Palestinian Parliamentarian Warns of Humanitarian Disaster in Gaza

June 30th, 2006 - by admin

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi / The Electronic Intifada & Eugene Bird / CNI – 2006-06-30 22:23:28

Palestinian Parliamentarian Warns of Severe Public Health and Humanitarian Disaster Facing Gaza
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi / The Electronic Intifada

(June 30, 2006) — Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, medical doctor, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and head of the Palestinian National Initiative, today warned of the public health and humanitarian disaster facing the Gaza Strip following an Israeli military bombardment that began on Wednesday night.

He was speaking from Gaza City, where he has been stranded for 12 days since Israel sealed off Gaza’s borders.

Dr. Barghouthi reported that Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s only electrical power station has left 80 percent of Strip without electricity. A water plant was also bombed by Israel today in the southern city of Rafah.

As a result, water supplies and the sewage system have been critically affected in that they depend entirely on electricity to power water and sewage pumps.

The electricity, water and sewage systems in the Gaza Strip are now currently depending on insufficient local generators to remain partially functional, yet Israel’s closure of Gaza’s borders has meant that there is only enough fuel to last a further 4 days.

Once this fuel runs out, the population of Gaza faces a severe humanitarian disaster, exacerbated by high summer temperatures and overcrowded living conditions. Gaza will find itself without potable water and literally sinking in sewage, which would lead to a severe public health disaster.

In addition, 300,000 of Gaza’s 1.4 million inhabitants live in high-rise apartment buildings which do not have the necessary generators to pump water up, and are therefore completely without water supplies.

The dependence on generators also has negative environmental implications as they produce high levels of pollution.

Dr. Barghouthi appealed to the international community to urgently call on Israel to end its bombardment, to stop the targeting of civilian infrastructure, and to allow for immediate repairs to begin on Gaza’s electricity plant.

He also urged the international community to intervene in order to ensure the immediate supply of fuel, food, and other essential items to the Gaza Strip in order to avert an imminent humanitarian and public health catastrophe.

Collective Punishment Will Not Work
Eugene Bird / CNI

(June 30, 2006) — As usual, most of the American press docily followed the official line from Israel and Washington that the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier a week ago was unprovoked. The fact is that the assassination of a Hamas government official was the proximate cause of the kidnapping.

The assassinated official, Jamal Abu Samhadana, was the head of the Popular Resistance Committees, an organization on the terrorist list of the United States and Israel. He was apparently brought into the Hamas-led Interior Ministry to head the police forces in Gaza.

That happened only two weeks before the kidnapping but neither the press nor the television news made the connection.

The old cycle of assassination, response by the Palestinians, and an official hands-off policy by the United States will lead exactly nowhere. The US refuses to see the Israeli response for what it is, collective punishment, which of course is forbidden under UN conventions and completely lacks common sense in this situation. Worse, we have been down this road so many times with the Israelis, in south Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza.

It seems clear that the first priority for Israel and the U.S. is to topple the Hamas government as soon as possible without undermining Mahmoud Abbas. But everything that Israel has done so far, with tacit approval from the U.S., is arousing and angering the Palestinian people. Even the officials of the PLO were outraged by the mass arrests of 64 duly-elected Hamas officials on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Early Wednesday, massive air strikes and sonic booms forced hundreds of Gaza families to abandon their homes seeking safe shelter, as thousands of Israeli troops backed by tanks penetrated the Gaza strip. Israeli warplanes launched missiles at the impoverished coastal strip, destroying the only power station, which left 700,000 people living in Gaza without electricity. The restoration of the power station will take between three to six months at the cost of six to eight million dollars. Humanitarian organizations warn of yet another crisis in Gaza, since all water supply and sewage disposal pipes are powered by electricity or diesel oil, which has also been cut off by Israel. People are deprived from drinking water, cooking, and light.

The Israeli attacks, dubbed “Operation Summer Rains,” are of course an attempt to recover an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was captured last Sunday in an attack that killed two other soldiers.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the attack as “collective punishment of civilians including women, children, and old people.” Abbas said these attacks minimize his chances in succeeding to negotiate a way out of the crisis, even with the help of Egypt. Olmert refused to negotiate and said, “We won’t hesitate to carry out extreme action to bring Gilad back to his family,” but it is had to see how the collective punishment and the arrest of the Hamas legislators will lead to anything but a continuing crisis regardless of whether or not the soldier is returned safely. Such a continuing crisis at this moment in the Middle East will only lead to another intifada in the Holy Land and a greater burden for the United States to carry in its relations with the Arab and Muslim world. And Israel will not benefit from its overreaction.

The Council for the National Interest is a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots organization founded seventeen years ago by former Congressmen Paul Findley (R-IL) and Pete McCloskey (R-CA) to advocate a new direction for US Middle East policy. CNI seeks to encourage and promote a US foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values, protects our national interests, and contributes to a just solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as to restore a political environment in America in which voters and their elected officials are free from the undue influence and pressure of a foreign country, namely Israel.

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