Interfaith Peace Initiative




Gaza Today


Gaza Update

In the aftermath of the massive Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009, Gaza remains a devastated prison for its people. Clean water and food are in short supply. Only a fraction of the aid provided by other countries is being allowed in at Israeli border crossings. Building supplies are not among the admitted goods. Without these supplies, repairs cannot be made to damaged sewage systems, water pipes, and energy supply stations.

Families have been living in crude tents for almost two months, with no heat or protection from the cold and damp Gaza winter. Palestinians in Gaza are still dying from their injuries. Hundreds of sick and injured Gazans are waiting to cross into Egypt for treatment, but the Rafah border remains closed to human traffic. This humanitarian crisis is worsening daily, while much of the world considers the "war" on Gaza over. Closing borders, as Israel did throughout the cease-fire with Gaza last year, is itself an act of war and a grave violation of the cease-fire agreement. The international community must press Israel to open borders fully and allow the people of Gaza to rebuild.

American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) reports on Gaza visit

Dear Friend,

Last month I entered Gaza through the Erez crossing in the north. It's near Beit Lahia, the home of the infamous "sewage lagoon." The stench is indescribable. Imagine living near a huge, open pool of raw waste. Two years ago the sand embankments of the lagoon broke and five people drowned in a wave of sewage. Families in the village nearby live with the threat of the embankments breaking again some day.

Add to that threat, 22 days of not knowing whether your family is truly safe from rockets, bombs, bullets, shrapnel, tanks, shattering glass or collapsing buildings. This was the experience of 1.5 million people living in Gaza......

Video Shows Gaza Plight

Please view the video at  and share it with your friends.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is intensifying

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is intensifying, with hunger and malnutrition reaching alarming levels.  On November 14, UN food warehouses in Gaza closed their doors, since Israel is preventing food shipments from reaching the Gaza Strip. Though Israel claims to have ended its occupation of Gaza when settlers were withdrawn from the area, in fact, it has simply withdrawn its forces to the borders, preventing essential supplies from reaching the imprisoned population inside. 1.4 million people -- half of them children -- are denied the ability to feed themselves, as they are cut off from the outside world. Israeli gunboats firing on fishermen in Gaza’s own waters have all but destroyed the major livelihood of Gazans. After Israel bombed their power plant, many were left without energy needed to pump water and refrigerate food. 

Israel has prevented materials needed to repair the power plant and the crumbling sewerage system from entering the area. As a result, the walls of open sewage lakes have burst, flooding nearby homes and towns and killing civilians.  Israel has withheld millions of dollars in tax revenue belonging to Gazans. 

As the world looks on in silence, the people of Gaza continue to suffer in one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time.  The articles below give some sense of the horrifying situation for Christians and Muslims in the Gaza Strip. More articles on Gaza may be found at the web site of the Chicago Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

A glimmer of hope has reached Gaza through the courageous efforts of the Free Gaza movement, which has sent three boats with medical supplies to Gaza from Cypress. The most recent voyage was filled with Parliamentarians from Europe, doctors, Israeli peace activists and Nobel Prize winner Mairead Maguire, whose account of conditions in Gaza appears below. Please call your Members of Congress and support the Free Gaza mission at . We must not be silent!

Journey to Gaza
by Mairead Maguire
(Nobel Peace Laureate)
4th November, 2008

On 28th October, 2008, the Free Gaza Movement set sail in SS Dignity from Larnaca, Cyprus, for Gaza.  On board were 27 internationals from 13 countries, including Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, five physicians, human rights lawyers, etc.,  I felt deeply privileged to be part of this group going to Gaza.

On this the second boat journey into Gaza the siege-breakers brought with them 6 cubic meters of medicine, and their hope that by going to Gaza across the sea (only the second boat to do so in over 41 years) they would give hope to the people of Gaza and that the outside world would break its silence to the tragedy of Gaza’s suffering and act to get the siege lifted.

It’s hard to image that in the 2lst century a country can be so cut off from the outside world.  Sixteen months ago, when Gazans voted Hamas in free and fair elections, the reaction of Israel was not to open up dialogue with the elected representatives (as they eventually must do) but to put in place a policy of collective punishment of the entire population, which has lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. 

Israel said it was ending the Occupation of Gaza, but in truth it maintained it by closing all border entrances and isolating the Gazans from the entire world.  Gaza is like an open air prison with Israel holding the keys, but it’s worse. At least in prison, the inmates are fed and taken care of.  The people of Gaza are drinking polluted water and have not enough food and medicines and materials for existence – and in the words of one Gazan ‘we are slowly choking to death with this siege’. (continue the full article)

Impact of Fuel Shortage on Gaza Sanitation – Polluting the Sea
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

  • Between 50 and 60 million litres of partially treated and untreated sewage from the Gaza Strip have been flowing daily into the Mediterranean Sea since 24 January.

