Page last updated at 18:46 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Gazans describe life under blockade

Four of the Gaza Strip's 1.5m residents describe how they have been affected by Israel's renewed blockade of the territory. The crossings into the Gaza Strip have been closed for most of the past two weeks, with only a limited quantity of humanitarian supplies allowed through.

Fuel shortages have led to extensive power cuts in Gaza City while UN aid deliveries, which support some 750,000 people, were suspended for several days. A five-month-old ceasefire is looking increasingly shaky. Israel says the closures are prompted by rocket fire into Israel by militants in the Hamas-controlled territory.


Musba al-Shantri, baker, Gaza
Musba says he has had to stop employing five of his workers

Musba al-Shantri, 57, says he has been powering the equipment in his Gaza City bakery using a generator running on diesel - much of which comes through the smugglers' tunnels under the border with Egypt:

"All our work is problems - electricity problems, water problems, gas problems, flour problems.

"I am one of the lucky people because my machines work on electricity, so I can use generators - half of the bakeries work on gas, so they can't work.

"I have stopped making some types of bread because I couldn't get the ingredients - there are 12 workers in my bakery, but I had to stop five of them working. We don't have the ingredients.

"When the flour is finished in my bakery, I will have to close."


Fowzi Abu Jarrad, unemployed, eats with his family in Gaza City
Fowzi says he cannot even afford to buy candles

Fowzi Abu-Jarrad, 40, a father of six, lives in al-Mahatta, a poor area of Gaza City. He says he used to work in construction, but has not had work since the intifada, or uprising, which broke out in 2000. He usually relies on monthly aid packages of flour, meat and beans from charitable institutions.

"We have been waiting for a month, we were supposed to get the food a month ago. Our flour supplies are almost finished. We are now depending on help from the mosque.

"We received nothing since the closure of the border. The closure affects us a lot.

"My children can't study because of the power cuts. We are living in a very small house - two rooms, one living room and a bedroom, with eight people.

"My daughter Dina, used to wake up in the night screaming because there is no electricity. Honestly, I have no money even to buy candles - these are the last one and a half candles I have left.


Fady al-Burbar, shop worker, Gaza City
Fady says a lot of his stock has spoiled because of the power cuts

Fady al-Burbar, 23, helps his father, Mohammad, 43, run a shop selling fresh and frozen meat and fish in Beach Camp, a Palestinian refugee camp in the north of Gaza City. Their income provides for the family of eight children.

"A lot of our meat and fish has been spoiled because of the power cuts.

"I have had to send away many customers who wanted things like minced meat because I have no power to run my machines.

"I am afraid I am losing a lot of customers.

"Within two weeks I will have to close if the electricity problem continues like this - from now I will not bring more goods for my shop because I am not willing to buy things that will just perish.


Bakar Abu al-Kas, taxi driver (right)
Bakar (right) fears smuggled fuel supplies could end at any moment

Bakar Abul-Kas lives in Shujaiyeh, an eastern neighbourhood in Gaza City. He says petrol prices have now dropped to a fraction of the high they reached during periods of border closures earlier this year, largely because supplies are coming through the smugglers' tunnels from Egypt.

"We are storing fuel because we are worried and afraid that it will run out because of the closure. I see this is a good opportunity for us to store as much fuel as we can.

"I am storing about 10 gallons, but the problem is that I don't have enough money to store a large amount of fuel.

"I am afraid the tunnels could be closed at any moment.

"The closure of the borders affects economic life here. Daily life becomes really tough. The borders are the soul for the Gaza Strip."

Text and images: Hamada Abu Qammar

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