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The politics of the forgotten humanitarian crises in Yemen and Gaza

Millions of Yemenis are starving as Saudi Arabia continues to bomb the country, while the people of Gaza lack electricity and medical supplies due to a 10-year Israeli blockade. Both conflicts and the crises they have unleashed are tied to the U.S.’ arms industry’s unending pursuit of profit.

by Whitney Webb

Part 3 - Gaza under siege as Israel, Egypt continue 10-year blockade

The situation in Yemen may very well be the worst humanitarian crisis currently taking place in the world. However, there are other parts of the world that are set to share a similar fate, particularly the besieged city of Gaza, Palestine. For more than ten years, Gaza has been illegally blockaded by the state of Israel, as well as Egypt – a blockade which, according to Amnesty International, has “unlawfully deprived Palestinians in Gaza of their most basic rights and necessities.

The blockade – along with three military conflicts in which Israel targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure – has crippled Gaza’s economy and led to the severe deterioration of living conditions, forcing the majority of the population to become dependent on humanitarian aid. Gaza’s residents, numbering well above two million, are essentially cut off from access to the outside world, making the coastal city the world’s largest open-air concentration camp, for all intents and purposes. Even human rights workers are barred entry into the city.

While Gaza residents have resisted the blockade for years, the situation has grown dire in recent months. Gaza has been long forced to rely on electricity supplied by Israel and Egypt, the very nations who enforce the blockade. Yet, last month, the Palestinian Authority – in a move allegedly aimed at weakening the political power of Hamas in Gaza – requested that Israel drastically reduce the amount of power it supplies to Gaza, which has now dropped from 120 megawatts to 48. This meets barely 10 percent of the enclave’s electricity needs: an estimated 450 to 500 megawatts.

Things have only grown worse since the power cuts began. Two weeks ago, power lines going into Gaza from Egypt became inoperable. Then last Thursday, Gaza’s only remaining power plant completely shut down. Israeli NGO Gisha stated that the plant’s closure has left residents’ lives “disrupted, entire hospital wards are shut down, untreated sewage is spilling to the sea in heretofore-unseen quantities and beaches are becoming more dangerous for swimming.

Numerous NGOs have spoken out against the recent power cuts, warning of a “looming” catastrophe. However, the evidence clearly shows that the catastrophe is already well under way and is quickly worsening. As noted by the Middle East Monitor, “it is shameful that international organisations continue to warn of an ‘impending’ untenable situation when the present circumstances have already deteriorated, possibly beyond repair even if the present violations are halted and reversed.” Indeed, past criticisms of Israel’s blockade by international NGOs and aid organizations have had hardly any effect on the actions of the Israeli government regarding Gaza.

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