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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 July 2006, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Palestinians face Gaza hardships
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Gaza City

Gazan butcher Mohammed Hadad opens the door to a walk-in fridge, releasing a pungent smell of rotting meat into his shop.

Children rest on sacks of grain in Gaza
The military action has come as Gaza suffers food shortages
With Gaza facing rolling power cuts after an Israeli airstrike hit Gaza City's only power plant, Mr Hadad's refrigerators are no longer operational. Large cuts of lamb hanging from steel hooks are spoiling.

Until now, Mr Hadad has been moving the meat between his home and shop depending on where there is electricity. But now he is stumped - there is no power in either building.

"In three hours it will be completely spoilt," he says, standing under a motionless roof fan. "We need to find a solution to this."

Guns and butter

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are feeling more besieged than usual as the tense stand-off continues with Israel over the fate of a captured soldier held in the territory.

Gaza butcher Mohammed Hadad
Butcher Mohammed Hadad is seeing his meat turn rotten
The international community cut aid to the Palestinians in March when Hamas took office.

Palestinians will tell you things have got worse.

Every few hours, sonic booms rattle the city, waking people from their sleep and setting off car alarms.

Israel has shelled targets in the territory.

With no supplies coming into the territory from Israel, food and fuel is running short here, and some international aid agencies are warning of a possible humanitarian crisis if the blockade continues.

Israel says its military operation will end if the kidnapped Cpl Gilad Shalit is freed and there is an end to rocket attacks into Israel from northern Gaza.

Israel says it is hoping to pressurise the militants into releasing the soldier. But until now this has not happened.

Deal hope

Like Mr Hadad, many Palestinians want an end to their latest hardship. But most believe that Israel must release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the 19-year-old soldier's life.

Petrol station in Gaza
Petrol supplies are running low
"There needs to be more negotiations," says Mr Hadad. "A prisoner exchange is the only way to resolve this crisis."

Across the city, people have been looking for fuel for their cars and also to power their generators.

Ataf Timraz, 30, whose family owns two petrol stations and supplies fuel to 30 others, says that they have run out of fuel.

As he sits in his office, a worker hoses down the garage forecourt and waves customers away.

"People think we have stored petrol, that we're hiding it," says Mr Timraz, explaining people's frustrations.

Family history

Most Palestinians are trying to carry on with their daily lives, but the threat looms of a major Israeli military operation.

Why should we release the soldier for nothing?
Zami Shalouf
Beit Hanoun
In Beit Hanoun, a town in northern Gaza, residents are tense about a major Israeli military operation. This is the site from where many of the rockets are fired by Palestinians into Israel.

Zamil Shalouf, 27, whose house lies 100 metres from the border, says his wife and one-year-old son left the house three days ago to live with a relative. They were fearful of a possible major military incursion.

But Mr Shalouf insists that those holding the soldier must extract a price from Israel.

"An Israeli shell killed my brother in his house," he says.

"He wasn't a militant. Why should we release the soldier for nothing?"

Israel and the Palestinians



Palestinian women sit on a roof top of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 20 November 2006. Human shields
Palestinians adopt a new tactic to deter Israeli attacks, but this is a high-risk strategy




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