A coalition of eight British-based human rights organizations released a scathing report which claims the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at the worst point since Israel captured the territory in 1967. Of the approximately 1.1 million people in the Strip, about 80% now depend on food aid as opposed to 63% in 2006. The unemployment rate is at least 40% and close to 70% of the 110,000 workers employed in the private sector have lost their jobs. Hospitals are suffering from power cuts which may last up to 12 hours, and the water and sewage systems are close to collapse.
Israel blames Hamas for the rocket attacks on Israeli cities which have created conditions of fear and anxiety among their inhabitants. The Israel Defense Ministry challenged the report’s conclusions and argued each day truckloads of medicines and equipment enter the Gaza Strip. This week NGO Monitor which is based in Jerusalem called on NGOs to cease using their authority in order to further political efforts which take the side of Palestinians.
Perhaps, it is time for all sides to end rhetorical battles as to whether Israel or Hamas is the one responsible for the current crisis. Perhaps, it is time to bring in outside mediators who have no connection with either side. Kofi Annan spent a month working to resolve the Kenya crisis and put together a nonpartisan group of Elder Statesmen to assist in his efforts. It might be time for such a group to bring together Hamas, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority to work out a cease fire which would be a prelude towards obtaining a peace settlement. It is important to keep out the Bush administration from further efforts to achieve peace.