Gaza: should Israel pay compensation for destroyed clinics?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is Israel to compensate for the destruction of clinics after the Gaza war? ACT International’s coordinator in Jerusalem, Liv Steimoeggen has raised the question. Steimoeggen, who works for ACT-member Norwegian Church Aid, has also requested the blockade on Gaza to be lifted. Israel must allow full and free humanitarian access to Gaza. The issues have been raised with the Norwegian deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raymond Johansen. He visits Israel this week and will hold meeting with the government on Wednesday.

Lifting the blockade
460-S6300050.jpgLiv Steimoeggen, the ACT representative in Jerusalem gives a humanitarian reason for lifting the blockade: "How can the people of Gaza have a hope for the future and live a normal dignified life as long as all movements and all activities are controlled by others?"

Eleven truck loads of food and medicines are on the way to Gaza. She asks for open borders for the humanitarian relief, and for safe and free distribution. ACT has also taken the responsibility for distributing 330 tons of food, donated by Palestinians in exile.

Care for the traumatized
ACT is also providing psychosocial specialists to care for traumatized children, through a programme for care in war and conflict situations. ACT members will organize play grounds and games for children, womens groups and other forms of "back-to-life" activities.

Reparations, who pays?
ACT members had four clinics bombed by Israeli air strikes. Three of them were mobile clinics, built into small trucks, funded by DanChurchAid. The fourth was a mother-child clinic run by the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches. The whole building collapsed and all equipment and medicines were destroyed. ACT wants Israel to pay the reparations: "That would be fair," says Ms. Steimoeggen.

50,000 homeless
As Gaza slowly attempts to return to some semblance of normal life, mourning is prevalent as people count their losses, visit the destroyed homes and look for loved ones. Some 50,000 people are now homeless and 400,000 are without running water. Shops are open sporadically and by 7:00pm the streets are empty from cars unless necessary.

While it is tenuously calm, people talk of some gunfire heard in central Gaza with a possible limited Israeli military incursion. Al Azhar University is cleaning up as some of its buildings were affected by the bombardment suffered by its sister Islamic University. For the first time in three weeks, people were able to sleep soundly.

Food is distributed
DSPR is in the process of looking for a building to act as a temporary clinic in place of the destroyed Shija'ia clinic. One of the top priorities is also to start a supplemental nutritional program. YMCA and International Orthodox Christian Charities is at the same time distributing 40,000 units of fortified milk and 230,000 nutritional biscuits to 35,000 people. Patients enduring cold temparatures at various clinics without windows can look forward to the distribution of 9,000 blankets.