Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sameh Habeeb -- Inside Gaza

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Life in Gaza is unique. Misery is mixed with joy, pain, happiness and suffering. Siege still suffocates people via different manners and tactics. Israel which indirectly pushed Hamas and Fateh towards the split is announcing day and night that siege has been lifted. But facts on the ground are obviously different. Siege is still on there with the same manner but with a different shape.

As you walk and tour in Gaza you will discover that a change has been made recently. Israeli goods ranging from fruits, to vegetables to snacks and other products are streaming into Gaza. Whilst other goods are brought from Egypt via tunnels. Although these goods are filling markets but prices are high while buying force is less. Not everyone in Gaza can afford the prices which dramatically became higher.

Egyptian smuggled cars started to stream into Gaza. But the prices are high. Every car getting into Gaza should cost between 7 to 10 thousand dollars as tax and smuggling fees for the local authorities of Hamas. This made it difficult for people to buy such cars in which their prices will be high.

Speaking to taxi drivers can expose you to what's inside Gaza. They listen a lot to those commuters and daily passengers. They know exactly what the people need or what they are up to. As I have arrived in Gaza over a month ago, I started to chat with every driver. I like doing this to measure the mood of the public in Gaza. I spoke to a car driver in al Nusairat area mid of Gaza City.

The driver told me zealously, "We are not dying from hunger but rather from the huge anger. We are jailed in our spirits and psyche. We don't feel happiness. I work as a car driver. I gain around 50 NIS a day nearly $15. This is not enough for me and my kids. Daily life became expensive while some of my kids are students at local colleges. The anger we experience due to political failure of Hamas and Fateh. It's due to Israel who is continuing its polices against us. Still we are suffering to get power. Heat is higher this year between 30-42 degrees. Imagine we are living in such temperatures with electricity and water. If power is cut water will be cut too. My house is made of metal sheets. No exaggeration, sometimes it becomes oven like!"

In Gaza, restaurants' prices are high. I see it can be the same of some of London's restaurants. Roots, Lighthouse, Beech and Al deera restaurants are the most elegant places to eat at or visit. Israeli premier, Binyamin Netanyahu, through his cunning policy mentioned such places to say that there is no siege in Gaza. He sent out through his PR machine (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) an old video for Roots restaurants to say that there is no siege in Gaza. But the fact he didn't mention is who are those who visit those places. Obviously they are a few people. I visited these places and came to know that those who visit these place are those journalists, foreigners, politicians and others who are engaged and work for International organizations along with their local peers. Workshops and conferences for HRW organizations, USAID, Save the Children and other organizations are running these places with their money. Some high class people in Gaza and War landlords (Tunnels owners) visit these places. But normal Gazans don't visit such places. A meal could cost you between 30 to 100 British Pounds.

Power and Water problems are making life worse here in Gaza. Whenever you want to have a rest from the summer heat you will find no power to run an air conditioner or a fan. Whilst Water is cut as water wells rely on generators that need power to pump water to residential areas. Some people, and I'm one of them, go to the sea to have some fun and rest. But in vain, heat is over there as well as huge rates of humidity. Tens of thousands of people are going to the sea as it's their only place left to relax.

Infrastructure is still destroyed. Sewage water leaks in many residential areas. If you visit Jabalia Refugee camps you will see an extra suffering. Besides the power cut and the heat; sewage water is filling its small streets and corroders. Smell is sharing the house with those refugees. Indeed, it's unbearable for a visitor, so how about those who reside in it. the camp is in bad need of rebuilding and renovation. But with the siege nothing is changing. Israel still prevents construction materials to stream into Gaza. Many are still homeless due to the last war.

Garbage and rubbish are everywhere. Local municipalities (as they say!) they do their utmost to keep the Gaza cities clean. But looking into the ground, facts are grim and different. Indeed, life in Gaza remains grim. Political failure, siege, lack of hygiene, power and water. Heat and summer, high and low classes with no one in the middle. War landlords and taxis. Smuggling and victims. Lack of infrastructure. Lack of health basics. People still die due to lack of medications or inabilities to leave abroad for treatment. Violations of human rights and muting of freedom.

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