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Al-Helou: The international community has failed the nearly 2 million residents of the Gaza as Israel and Egypt tighten the siege

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JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

In the latest news from the occupied territories, Gaza Strip’s only power plant has now been shut down for over a month, leaving its more than 1.6 million residents with as little as eight hours of electricity per day, with some sewage and water treatment plants failing and spilling over into the streets. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has warned that 19 of its construction projects have been ground to a halt and that tightening of the siege by Israel and Egypt is leading to an increasingly uninhabitable Gaza.

Now joining us from Gaza to give us an update about the latest in the situation there is Yousef Alhelou. Yousef is a Palestinian freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Gaza. Again, Yousef is joining us from Gaza.

We apologize for the poor video and audio connection. The transcript will be posted to

Yousef, thank you so much for joining us.

YOUSEF ALHELOU, JOURNALIST AND FILMMAKER: It’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

NOOR: So, Yousef, talk about the impact of this, the power plant in Gaza being shut down for the last month. What has been the human toll of that closure?

ALHELOU: Well, I’ll just make it crystal clear that Gaza is commonly known as the world’s largest open-air prison, where about–nearly 2 million people live in a very small, tiny land isolated from the rest of the world and from the rest of the occupied territories.

Now, Gaza has been suffering from different crises, and it seems the suffering has become part of the daily life of the population of Gaza.

Now, the power plant was forced to shut down a month ago, and that is a result of the lack of fuel. The local authorities, they have been importing fuel from the Egyptian side via the tunnels, and most of the tunnels have been destroyed. The Egyptian authorities have been cracking down on the tunnels that have served as a lifeline for Gaza population to overcome the siege.

Now, this has made life very difficult. The situation is unbearable with regards to the electricity. People only receive five hours of electricity each day. And this has negatively effected all aspects of life. Water pumping stations stopped working. Sewage plant or treatment plants were brought to a halt. And this has led to flooding in some cases. Water wells do not operate. And people rely heavily on imported Israeli fuel, which is double the price, very expensive. Not anyone can afford to buy the fuel. Transportation has been disrupted in many parts of Gaza. People, you know, wait for a long time to get transportation from place to another place.

Now, the water pumping stations stopped working, and as a result, people only–you know, they receive the–sometimes they have to wait for a day or two days. The lucky ones can get–they have to wait for a few hours to get the water transfering to their houses.

So life is unbearable. And as UNRWA stated recently–for the second time in less than a year–they said that Gaza will not be livable by the year 2016.

And it seems that Gaza is no longer in the news headlines. And that is because of the developments around the region here.

Now, the other main problem is the closure of the Rafah border crossing, which is Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world.

People here, they blame their local authorities, they blame the Palestinian Authority, they blame the Egyptian side. They blame, obviously, the Israeli side in the first place for imposing the siege that has been going on for the past seven years.

So people had enough here in Gaza and they cannot take it anymore, although they are described as resilient. But sometimes steadfastness–you know, I mean, you cannot just keep suffering. There must be a solution for these miseries. And the people of Gaza, they have suffered enough for a long time, for so many years, and in addition to the same daily suffering, of course, their lack of–the restrictions on imports and exports and the naval blockade that has been imposed on Gaza City coastline since 1967.

And today, by the way, about 200 young Palestinian activists, joined by a number of internationals, they held a demonstration at sea. They sailed along the Mediterranean Sea, along Gaza’s 40 kilometer coastline, to protest the ongoing Israeli siege, which they made a problem. So they wanted to send a message to the international community to take action, to take practical steps to impose pressure on the Israeli authorities to lift this illegal, inhumane siege.

Now, people of Gaza, about two-thirds of Gaza’s population relies heavily on humanitarian aid provided by international agencies, mainly by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA. And people, they don’t accept handouts. You know, they say, we have the skills, we have the potential. But it is the siege that is preventing them from being productive. So Gaza only consumes goods that comes from the Israeli side. So Gazans are not allowed to export. And before the destruction of the tunnels, about 60 or 65 percent of Gaza’s goods used to come via the tunnels.

So it’s obviously–the siege is still having a heavy toll on the population. Farmers cannot produce their produce. The fishermen–can you imagine? Gaza’s a coastal city, and we are forced to import frozen fish.

So people here, they are dismayed by the apathy of the international community for not doing practical steps to hold Israel accountable for, you know, the prolonged Israeli siege. Of course, as I mentioned, people blame their local authorities, and the internal split or the division between the two governments here contributes to the suffering of people here, actually.

NOOR: Yousef, thank you so much for that report. We’ll link to all of your reports just beneath this report, your reports about the Rafah border crossing, the restrictions there, as well as your many other reports you’ve produced for The Real News over the years.

Thank you so much for joining us.

ALHELOU: Thank you. You’re welcome.

NOOR: You can follow The Real News on Twitter @therealnews. You can Tweet me questions and story ideas @jaisalnoor.

Thank you for being with us.


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Yousef Al-Helou is a Palestinian journalist and correspondent for The Real News Network based in Gaza-Palestine & London. His work has been featured in a variety of media outlets including BBC, GRN, CBC Radio Canada, TV New Zealand, UN Observer, Reuters Institute, Middle East Monitor, Press TV, Al-Etejah TV, Maan News Network, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, PNN among many others. Yousef is a Reuters journalist fellow and a UN fellow as well and took part in many speaking tours in the UK/Ireland about his work experience, reporting in a war zone. Yousef covered the infighting between Fatah and Hamas as well as the two Israeli wars on Gaza in late 2008/early 2009 and late 2012, arrival of siege-breaking boats and many other major events since 2006. Yousef runs Gaza TV News page on Facebook that has more than 49,000 followers. Currently he is working on his research about the rise of citizen journalists in Gaza and their impact of public perception of Palestine in the West.