Rafah, Occupied Palestine: A dark brown putrid sludge snakes through Gaza’s streets. Fumes of methane and bacterial gases choke the air. Faucets ooze organic material, a noxious mixture of human and animal waste, disease and bile. The stench is overwhelming. Passers-by choke up, vomiting into the mire.
“The smell,” Ayoub Al Saifi, 56, grimaces, holding a handkerchief over his nose and mouth. “The stench of the sewage … my wife has asthma and she can’t breath.”
Al Saifi lives adjacent to the newly formed pool of waste. Last week Israel ceased the delivery of all fuel and supplies into and out of Gaza. The effects have been catastrophic. The sewage treatment plant requires 20,000 litres of fuel per day to run only in Al Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City.
Silent now without fuel, the waste backs up, flooding the streets and clogging the plumbing initiating what the Ministry of Health calls an "environmental catastrophe" in Gaza.
Dr. Mawia Hasaneen, Director of Emergency and Reception at Gaza largest hospital Al Shifa Hospital warns of the consequences in cutting off Gaza’s fuel.
“We have to choose between cutting the electricity on babies in the maternity ward, cutting it to heart patients or shutting down our operating rooms.”
Circumstances are forcing doctors to choose resemble a medicinal version of Sophie’s Choice.
“It’s getting worse day by day!” Said Ammar states in disbelief.
In an e-mail Christine McNab, acting director of communications, World Health Organization in Geneva elaborates that, “Our current concerns are about the supply of electricity to health facilities, the ability to move medical supplies into the region, and the ability of people to seek care outside of Gaza,” she writes.
McNab notes that even if the full blockade is lifted, additional measures need to be taken by the international community to ensure no further disruptions can occur.
Where is the world?
Ammar, a father and of four and engineer sits alone in his dark shop, flabbergasted by the global apathy and willingness to allow Israel to withhold basic life necessities from 1.5 million people. Asked if he believes Hamas is the problem, he answers firmly, “Hamas has never been the problem. The occupation has always been the big problem.”
Ammar adds he considers through their complicity President Abbas and West Bank Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad to be acting as agents of Israel.
When pressed for qualification, the distraught father explains, 'Abbas and Fayyad gave away all our Palestinian rights, leaving nothing. And now Israel is attacking Nablus and Jenin on a daily basis!” he interjects in disgust.
“Abbas doesn’t deserve 1% of the respect that Arafat earned.” Ammar concludes.
Gaza bakeries ceased operations due to the blockade. Without power and flower bakers are unable to bake fresh pita, a staple of the Palestinian diet. The director of Gaza’s UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) formerly petitioned Israel to reopen the crossings appealing to the international community to help Gaza’s civilians.
The power station's shutdown has 'plummeted Gaza City, with its 600,000 residents into darkness,' Director John Ging at a news conference emphasized how the loss of electricity 'affects every aspect of the civilian population's lives here in Gaza. If you visit any of the hospitals you will find that its generators are only producing enough electricity to keep essential equipment going. They are very cold, all of the wards, adding to the misery of the patients.”
Rafah based widow Rajaa Shalil 38 and mother of four children explains how the lack of staples impacts her family. “Our kitchen is empty — I don’t have milk , bread and rice for my children” she cries.
Ask her opinion on Hamas, she replies, “My respect for Hamas has increased more than ever. I love them for their empathy for the weak.”
Not all of Gaza’s residents feel this way. When asked who is to blame for Gaza’s Crisis Abu Mohammed, 41 states angrily.
“Israel and Hamas are the reason for this. Before, we were all in better conditions, but since Hamas took over Gaza they have been unable to handle it.”
Throughout Gaza residents huddled around wood fires, others using candles or kerosene lamps for light in protest. Entire families join in protest shouting, “End this unfair siege! Open the borders!” And “Rescue our lives!”
Official Israeli sources cite approximately 150 homemade rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel since Israel commenced this latest raid. Two Israelis have been slightly wounded and several dozen treated for shock. Israel continues to retaliate with tanks and F-16’s firing Hellfire missiles, shells, mortars into Gaza’s neighborhoods, 76 Palestinians have been killed, another 293 injured since January 1, 2008, according to Dr. Hasaneen.