  • This sewage cannot be treated due to the lack of a steady electricity supply within the Gaza Strip, Israel’s restrictions on fuel imports, and prohibitions on the import of materials and necessary spare parts.

  • Full sewage treatment requires 14 continuous days of uninterrupted power supply which cannot occur due to daily power cuts and insufficient fuel to operate power-supplying and back-up generators.

  • The sewage discharge is contaminating Gaza sea waters and posing health risks for bathers and consumers of seafood. The sewage flows northward to Israeli coasts, including near the Ashkelon desalination plant. Urgent studies are needed to examine the extent of the impact.

  • The ongoing fuel shortages are triggering a further deterioration in the situation, in which untreated sewage is now being pumped into heavily populated residential areas: three million litres of raw sewage were recently pumped into the storm water lagoon Jabaliya camp; a sewage pumping station near Zeitoun is likely to flood when its generator fuel runs out in the next 24-48 hours.

Fuel Crisis Paralyzes 85% of the Transportation Sector and 50% of Education and Health Services
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
14 April 2008

PCHR is extremely worried about the continued Israeli ban on fuel supplies required for civilian life in the Gaza Strip. The stoppage in fuel supplies has led to paralyzing 50% of the educational sector as half the students in all educational levels were unable to reach their schools and universities. In addition, educational sector employees have been unable to reach their work. Furthermore, the transportation sector has nearly stopped functioning throughout the Gaza Strip. As a result all basic functions of civilian life have come to a near standstill, including drinking water delivery, sewage water disposal, and garbage collection. In addition, healthcare facilities registered a 25% drop in clients due to the transportation crisis. Furthermore, hundreds of healthcare professionals were unable to reach their work places.

On 9 April 2008, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) stopped the flow of the heavily reduced fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip. As a result, the humanitarian situation hit hard by continuous collective punishment since 15 June 2006, deteriorated even further.

PCHR’s monitoring indicates that the Gaza Strip has become a ghost town, especially in the morning and in the afternoon. Approximately 145 fuel stations shut down; and all suppliers of fuel and gas shut down due to the total lack of supplies. Local sources indicate that the transportation sector is operating at 15% capacity, including public and private transportation. The civilian population is finding it extremely difficult to reach places of work, study, and even healthcare facilities.

The educational sector is the hardest hit by the fuel crisis. Absenteeism in schools and universities varied from 20-50% since last Saturday, especially in Gaza City that houses most schools and universities. The Islamic University, Al-Azhar University, Al-Aqsa University, and Al-Quds Open University registered 30-55% absenteeism. The Islamic University stated that yesterday 60% of its 19000 students and 600 faculty members were absent due to their inability to reach the university. Al-Azhar University stated that absenteeism of their students (19000) climbed from 30% on Saturday to 40% on Sunday, and 55% on Monday morning. Al-Aqsa University suspended studies starting today till Thursday due to 50% absenteeism of students (14000) and staff.

Approximately 50% of the 6000 students in Al-Aqsa University branch in Khan Yunis were absent today; and 10% of the staff members were not able to come to work. Approximately 1000 students were absent from the Islamic University branch in Khan Yunis. And in the same city, 30% of the students were absent in Al-Quds Open University.

On the school level, thousands of students and teachers were unable to reach their schools. Absenteeism ranged from 10-30% of the total number of school students of 448000. UNRWA schools in the eastern part of Khan Yunis registered 30% absenteeism (10500 students). A school in El-Qarara to the north of Khan Yunis closed due to the absence of a large number of teachers. Dar El-Arqam private school in Gaza announced a 3-day suspension of school since the school’s buses ran out of fuel.

The Ministry of Health announced that most ambulances have stopped due to lack of fuel. In addition, the Ministry announced that it has started using its limited fuel reserve to operate health centers and important equipment. The Ministry warned that the expiry of this small reserve will paralyze the health sector and the remaining operational ambulances; thus depriving civilians of minimum healthcare services. In addition, hospitals and medical centers in the Gaza Strip are suffering from the absence of staff due to their inability to reach their workplaces. As a result, the operation of these institutions is threatened at a time of escalated Israeli military activity inside the Gaza Strip.

In Light of this situation, PCHR affirms that the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip is a form of collective punishment and reprisal action by IOF against Palestinian civilians. These crimes are a violation of International Humanitarian Law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), and International Human Rights Law, especially the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

PCHR reiterates the call to the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the 4th Geneva Convention (1949), to break their silence and pressure Israel to uplift the siege and suffering of the 1.5 million civilians living in the Gaza Strip. The Centre calls for pressuring Israel to allow the immediate and safe passage of basic needs to the Gaza Strip including fuel, food, and medical supplies. The Centre reminds these parties of their legal obligation to ensure the respect of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.


