Gaza conditions deteriorate as talks open in Cairo

Published: 9th October 2017

On the eve of the latest reconciliation talks in Cairo between Fatah and the de-facto authorities in Gaza, Oxfam is calling on all parties to immediately lift punitive measures that have been placed on Gaza before waiting for the results of negotiations. 

This means ending both Israel’s decade-long blockade as well as the restrictions imposed by Palestinian leaders earlier this year, which have seen electricity supplies in Gaza plummet.

The two million people in Gaza who are living in darkness need actions, not more words, as conditions in the coastal enclave deteriorate further. UN daily monitoring shows that Gaza has had only four to five hours of electricity a day for the past 15 days. 

Chris Eijkemans, Oxfam’s country director in the Occupied Palestinian Territory & Israel, said that while this move towards reconciliation is heartening, an improvement in people’s lives cannot hinge on its outcome.

“We hope these talks will quickly bring drastic improvements to ordinary Palestinian’s lives, including specific plans to lift the illegal Israeli blockade on Gaza. Talking without action will not turn electricity back on, provide clean water and sanitation or a functioning economy”, said Mr Eijkemans.

Findings from Oxfam’s latest need assessment show shocking levels of need in Gaza. Of the more than 200 people from some of Gaza’s poorest communities interviewed in August 2017, all reported having less food to eat since the electricity crisis hit. Many women reported going to bed hungry as they prioritised the needs of their families over their own. All participants reported a rise in violence towards women and children as men struggle to cope with the inability to provide food for their families, on top of the increasing feeling of hopelessness. 

As the occupying power, Israel holds primary responsibility of the wellbeing of Palestinians living in Gaza. While the blockade remains in place, conditions in Gaza cannot meaningfully improve. 

“As parties gather in Cairo, Gaza becomes more and more unliveable. People need the electricity turned back on immediately, medical referrals between Gaza and the West Bank need to flow and the forced early retirement of thousands of civil servants, crucial to ensuring any reconciled government functions properly, must be stopped right now. 

“Tomorrow is also a chance for Palestinian leaders to restore hope for their exhausted and beleaguered people, and show that this reconciliation process is more than political gamesmanship,” Eijkemans added.

As these discussions progress, Oxfam also calls for Palestinian civil society to be invited to take part, at all levels. The expertise and voices of Palestinian women and men working hard to bring relief to their own people must be heard amidst the constant diplomatic din that has smothered this crisis for far too long. 

“If Palestinians, not just their politicians and foreign diplomats, play a part in forming their own future, a path to peace and even an end to the oppressive 50-year-long Israeli occupation may finally be something they can once again hope for”, said Eijkemans.

Notes to editors

Roslyn Boatman | | +972 54 639 5002

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