Gaza: The world’s largest open air prison

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AD is a 33 year old English teacher from the Gaza Strip in Palestine who has lived under Israeli occupation his whole life, he has spoken about life under siege.

The Gaza Strip, commonly referred to as the ‘largest open air prison’ in the world has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967.

It is recognised as occupied Palestinian territory on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered mostly by Israel and partially by Egypt.

Gaza has been under a siege since Hamas took control of it in 2007.  Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 defeating their rivals, the Fatah party and forcibly took power the following year.

As a result, the ongoing embargo was imposed by Israel and Egypt and involves a brutal land, air and sea blockade. The two countries claim that they are security measures against militants in Gaza.

The blockade prevents goods and people from entering or leaving the Strip. So after every Israeli assault, damaged and destroyed buildings do not get rebuilt due to a scarcity of construction materials. Debris dominates the landscape in Gaza.

It is the civilian population who have been hit the hardest in this humanitarian disaster as Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world and 80 percent of the population of almost two million require humanitarian aid.

AD was born in Gaza and lives with his parents and his uncle’s family and his grandparents.

“I was born stateless and have lived through the first and second Intifadas. I was constantly fearful of soldiers raiding our home and arresting my father or my uncle.”

The two Intifadas were the Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The first intifada lasted from 1987-1993 and the second lasted from 2000-2005.

“I experienced the brutality of Israel’s response to the second intifada when about 3,000 Palestinians were killed.

“When I was a child I experienced being shot at and saw a shooting near my kindergarten. At prep school we were bombarded with illegal white phosphorus munitions. As I grew into a teenager and then an adult, I have heard of countless other assaults, invasions and massacres.

“I am one of the rare privileged few who have been educated to Masters Degree level.

“Owing to Israel’s siege and bombing of infrastructure, the water in Gaza is undrinkable and contaminated. Gazans only receive about five hours of electricity on most days. The food insecurity is also high in the Gaza Strip.”

Palestinian fishermen are unable to fish freely, as the Israeli sea blockade does not allow them to fully use Gaza’s territorial waters, stipulated as 20 nautical miles under the 1993 Oslo accords. At the moment, fishermen are restricted to a few miles from the coast.

“My message from Gaza to all the people in the world, if you are frustrated because of 14 days in quarantine due the Covid-19, you have to know that there are more than two million people who have been living in Gaza in a physical, political and economic quarantine for the past 14 years.

“Do patients know what it means to be in pain without medicine? Have researchers, scholars, and students tasted the loss of opportunities due to an inability to attend conferences?

“For a Palestinian, from the first moments after birth, you will not hear the sound of birds but the sound of explosions will be firmly rooted in your memory. You will not be able to watch cartoons, all you will see is painful news, scenes of shootings and bombings and killing of children.”

AD describes how it is hard to sleep at night due to the fear of becoming a victim of bombing, shelling or kidnapping. He has lost many friends and family in this one sided conflict, one in which Israel has the most powerful military in the Middle East occupying a vastly inferior territory which does not even have an airport or a port. Gaza is also one of the most densely populated regions in the world.

AD added: “My family’s house is 1.5 km from the border and we regularly hear Israeli tanks shooting at Palestinian targets.

“They not only stole our land, but they stole our dreams and the happiness of our children. They are trying to steal our history as they have stolen our present and plan to steal our future”

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