New Report Finds Gaza Humanitarian Situation is Worst in 40 years
06 March 2008

"A new report by a consortium of British aid agencies says the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is the worst in forty years. VOA's Jim Teeple reports the report blames Israel for the crisis, but Israeli officials say Hamas militants are to blame.

Eight British aid organizations say the humanitarian situation in Gaza has deteriorated to the worst point in 40 years and that it will likely get worse unless Israel eases its blockade of the territory.

According to the report, more than one million people or 80 percent of Gaza's population is now dependent on food aid and that Gaza's power, water and sewage systems have collapsed...."

Gaza's Christian community - serenity, solidarity and soulfulness
Mohammed Omer, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
Feb 9, 2008

"As the sun rises in the east on the first day of Advent, the bells of Gaza's churches fill the air, mixing amicably with the Muslim call to prayer. There is an air of quiet serenity spiced with excitement as the faithful walk to their churches and mosques, the doors swinging open, and Christians and Muslims bid each other good morning on yet another Sunday.

Gaza's oldest church, the Greek Orthodox St. Porphyrus, dates back to the 16th century. The majority of Gaza's Christians are served by the Roman Catholic Church on Al Zayotoun St. and the Gaza Baptist Church, which offer living room prayer groups, interfaith outreach, several schools, and humanitarian/medical Christian charities staffed by both locals and internationals. Today Gaza is home to approximately 3,000 Christians, the majority of whom live near these Gaza City churches....."

This article was originally published by The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Gaza sewage, water disaster looms
By MEL FRYKBERG (Middle East Times)
Published: January 02, 2008

"More than 1.4 million Gaza Palestinians are facing an impending health disaster from decaying sewage and water systems that lack vital spare parts, fuel, and maintenance work, due to an Israeli economic siege on the Gaza Strip.....

""We are a one-generator-failure away from disaster," Michael Bailey, an Oxfam spokesman, told the Middle East Times. The situation is verging on critical. There are 35 sewage pumping stations operational in Gaza. If one of the pumps breaks there is no way to replace it, because of a lack of spare parts," said Bailey, whose organization works with Gaza's Coastal Municipalities Water Utilities. "This would mean sewage backing into homes and onto the streets and the resulting health problems associated with it."

In March an earth embankment around a sewage reservoir in the northern Gaza Strip collapsed spewing a river of waste and mud that killed at least five people....The World Bank and UNICEF have reported that despite repeated requests Israel has forbidden the importation by any means -- sea, air, or by land across the Egyptian border -- of consignments of pumps, metal pipes, air and oil filters, and other goods that need to be obtained from outside Gaza; while allowing only a few basics to be trucked through the Erez crossing with Israel in the northern Gaza Strip...."

Christians in Gaza: An Integral Part of Society

"Gaza, Asharq Al-Awsat- Abu Saeed, a vendor selling electrical appliances in Gaza City’s Rimal district says he that it only occurs to him that the vendor selling foodstuffs next door, Abu Hana is Christian during the Christian holidays. They have been working together in their neighboring shops for over 30 years, exchanging greetings and pleasantries, as well as praying in the nearby mosque and church respectively...."

Gaza: One and a Half Million People Collectively Punished
By: Luisa Morgantini*, International Middle East Monitoring Center, 23 September, 2007

"Gaza is a strip of land of less than 400 square kilometres in which 1.5 million people live as prisoners due to the closure and the consequential economic isolation imposed unilaterally and illegally by the Israeli authorities.  Gaza is a cage from which very few manage to escape or enter:  hundreds of sick people in need of treatment abroad are forced to wait, and more than 600 students with scholarships in these last days of total closure are trapped here, losing out on their future."

Starving Gaza
Chris Hedges, Truthdig, Aug 22, 2007

Gaza has become the Sarajevo of the Middle East. Israel, in an action similar to that of the Serbs in Bosnia, has surrounded and cut off nearly a million and a half Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since the Islamic militant group Hamas took control in June. Electric fences and watch towers manned by Israeli soldiers keep the Palestinians trapped inside the strip. The land and sea blockade, the halting of all but minimal humanitarian aid and the refusal to allow Gaza to receive financial support are crushing Gaza’s industry, farming and infrastructure.

The tactic is clear: Israel and the United States will strangle Gaza by cutting off all money and goods, including fuel and most food, to reduce one of the most densely populated places on the planet to an impoverished ghetto.
This article was originally published by Truthdig and is republished with the author's permission.

