Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008

Voices: Gaza closure and shortages

People in Gaza may be without UN food aid from Saturday, after Israel refused to allow in emergency supplies. The territory has been sealed off since 5 November; Israel says continued mortar fire from Gaza militants is to blame. Three Gazans describe how the enforced closure has affected them.


Belal Badwan
Belal has missed two chances to study abroad because of the blockade

The immediate result is an even greater shortage of certain things. Two days ago I wanted to buy a jacket - it's winter here now - but I couldn't find a good one.

All the clothes had come through the tunnels [from Egypt]. They're often second hand but they're not even cheap. We're forced to buy them because there's no other option.

Much worse than that is the limits on our movement.

Twice now I've missed a chance to study abroad, because I couldn't get out of the Gaza Strip. I was offered a place at a Malaysian University in July this year and July last year.

The Israelis stopped me leaving Erez in the north and the Egyptians stopped me at Rafah in the south.

I stopped working two months ago when Hamas dismissed lots of people at the school I teach in, because of their links with Fatah.

We went on strike in protest and Hamas hired different staff to teach the children. I am still being paid by the government in Ramallah.

Hamas is paying the new teachers half what we get.


We haven't had any cooking gas for the last 15 days. My wife and I have four children, we cook with petrol or electricity when we have it.

The industrial diesel used in Gaza's power plant is under blockade, so there are a lot of power cuts.

The markets are full of poor quality, overpriced goods smuggled from Egypt

We have to use electricity whenever it's available, so we can find ourselves cooking and doing the laundry at midnight.

However, we are luckier than people in Gaza City because up here, our electricity comes from Israel. I am also fortunate because I have a job, with an international non-governmental organisation...

[The phone line cuts out. Contact is resumed a little later.]

That's because of the power cuts. The local mobile phone company, Jawwal, just lost the power to boost the mobile signal.

The blockade also means the markets are full of poor quality, overpriced products smuggled through the tunnels from Egypt.

It's very bad quality: cans of food, chocolate, lentils. Lentils used to be less than half a dollar per kilo, now it's three and a half to four dollars per kilo. The mark up is incredible.

We are being exploited by those who are managing the tunnels.

But it's a risky business; today they have a tunnel, tomorrow they might destroy it. So they have to get the capital and profit back in one day.


I work for an international humanitarian organisation, not related to any political party.

We have so few materials here in Gaza, very little can be done to repair things

Recently our Gaza office won first prize in a competition for excellence and creativity. Of course the award ceremony was in Ramallah and we couldn't go.

We just stood in front of the TV and watched someone accept it on our behalf.

It's so frustrating, but worse if you need medicine or need to travel for medical treatment.

I would like to continue my studies abroad, but there's no chance at the moment.

Two weeks ago we had heavy rainfall and there was a lot of flooding. We have so few materials in Gaza, very little could be done to repair things.

Some people had to reach their homes by boat.

We helped with emergency intervention, giving people mattresses and fixing windows and doors. But we didn't have much to work with.

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