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CAMPAIGNERS have condemned the “political silence” on Gaza, where the besieged population has faced three weeks of Israeli bombing amid soaring cases of Covid 19.
Last month the Israeli government ramped up its 14-year siege on the Gaza strip, closing its only commercial crossing, banning fishing off the coast and bombarding the small region with nightly air raids.
A ban on fuel deliveries has left Gazans with just four hours of electricity a day.
At an online rally organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign on Tuesday evening, Gazan doctors, trade unionists and activists appealed for the British public to demand an urgent end to the crippling siege.
Ahmed Mhanna, the director Al-Awda hospital in northern Gaza, warned that the situation was “critical,” with the strip ill-equipped to cope with a Covid outbreak.
Last week saw the first cases of the virus emerge in the community, prompting fears of an uncontrollable spread in one of the most densely populated regions in the world.
There are now 400 recorded cases of the virus and at least 45 people have died, according to UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“We are trying to manage together this crisis and we have a hospital in south of Gaza that includes 100 ventilators and another for isolation, but we are really afraid in our hospital if an outbreak happens in Gaza that it is not enough,” Mr Mhanna said.
The territory is currently under lockdown restrictions imposed by Hamas, but Mr Mhanna warned that they cannot continue for much longer as families fall into further economic hardship.
Trade unions in Gaza declared in recent weeks that 50 factories have been forced to close and 4,000 people have lost their jobs – a devastating blow when youth unemployment already stands at over 60 per cent.
Despite the dire situation, speakers pointed out that the British government and the mainstream media have largely remained silent.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told the audience: “The silence of our government is truly shocking.
“[Foreign Secretary] Dominic Raab recently went over and met [Palestinian] President Abbas and urged him to co-operate with Israel to get a two-state solution.
“He did this two weeks into the Israeli bombing. This is totally unacceptable and would not happen in any other comparable situation in the world.”
“We need to demand that silence ends.”
PSC director Ben Jamal condemned the press for reporting on the issue only when “Israel is killing Palestinians in very large numbers in a small period of time.”
Other speakers at the rally, attended by around 1,000 people, included former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy, and Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail.
Ms Cartmail thanked PSC for “lifting the veil of silence” over what was happening in Gaza.
Ms Ribeiro-Addy cautiously welcomed a Qatari-mediated deal between Israel and Hamas on Monday night to end three weeks of bombing.
However she stressed that the siege must be brought to a complete end.
“It’s really important we hold our own government to account because … we know that when the UN stands against these aggressions our government at the most if we’re lucky will simply abstain and this is not good enough,” she added.
Mr Corbyn, who has visited Gaza on multiple occasions, urged the international community to take action to end the bockade.
“Long-term peace means there has to be an end to the siege of Gaza, the right of the people of Gaza to their own identity and ability to travel and have a fully functioning economy,” he said.
Gazan writer Rana Shubair spoke of the psychological impact of the blockade, which makes leaving the region — even for medical treatment — almost impossible.
“You feel like you’re in a hole and nobody can see you or hear you,” she said.
Gaza has been subjected to a blockade by land, sea and air since 2007 with Israel citing security threats from Hamas as the reason for the crippling restrictions.
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