Gaza Strip holds its breath
By Ken Ellingwood, Times Staff Writer
June 22, 2007

"Hamas forces dominate the Palestinian territory, and residents await signs of what the future may hold....Many in Gaza fear their isolation is about to get worse. Residents have long described the coastal enclave as a big prison. Now its borders with Israel and Egypt are sealed. ",0,5959591,full.story?coll=la-home-center

Sewage Tsunami and Economic, Physical and Political; Strangulation in Gaza
by Anna Baltzer, April 7, 2007

Anna Baltzer, a Jewish American Fulbright Scholar and Columbia University graduate, has written powerful eyewitness reports from Palestine available at  This letter describes the current situation in Gaza and examines Israel's devastating actions against Gaza's people.  It is important reading for anyone interested in the question of whether Israel's occupation there has actually ended (the article)

Environmental disaster in Gaza,
Sewage basin collapses
PCHR, 27 March

Health care and children in crisis in Gaza
by Miriam Garfinkle, MD and Reem Abdul Qadir, MSW RSW
March 26, 2007

“Ultimately there can be no solution to this horrific situation until there is an end to the military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, which continues and indeed escalates, despite the 2005 pull-out of Israeli settlements. There is both a public health and mental health crisis unfolding in Gaza at a breakneck pace. As human beings, as Canadians, as Jews and Palestinians, we all have a moral obligation and vital stake in protecting these children and giving them access to a viable future. The alternative is unthinkable.”

Occupied Gaza Like Apartheid South Afica, Says U.N. Report
By Rory McCarthy
Guardian (UK)
February 23, 2007

"Jerusalem - A UN human rights investigator has likened Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories to apartheid South Africa and says there should be "serious consideration" over bringing the occupation to the international court of justice. The report by John Dugard, a South African law professor who is the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, represents some of the most forceful criticism yet of Israel's 40-year occupation.",,2019547,00.html
 For the full report see:

http://www.ohchr. org/english/ bodies/hrcouncil /docs/4session/ A.HRC.4.17. pdf

International aid agency: 80 percent of Gazans now rely on food aid
Ha'aretz Newspaper 04/03/2007 - By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent

"Eighty percent of Gazans receive food aid from the World Food Program or from UNRWA, WFP spokesperson Kirstie Campbell says, 'and without it they are liable to starve.' "

Irish bishops: Israel has turned Gaza Strip into a 'large prison'
By The Associated Press  -  February 27, 2007

A group of Irish Roman Catholic bishops on Tuesday called into question Ireland's commercial ties with Israel, saying Israel has made the Gaza Strip "little more than a large prison" for Palestinians. "Where there is evidence of systematic abuse of human rights on a large scale, as in the Occupied Territories, there are questions that must be asked concerning the appropriateness of maintaining close business, cultural and commercial links with Israel," said auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Raymond Field....Ha'aretz

Half of Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza malnourished
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem -
Published: 22 February 2007

“Around 46 per cent of Gaza and West Bank households are "food insecure" or in danger of becoming so, according to a UN report on the impact of conflict and the global boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. …It says that the situation is "more grim" in Gaza where four out of five families have reduced their spending - including on food - in the first quarter of last year alone....." 

Israel's 'invisible hand' in Gaza
By Alan Johnston
BBC News, Gaza
Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 12:05 GMT

“Although Israel withdrew from Gaza more than a year ago, its control over the lives of Palestinians there is in some ways even tighter than before, a new report by an Israeli human rights organisation says.”

    Stop the Siege of Gaza
By Rela Mazali - December 2, 2006 - Tel Aviv

     Translated from the Hebrew by Rela Mazali. (Rela is a Jewish Israeli who spoke in Providence, Boston and Newport during the New England tour of Jerusalem Women Speak. One of her talks was sponsored by the Interfaith Peace Initiative.)

Bring back Kfar Darom                                                     by Gideon Levy, November 21, 2006
Haaretz Newspaper

“Soon Gaza will look like Darfur…”

In this article, Israeli author Gideon Levy argues that Gaza was better off under the settlement regime than in its aftermath, as closures and starvation make life almost impossible for its people.  Soon Gaza will look like Darfur, but while the world is giving some sort of assistance to Darfur, it still dares to play tough with Gaza. Instead of boycotting the one who is abusing the residents of Gaza, the world is boycotting the victim, blocking assistance that it so desperately needs.”

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights to EU: Israel is committing gross violations of international law in the Gaza Strip – November 21, 2006

“Ma'an - The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip delivered a letter to distinguished representatives of the European Union on Thursday 16 November calling for urgent intervention to bring a halt to Israel's continued violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the Gaza Strip.”

As Gazans Wait for Aid, Their Situation Is Dire
May 11, 2006
By Steven Erlanger

This article - written before Israel destroyed the Gaza Strip’s main power plant, cutting off water pumps, refrigeration, and sewage processing - shows just how fragile the situation already was for Gazans due to the cutoff of Western aid after their democratic elections were held.