03/06/2008, 00.00
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Gaza priest: "They want to kill us all slowly"

by Joshua Lapide
Fr Manawel Musallam confirms the inhuman situation of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip under the Israeli blockade, denounced by a report from eight NGO's, the worst humanitarian crisis since 1967. The priest recounts the deaths and traumas among children, and launches a desperate appeal to the international community.

Gaza (AsiaNews) - "They have decided to kill us, and are doing so slowly, in an indirect way, without weapons, but by depriving us of food and medical care; if the international authorities are unable to stop Israel's violence against Gaza, we at least ask that they guarantee us a burial fitting for human beings".  This is the desperation of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who have been under an Israeli blockade for months.  The pastor of Holy Family Parish in Gaza, Fr Manawel Musallam, explains the situation to AsiaNews.  The Catholic priest confirms the dramatic situation in the zone as depicted in the report released yesterday by eight NGO's headquartered in Great Britain.  The document says that the blockade of the Gaza Strip has created the worst humanitarian crisis since the beginning of Israeli occupation in 1967.

"We have no food, there is a lack of doctors and medicines, the hospitals are full of dead people, and people are treated in the streets, under inhuman conditions", the priest says.  "Many are mutilated, children are a third of the victims of the latest Israeli attacks (February 27 - March 4); young people are experiencing incalculable psychological trauma: there are young school children who are no longer able even to study".

The shortage of food, medical services in disarray, and a water and sewage system near collapse are all part of the misery that 1.5 million Palestinians must face each day in the Gaza Strip.

Last June, when Hamas took control of the zone, Israel imposed restrictions on the circulation of goods and persons, in effect freezing economic activity in the Gaza Strip.  The blockade was tightened in January, limiting fuel supplies and other goods in response to the launching of rockets against Israeli territory by militants.  Humanitarian groups and legal experts maintain that the blockade is a violation of international law, in that it constitutes a "collective punishment" of an entire people.

The report of the eight NGO's - including Amnesty International, Save the Children, Cafod, Care International, and Christian Aid - speaks of a territory held hostage by the embargo, which has worsened the problems of poverty and unemployment, crippled the education system, and left about 80% of the population dependent on humanitarian aid.  Unemployment is at 40%.  The hospitals face daily blackouts lasting from 8 to 12 hours, because of Israeli restrictions on the fuel and electricity supplies.  Last year, about 18% of patients requiring emergency care outside of the Gaza Strip were refused permission to leave.

The NGO's urge the European Union to dialogue with the fundamentalist movement Hamas, and ask for the lifting of the blockade.

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