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Gaza: Tragic Outcome of Operation “Protective Edge”

Translated Tuesday 26 August 2014, by Gene Zbikowski

The war in Gaza which began on July 8 has been the most violent and destructive in the past few years. It has already killed over 2,000 people and it will take months to even hope to repair the bombardment-inflicted damage.

According to the health ministry in the Palestinian enclave, among the 2,016 Palestinians killed, 541 were children and 250 were women. This new count, done as a five-day truce comes to an end, includes Gaza residents who have succumbed in the hospitals to their injuries. The toll is already far higher than in the last large-scale Israeli war in Gaza, operation “Cast Lead,” which took the lives of almost 1600 Palestinians and of 13 Israelis. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers were killed in operation “Protective Edge, including five from friendly fire, as well as three civilians.

Obviously, on the Palestinian side the distinction between civilian combatant casualties depends on the source of information. The Israeli army thus insists that it has killed 900 “terrorists,” whereas the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which is much more reliable, estimates that the great majority of dead and injured were civilians. OCHA has numbered 215 Palestinian combatants among the dead whose identity it has been able to establish.

Hundreds of Palestinians have also been arrested on Israeli soil. Over 600 people, including 175 minors, are in jail for having thrown projectiles at the police in eastern Jerusalem, according to the Israeli authorities. For its part, the club of Palestinian prisoners has announced that it has counted “1,650 Palestinians arrested in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.”

Already 5 billion euros in damage

It will take “months” to repair the infrastructures in the Gaza Strip that have been damaged or destroyed since the beginning of the Israeli offensive, the official in charge of humanitarian operations for the UN, Valerie Amos, estimated. “Damage to hospitals, schools and UNRWA [The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] shelters where people displaced sought refuge will take months to rebuild.” The only electric power plant for the 1.8 million residents of Gaza has also suffered from the bombardment. It has been at a stand-still since July 29, and with it the potable water supply. In some zones, over 50% of the water and sewerage network has been damaged.

According to OCHA, 365,000 Palestinians have had to flee their homes. Of these displaced people, 213,367 are being sheltered in 87 schools run by the UN. Other displaced persons are probably living with relatives, and thousands have found refuge in the government’s schools. At least 16,792 homes have been totally or almost totally destroyed, OCHA noted, and it estimates that at least 100,000 people will have to be rehoused. Two hundred and three schools have been damaged, of which 25 were totally destroyed.

The war has already caused about 5 billion euros worth of damage in the Gaza Strip, a place that had already been widely damaged. The unemployment rate stands at over 40%. It was a little less than 20% in 2000. Outside of periods of conflict, over 70% of the population of the Gaza Strip depends on humanitarian aid to live.

The truce which is to end on the evening of August 18 is heavy with consequences. The goal of the on-going negotiations in Cairo is to transform this cease-fire into a permanent truce. As soon as it has been signed, and for the third time, a group of international donors presided over by Norway will meet to finance the reconstruction of Gaza. The funds, collected under the auspices of Egypt and Oslo, will be turned over to the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abbas, and should not benefit Hamas. The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Boerge Brende, is calling for a lifting of the blockade of Gaza: “Keeping a population trapped and starved provides no security for Gaza’s neighbors.”

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