Gaza,”Sixty Five Funerals”
The Gaza Strip, with its barely three hundred and sixty square kilometres of land and one million and a half inhabitants, is one of the most controversial and long-suffering venues of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The minuscule region, bordering with Israel and Egypt along the Mediterranean coast and part of the Palestinian Territories, is currently governed by the Islamic fundamentalist organisation Hamas.
Following the end of the British mandate and the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Strip is occupied by Egypt until 1967, when, as a result of the so-called Six Day War, it falls under the control of Israel up through 1994. During these 27 years of occupation, 21 Jewish settlements come into being, depriving the Palestinians of additional land, while the Israelis expropriate all the civic plants and systems and services.
With the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Strip becomes part of the territories governed by the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, led by Arafat, though control of the checkpoints and the zones holding settlements remains with the Israelis.
On 14 August 2005, based on a unilateral Israeli plan for disengagement signed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the colonists are urged to evacuate the settlements, considered by the UN to be unlawful and contrary to the cause of peace. But not everyone heeds the request, and the removal of the settlers is marred by violence. On 12 September 2005, the Israeli Army formally cedes the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority, though, for all intents and purposes, it continues to exercise control over the borders, the airspace and the territorial waters.
When the Hamas party, considered to be a terrorist organisation by the Western nations, wins the 2007 elections, a violent aftermath proves unavoidable. Following internal clashes with militants of Al-Fatah, a new, tragic escalation of the conflict further dramatises the already extreme conditions of life in Gaza: the Launching of Qassam missiles by Hamas is met by Israel with Operation Cast Lead (2008/2009), which leaves more than 1400 Palestinians dead, over half of them civilians. The Israeli dead number nine, of which three were civilians. Violations of human rights are reported by both sides.
The Strip is placed under a harsh embargo, which exasperates the already difficult humanitarian situation, creating what amounts to a prison for the million and a half people who live there: hundreds of seriously ill patients are kept from leaving to receive treatment; many students cannot reach their universities abroad; 78% of the population lives below the poverty line, on an income that, in the majority of cases, is no more than two dollars a day; the rate of unemployment runs as high as 38%, and more than 30% of all adults suffer disturbances caused by post-traumatic stress.