Leading Article: A Brutal Siege the World Must Ignore No Longer ; GAZA

Article excerpt

Gaza is being slowly strangled. This small strip of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean has been under siege by the Israeli military for three months. Its 1.5 million inhabitants have been subject to more than 270 air strikes, numerous ground raids, and a severe artillery bombardment. Since Gaza's sole power plant was bombed in June, its people have been forced to survive by candlelight after dark. Hospitals use electric generators to keep essential services running. The strip's water mains have been destroyed, causing serious supply problems and increasing the risk of disease. Bridges have been bombed and checkpoints closed. No Palestinians are allowed in or out of what has in effect become a prison. This has brought the Palestinian economy to its knees. The majority of Gazan families have been forced to rely on United Nations food aid. Yet even support from the outside world for these people has been severely cut back. When Hamas won the Palestinian elections in January, the United States and the European Union decided to stop their funding of the governing institutions of the Palestinian Authority until the militant organisation renounced violence and accepted Israel's right to exist. An adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister referred to this jokingly as "putting the Palestinians on a diet". But the result has been the complete breakdown of Palestinian society. The civil service, which supports one-quarter of the population, has been paid no wages in six months.

According to the United Nations, $30m-worth of damage has been inflicted on Gaza since this operation began. But the far graver cost has been in human life. In July and August, some 251 Palestinians were killed by Israeli military action, half of them civilians. The dead have included women, children and the elderly. …