Cathy Jamieson- Scottish National Party (SNP) MP- took the opportunity of the UK parliament’s summer recess to join a delegation of politicians, led by the Council for European Palestinian Relations, to the Gaza Strip. The following is an excerpt from an article by Jamieson reporting her findings after her visit to the Gaza strip:
“I had heard a lot about how the blockade of Gaza by the Israelis has affected Palestinians, but this was an opportunity for MPs and MEPs [Members of the European Parliament] to witness the situation first hand.
After travelling from Cairo to the Rafah Crossing, we queued in the baking sun alongside Palestinians waiting to cross back into their homeland.It only took three hours for us to get through, but many Palestinians had waited much longer, and an aid convoy from Glasgow had been waiting several days.
During our stay, we met Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to discuss position of Hamas regarding the broader peace process, the two-state solution and Palestinian reconciliation.At the Gaza Parliament, our discussions with the Palestinian Legislative Council focused on the Palestinian bid for UN membership next month, and the position of the 40 Palestinian parliamentarians still detained by Israel.
Hearing from women's groups, voluntary organizations, small businesses, trade unions and university staff as well as the UN, highlighted how the Israeli blockade was having an effect on living standards and the economy. It is estimated that Gaza is the most densely populated area in the world, with the population expected to reach 2.8 million by 2025.
A pressing problem is access to an adequate water supply. [After] the main source of water into Gaza has been diverted by the Israelis,[…] it was becoming harder to sink new boreholes.
The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility explained how nitrate and chlorine contamination is also a major problem, and we toured a desalination plant.
With electricity supplies also under pressure, most of [the people living in Gaza] have become used to regular power outages. A visit to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City with the Minister of Health, Bassem Naem, showed us how kidney dialysis machines have to be unplugged from patients, and then restarted every time the power goes down.
A much needed extension cannot be completed due to the lack of legitimate sources of building materials. A new treatment suite can't be used because Israel's preoccupation with 'dual-use' material that could be used potentially for civilian and military purposes prohibits the import of any radio-therapy drugs for cancer patients!
Doctors we spoke to estimated that 500 Palestinians have died in the last three years simply because of a lack of medication – children and cancer patients are most at risk – and we heard a moving speech from a young boy who suffers from sickle cell anemia. His condition would be treatable in the UK, but a lack of medication means that he is not getting all the help he needs.
While we saw some building work going on, much more needs to be done to [provide shelter for thousands of homeless,] people still living in the refugee camps, where conditions were cramped and unhygienic.”
She concluded by calling issues in Gaza “long-standing,” which means there isn’t an easy solution to tackle them. “That does not mean we shouldn't make every effort to find a way forward. It will be tragedy if another generation of Palestinian children has to suffer.” She added.
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