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Israeli raids: The view from Gaza

The deadly Israeli raids on aid ships brought welcome attention to long-suffering Gazans.

Gaza family
The Hamad family stands outside their unstable, half-destroyed home, which they've been unable to rebuild after last year's war. (Ashley Bates/GlobalPost)

GAZA CITY, Gaza — Life under Israel’s blockade is hard for the vast majority who live in this hot, dusty patch of earth where 1.5 million Palestinians are crammed into refugee camps and ramshackle homes that surround some elegant high-rises and hotels, mostly populated by a small, political elite.

The majority of families live without electricity for at least eight hours a day. Most get by on basic food rations, such as flour, sugar, rice, oil and canned meat, which are provided by the United Nations. The sick are often forced to cross into Egypt, on the rare occasion that border is open to them, for medical treatment not available in Gaza. Construction materials desperately needed to repair homes damaged by the Israeli military offensive and air strikes are prohibited under the blockade and often scavenged and recycled from destroyed buildings.

Even fish, the lifeblood of this coastal community, is in short supply as fishermen are largely prevented from their trade by the Israeli naval blockade. This once thriving fishing port has reportedly been reduced to a net importer of fish.

All of this suffering has gone on for three years without the international community taking much notice.

That is, until last week when a Turkish-led flotilla of aid to Gaza was blocked by Israeli navy commandos in an raid that killed nine activists and was condemned around the world. Suddenly, the international media spotlight was focused on Gaza, much to the surprise of the people who live here.

“We mourn with the families of the flotilla heroes, and we pray the siege will be broken so we can rebuild our homes,” said Nujud Hamad, who lives with her husband and six children in an unstable, partially destroyed home that was struck by an Israeli missile during last year’s war.

Israel’s land and sea blockade on Gaza is aimed at isolating Hamas, an Islamic resistance group that violently seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007, after winning a majority in Palestinian elections. Hamas supports suicide bombings and rocket attacks on civilians and has vowed the destruction of Israel.