TEL AVIV – A 24-year-old Palestinian man is fighting for his life at a Khan Younis hospital, south of Gaza City, after he tried to kill himself by drinking pesticides and other chemicals.
There has been a 35-40 percent increase in suicide attempts in 2016 compared to 2013-2015, the Europe-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has found.
The Monitor issued a statement on Monday saying that the Hamas government’s Health Ministry refuses to release data about suicide, medical negligence, and homicide cases while harassing journalists and human rights workers who look into the matter.
The organization said that this is a “violation of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the freedom to seek information and circulate it.”
The statement called on the Gaza Health Ministry to honor international law and enable the media and international NGOs to do their job freely.
An estimated 80 Gazans tried or succeeded in taking their lives in January and February of this year. Suicides and attempted suicides averaged about 25-30 a month in 2013-2015.
“The situation has never been worse,” says Zahia Al-Qarra, MD, a psychiatrist with the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. “In the past, Gazans have always been able to find a way out when it got very bad. They would work in Israel or abroad in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. Even when those options were not available, they could escape through the tunnels into Egypt. But now that Israel and Egypt have destroyed most of the tunnels, there is no way out. We are trapped in Gaza. Everyone appears to be against us. All of the doors are locked.”
Hamas, the party that has ruled the Strip since 2007, blames Israel for the hardships that its “double siege” instigates, as well as the Palestinian Authority, whom they claim collaborates with Israel’s measures.
In response to repeated rocket fire by Gazan terrorists aimed at nearby Israeli civilian population zones, Israel in 2007 imposed a land, air, and sea military blockade of Gaza to ensure that Hamas cannot bring more weapons and rockets into the coastal enclave.
This was after Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 in hopes that the Palestinians would use the territory for peaceful means. Instead, the Gazans elected Hamas to power and the Strip was used as a launching ground for thousands of attacks on Israel.
Contrary to popular belief, all kinds and quantities of consumer goods can be imported into the Gaza Strip through border crossings with Israel. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs states “border crossings have a capacity of 800 trucks a day in order to meet all of Gaza’s import demands. Every single day, about 550 truckloads of goods, carrying everything from foodstuffs to vehicles, pass into Gaza from Israel.”
The only import restrictions, the Ministry explains, involve “weapons and a list of dual-use items which can be used in the production of weapons and terrorist infrastructure. Dual-use items can be imported into Gaza subject to a security screening.”
Indeed, Hamas has been caught using imported concrete to build its terror tunnels. A single tunnel utilizes 500 tons of concrete or more.
Also contrary to popular belief, Gaza in modern times has never had a port capable of handling cargo ships; it has relied almost entirely on the transport of goods across the borders with Israel or Egypt.
Besides transporting goods, the Ministry documents:
Israel also supplies the Gaza Strip with millions of cubic meters of water every year and more than half of its electricity. In the beginning of March 2015, Israel announced that it was implementing plans to double the water supplied to Gaza, from 5 million to 10 million cubic meters of water annually (2.6 billion US gallons). These plans had been delayed by the Palestinian refusal to participate in Joint Water Committee meetings.