Two years ago, over the course of 51 days, thousands of rockets were launched from Israel against the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea. The blockaded 1.8 million Gazan citizens were trapped in 4505 square kilometres. The 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, also known as Operation Protective Edge, was a military operation launched by Israel between 8 July and 27 August 2014, in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
The conflict resulted in the death of 2,205 Palestinians, at least 1,483 of which were children, as well as the death of 70 Israeli’s, 66 of which were combatants.
According the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), 3000 children were injured during Operation Protective Edge, and about 1000 have been left permanently disabled.
According to the World Bank, Youth employment in the Strip is the Highest in the world, about 60 %.
Over 142,000 housing units were impacted by the conflict, of which 9117 were completely destroyed.
As a result of the extensive destruction, the conflict led to a homelessness crisis in Gaza, with almost 500,000 persons displaced at its peak; 75,000 persons remain internally displaced to this day.
Today, 90 million litres of raw sewage flows through the street of the Gaza Strip and into the sea.
Life within the Gaza Strip two years after Operation Protective Edge
While Operation Protective Edge added to the suffering of the already besieged area, we spoke to a Gazan journalist, Rana Al-Shami who gave insight into why Israel conducted the operation.
Al-Shami explains that following the conflict in the West Bank and the onslaught against the Gaza Strip, no confirmed reason for the operation in the Gaza Strip was provided.
Al-Shami further notes that the continued division between Palestinian political factions has decreased Palestinians belief in a political solution to combat Israeli oppression.
“Palestinians themselves do not agree. And have opened the door for Israel to attack us –that’s what Israel wants,” Al-Shami added.
In light of the continued blockade, she says that as Gazan’s continue to battle against the harsh realities of life in the strip and that residents at large are slowly losing hope for an end to their ‘imprisonment’.
Gazan journalist, Muhammad Qattawi explains that given the growing socio-economic challenges, residents tend to go about their days normally despite growing frustration.
“The rebuilding process does not exist, the crossings remain closed, people have not received their salaries, and people cannot go to Makkah for haj and Umrah, so we are really in an open air prison.”
He further notes that despite thousands of students graduating from university annually, employment prospects are few.
While Palestinians are regarded as some of the most educated within the region, students and staff lack the necessary supplies.
As the humanitarian crisis in Palestine worsens, Qattawi said most aid organizations have shifted their focus to Syria as the situation in Syria reaches dire levels.
In terms of the dilapidating healthcare system, he says that since all sectors in the area are interrelated the healthcare system has been politicised.
“If the Israeli authorities or Egyptians allow the entry of medical supplies, Palestinians can access it,” Qattawi continued.
Another Gazan resident Ahmad Ibn-Saleh described life within the besieged territory as being currently “fairly quiet.”
He says the main problem that Gazan’s face their controlled movement, where they are restricted to 4505 square kilometres.
“I would describe this as the siege on Gaza, which is more dangerous than the war itself.”
Last week, the Erez crossing week, which links Gaza to Israel proper, was opened for the first in nine years
The resident confirmed that the crossing was only open to prominent businessmen who have applied for access.
Speaking to VOC, UNRWA’s Chris Gunness gives insight into the current situation in the Gaza Strip.
Gunness says that while UNWRA has employed the services of 250 trauma councillors to assist in rehabilitating children following operation Protective Edge, many children continue to be plagued by compounded trauma.
“What a child goes through is a kind of re-traumatisation. So in the first conflict, such as the 2008/2009 conflict, the child goes through the worst traumas. But then when the second conflict took place in 2012, the child remembered the trauma of the first conflict. And then the child was traumatised by the worst traumas of the 2014 conflict. What you are seeing is the ‘reimpounding’ of trauma in the worst forms.”
He says that given the slow progress in the reconstruction of critical infrastructure, it is appalling that the world community is able to turn a blind eye to the situation in the Gaza Strip.
“It has been two years since the war in Gaza, in spite of that thousands of people are living in the remains of their ruins on a daily basis,” he said.
Gunness asserts that the continued collective punishment of Gazans is robbing an entire generation of people of the opportunity to have a prosperous future.
“Which is why we say that this blockade, which constitutes an illegal collective punishment in international law, must be lifted immediately and the people of Gaza must be free to live in dignity and security,” Gunness continued.
VOC (Thakira Desai)