No light, no heat, no bread: stark reality for the powerless in Gaza

Besieged civilians pay the price for Israel’s hardline response to rocket attacks

Rory McCarthy in Khan Yunis, Gaza
Tuesday January 22, 2008
The Guardian

A Palestinian boy waits to pump air into his bedbound brother's longs in case his respirator cuts out
A Palestinian boy waits to pump air by hand into his bedbound brother’s lungs in case his respirator cuts out during blackouts. Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters

When it opened its doors seven years ago, the European Gaza hospital was one of the biggest foreign investments in the long-troubled Gaza Strip and one of the leading medical centres in the Palestinian territories. Yesterday, the 250-bed hospital was sliding rapidly into crisis, turning away patients for routine operations and struggling to manage emergency cases, as the sole power plant in Gaza halted electricity production after Israel stopped all fuel supplies.

Israel said its closure of the Gaza strip was intended to halt the firing of makeshift rockets by Palestinian militants into southern Israel.

Yet Israel’s stark new policy has meant no fuel or food aid has come into Gaza since last Thursday. Large parts of the overcrowded strip had no power, leaving it without lights and heating, closing bakeries and forcing hospitals to rely on generators and their own limited fuel reserves. As night fell nearly all Gaza City was in darkness. Simply put, it was “collective punishment,” said the European commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

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