children are deep in trauma. We estimate that of the 3,000 children injured, 1,000 will have disabilities for life."

UNWRA will do all it can to restore human dignity to a (population) that has suffered enough."

Krahenbuhl expressed concern for "more than 50,000 people" still living in UNWRA schools because Israel destroyed their homes.

"We need to do all we can to find alternative accommodation for these people," he said.

A new UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report covered the late August through September 4 period. It highlights the problem.

Israel's Operation Protective Edge (OPE) created a humanitarian disaster. OCHA estimates around 108,000 Palestinians lost their homes or had them severely damaged.

Only 10% of Gaza's population gets water once a day . Electricity is spotty at best. Eighteen-hour outages continue in most areas.

The scale of destruction and damage across Gaza is "unprecedented." About 13% of its housing affected.

Pre-OPE, a 71,000 housing unit deficit existed. Providing temporary accommodations for Palestinians in need is one of the major challenges vital to address.

Another is dealing with Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). Palestinians returning home face serious hazards.

ERW are strewn throughout Gaza. They include unexploded tank shells, missiles, bombs, and rockets, as well as bullets, shrapnel, fuses, gas canisters, and flechettes.

They contaminated homes, gardens, roads, fields, agricultural lands, shelters, schools and other structures.

Before OPE, UNWRA estimated having to provide shelter for up to 50,000 Palestinians for a limited period.

Currently it's six times this number for an undetermined extended time. It's "unprecedented in the Agency's 64-year history in Gaza," it said.

During the height of OPE's onslaught, about 500,000 Palestinians were displaced. Currently, UNWRA's 60 shelters accommodate 52,000 Palestinians.

Actual numbers of displaced persons aren't known. At least 108,000 remain homeless longterm. According to OCHA:

Factors delaying the return of displaced persons include "the pervasive presence of ERW, lack of belief in a permanent ceasefire, lack of availability of basic services, and the destruction of livelihoods as a result of hostilities."

During more normal times, Gaza's public services are inadequate to meet demand. OPE added "extreme strain" to their capabilities, said OCHA.

Water and electricity networks were destroyed or severely damaged. At least 14 electricity, water and waste water technicians employed by local utilities were killed.

At least 10 others were injured. After the open-ended ceasefire agreement, Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) teams began repairing damage.

So far little progress was achieved in hardest hit areas. Scheduled power cuts across Gaza continue for up to 18 hours daily on average.

For Gaza city, it's 20 hours. The Strip's Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) estimates around 75% of Gaza's water network functions.

Yet only 10% of the population has water availability for no more than eight hours daily.

Around 80% of waste water services, 70% of waste water treatment plants, and 60% of desalination plants now function at less than full capacity.

Damaged or destroyed schools prevented nearly half a million Gazan children from returning to primary and secondary classes this week.

The new academic year was delayed. Once begun, it'll be severely overstretched.

Schools used as shelters need rehabilitation. Destroyed schools are unavailable. Damaged ones require extensive repairs.

Unexploded ordnance must be cleared. UNWRA is coordinating a three-phase plan with Gaza's Ministry of Education.

It includes psychosocial activities, enhancing learning skills, and returning children to available school buildings.

OCHA calls its key humanitarian priorities:

? providing displaced Palestinians with "temporary shelter and housing solutions;

? keeping border crossings open as well as removing restrictions on construction and other materials needed to rebuild;

? removing ERWs as quickly as possible; and

? providing fuel for power needs, potable water, improved sanitation, and other essentials of life and well-being.

Many thousands of Gazans need everything imaginable and then some. Since December 2008, Israel waged three wars of aggression against them.

The Goldstone report following Operation Cast Lead "conclude(d) that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population."

"The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy which has made the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population."

"Repeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require."

"Pursuing justice in this case is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law."

Failure to do so "will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy."

"As a service to hundreds of civilians who needlessly died and for the equal application of international justice, the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account."

The post-Cast Lead UN Human Rights Council report called it "clear to the Committee that the IDF had not distinguished between civilians and civilian objects and military targets."

"Both the loss of life and the damage to property were disproportionate to the harm suffered by Israel or any threatened harm. Israel's actions could not be justified as self-defense."

"The IDF was responsible for the crime of killing, wounding and terrorizing civilians (as well as) wonton(ly) destr(oying) property and that such destruction could not be justified on grounds of military necessity."

The HRC called IDF crimes so grave, "it was compelled to consider whether (genocide) had been committed." Its conclusion was that Israel "committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and, possibly genocide in the course of Operation Cast Lead."

Cast Lead lasted 22 days. Operation Protective Edge continued for 51. It was Cast Lead on steroids.

It's just a matter of time before more Israeli aggression is launched. Palestinians are wrongfully blamed for its crimes.

Israel remains unaccountable. Palestinians remain isolated on their own. Western leaders do nothing to help.

Washington supports Israel's killing machine. Both nations partner in crime. Palestinians are frequent victims. Gazans suffer most of all.

The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights spoke for likeminded groups saying:

It "condemns Israel's continuous violation of the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and Israel's violent, unlawful enforcement of the prolonged occupation of the occupied Palestinian territory."

"Ending this decades-long conflict and halting Israel's serious violations of international law cannot be anticipated without first achieving a just settlement that guarantees the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people."

The international community failed to protect Gaza's population, property and infrastructure.

Its support for Israel permits the highest of high crimes against peace. The Jewish state takes full advantage. Palestinians pay the highest price.

The late Edward Said called Palestine an isolated prison. An entire population is being suffocated out of existence, he said.

Israel impoverishes, starves and slaughters noncombatant men, women and children..

Artillery, tanks, F-16s, helicopter gunships, and banned terror weapons target them.

Others are assaulted, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, humiliated, and/or otherwise abused.

For decades, Palestinians endured every imaginable indignity, degradation, and crime against humanity.

A cycle of violence persists. Slow-motion genocide haunts them.

Their only defense is resistance. Liberation requires longterm struggle. It remains a distant dream.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at

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