As we approach the one year anniversary of the Israeli Cast Lead attack, the news continues to be desperate for the people of Gaza.  We heard the promises and pledges last February of international aid and US contributions but, as with so much else we’ve heard, the reality does not match the rhetoric. And reality is harsh:

“The winter will be particularly hard on the children of Gaza, whose capacity to withstand the rigours of a cold, wet winter has already been severely undermined by a marked deterioration of basic services and descent into poverty,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, said in a news release, the latest of countless UN appeals to reopen the crossings since Israel’s three-week war against Hamas last winter.

“With winter rains and cold weather now imminent, the people of Gaza are even more desperately in need of construction materials such as cement, roofing tiles and glass to build and repair homes destroyed and damaged in the Israeli military offensive of 2008-2009, as well as of regular supplies of fuel, electricity and clean water.”

UN appeals to Israel to allow “urgently-needed construction and repair materials, adequate supplies of industrial fuel for electricity generation, and essential items for the proper functioning of water and sanitation systems” have gone unanswered.

Without building supplies, 1,000 Gazans remain living in tents while the UN tries to provide shelter with mud homes:

John Ging, who heads UNRWA, gave the keys to the Athmana family, whose home was destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, killing 18 family members…

The agency is stressing that the solution is only temporary, however, and that building materials were still needed for the 60,000 families who lost their homes.

While the UNRWA struggles to supply homeless families with mud houses, aid is flowing for construction elsewhere.

Egypt has begun constructing a huge metal wall along its border with the Gaza Strip as it attempts to cut smuggling tunnels, the BBC has learned.

When it is finished the wall will be 10-11km (6-7 miles) long and will extend 18 metres below the surface.

The Egyptians are being helped by American army engineers, who the BBC understands have designed the wall…

The BBC has been told that it was manufactured in the US, that it fits together in similar fashion to a jigsaw, and that it has been tested to ensure it is bomb proof.

US officials have though denied to the BBC that they are involved in building or supplying the wall.

While the wall further cuts off essential supplies to the people of Gaza, the Israeli cabinet is making sure the settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands have plenty and US officials are not denying their support this time:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to seek cabinet approval for a new map of “national priority” zones does not contradict Israel’s declaration of a 10-month construction freeze in West Bank settlements, the prime minister’s bureau assured senior United States administration officials late Thursday.

The new map would enable another 110,000 settlers – most of whom live outside the major settlement blocs – the economic benefits conferred on residents of zones already included on Israel’s list.

Senior U.S. administration officials told Haaretz earlier Thursday that the prime minister’s bureau had provided satisfactory explanations as long as the benefits plan was in keeping with the freeze and that money would not be transferred for new housing in the settlements.

Siun

Siun

Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com

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