Palestinians in Gaza are ‘locked in’, denied free access to the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territory and the outside world. Movement restrictions imposed by Israel since the early 1990’s and intensified in June 2007, following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, have severely undermined the living conditions. The isolation of Gaza has been exacerbated by restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities on its single passengers crossing (Rafah), as well as by the internal Palestinian divide. The UN Secretary-General has found that the blockade and related restrictions contravene international humanitarian law as they target and impose hardship on the civilian population, effectively penalizing them for acts they have not committed. Major escalations of hostilities in the past years have resulted in extensive destruction and internal displacement.
“The dump site here ruined our lives. The air we breathe isn’t clean and the environment we live in isn’t healthy,” said Abu Ahmad, a father of seven, who lives in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, next to an informal dumpsite. “I love Beit Lahia. It used to be an agricultural area, where we could eat what we plant. The water was good as well. Now, the area is damaged, and the aquifer is polluted. I really hate saying this, but I wish I could leave.”
Ahmed, a 50-year-old father of six from Gaza City, was diagnosed in 2018 with advanced colon cancer. Since then, he has been regularly referred to the August Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem for chemotherapy treatment. The suffering related to his disease has been amplified by the uncertainty of the process required to obtain an Israeli-issued exit permit and the hardships of the travel. “It took me about five hours to reach the hospital. It’s physically and mentally exhausting,” Ahmed explains.
Mohammed, 35 and father of three, from Beit Hanoun, was shot with a live bullet in the leg during the first “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstration on 30 March 2018. “I went through 25 surgeries, but I’m still in pain,” he told OCHA. As a result of his disability, Mohammed lost his job as a construction worker and the economic situation of his family began to deteriorate. “My wife couldn’t bear with my situation and with the poverty, so we got divorced. My life is nothing, but a misery.”
The Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip imposed in 2007, citing security concerns, as well as the access restrictions imposed by Egypt, were eased in some ways during 2019. However, the movement of people and goods to, from, and within Gaza remained severely constrained.
Muslih A’ta Wafi lives with his wife and seven children on the ground floor of a threestorey house in one of the lowest points of Khan Younis city. “In preparation for the 2018 winter season, we added another layer to the floor to raise it and prevent flooding,” said Muslih. “Unfortunately, this only prevented light rain from flooding the house, but whenever it rained heavily, our home flooded with a mix of sewage and rainwater. Last year, we lost most of our furniture.”
Evictions have become routine for Eitidal, aged 30, a wife and mother of two daughters: Layali, 11, and Rimas, 7. Her husband, Medhat, 33, suffers from epileptic seizures and psychological problems, and has been unable to find regular employment. Over the past few years, the family has been evicted twice over accumulated, unpaid rent.