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Sunday, January 27, 2008


The "non-existent" humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he won't let a humanitarian crisis develop in Gaza. But the Los Angeles Times does a nice job of informing its audience that that crisis already exists, and how the breakthrough at the border, as important as it has been to the lives of individual Gazans, is no solution to the broader problem:
Malah abu Lashin lay in the intensive care unit of Nasser Children's Hospital here Sunday, her frail 20-month-old body attached to a ventilator, an oxygenator and an intravenous pump.

The lifeline that kept those devices functioning was equally fragile: a tenuous flow of electricity from a generator with just enough diesel in the tank to last 10 hours.

"If the power goes off, we can pump those machines by hand," said Anwar Sheikh Khalil, the Palestinian hospital's director. "But we could not keep her alive that way indefinitely."

Malah's doctors are struggling to help her overcome a congenital muscular weakness and breathe on her own before Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip causes the lights to go out.

Gazans dealt the blockade a blow last week by toppling a border wall and pouring into Egypt to shop. But their vital public services -- including medical care, electricity, water supply and sewage treatment -- remain severely crippled by Israeli sanctions, according to Palestinian officials and international relief agencies.

Mahmoud Daher, a health officer for the World Health Organization in Gaza, said 105 essential medicines were no longer available in Gaza, including drugs needed by 135 hospitalized cancer patients.

At the Nasser hospital, doctors said eight premature babies had died in the past two weeks, including one who needed blood-clotting agents that the hospital lacked -- a tragedy obscured by the televised scenes of jubilant Gazans swarming past Egyptian guards at the border.

"After feeling imprisoned for so long, it has been a psychological relief for Gazans to know that there is a way out," said John Ging, head of the U.N. Relief Works Agency office here. "But it does not resolve their crisis by any stretch of the imagination."
If Olmert really doesn't believe there is already a crisis (which is dubious to put it mildly), here's one reason why that might be so:
The issue came before Israel's Supreme Court as it heard an appeal Sunday by Israeli human-rights groups for an injunction against the fuel supply cuts.

Rafik Maliha, the Gaza power plant's project manager, said he prepared testimony for the court that Israel's promise to deliver 580,000 gallons of diesel fuel to the power plant each week would leave it operating well below its 80-megawatt capacity and without reserves.

But Israeli border police delayed Maliha and another Palestinian power company official for four hours at a Gaza-Israel crossing, and they missed the hearing.

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