New blockade squeezes Gaza residents
Israel refused to reopen crossings or allow crucial fuel supplies into Gaza on Monday, despite UN warnings that vital food aid could be suspended within days.
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Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday that Israel will continue to hold peace talks with Fatah, the Palestinian faction that governs the West Bank and that, unlike Hamas, recognizes Israel's right to exist.Skip to next paragraph
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"Israel is the only place in the world that supplies electricity to terrorist organizations that launch rockets at it in return," she said. "Life for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is not easy because there is terrorism there, and this should be crystal clear: Hamas can change the lives of the people in Gaza in an instant, if it ceases terrorism."
Almost all of Gaza's bakeries were shut on Monday, and the United Nations – which distributes the food relief that 90 percent of Gaza's 1.5 million residents rely on – says it may have to halt food distribution by Friday, because they're running out of plastic bags and fuel.
Mr. Yusuf, a welder who lost his job after the Hamas takeover because most construction in Gaza stopped after Israel cut off cement shipments, says the family has been close to getting Mara out on three occasions, only to be tripped up by the Kafka-esque procedures for leaving the territory.
"The Tel Aviv hospital told us they could take us Jan. 10, for instance. But then the security clearance only came through on the 11th. The hospital told us that they didn't have a space for us that day, and that we're not allowed to use the security clearance unless we have a guaranteed spot at the hospital."
Khaled Radi, the spokesman for the Hamas-run Gaza health authority, says the ministry has enough diesel to run "three, maybe four, days" without fresh shipments. "We've been told quite clearly by Israel: Stop the rockets, and then we'll send supplies. But I have no control over the rockets."
Ayman Sisa, the director of the dialysis department at Shifa Hospital, says he's had to cut back weekly treatments for patients from three times a week to two, because 10 of his machines have broken down and he hasn't been able to import spare parts. "A lot of these people would be dead in a week without their treatments," he argues. "But if more machines go down, we'll have to cut back further."
Anwar Khali, the doctor currently treating Mara in Gaza says the hospital ran out of an important medicine and that the fate of Mara is now largely "out of our hands. She's not alone. We had a 4-year-old boy turned down by Israel to travel for surgery. When we asked why, they said "security reasons."
Mr. Arafat says he's never been involved in politics, and adds that he would support stopping the rockets – or anything else – if that would let his daughter gets the care she needs.
But he also says "angry doesn't tell the half of it'' when asked how he feels.
"I lost my job, and now my wife, and I may lose our daughter," he says. "We're caged up like beasts."