IHH President Bülent Yıldırım and executive board members attended the meeting which also included updates about Turkey’s lifting its NATO veto over Israel and negotiations between Turkey and Israel on Mavi Marmara casualties.
It was indicated that despite Israel’s promise to remove the naval, maritime and land blockade on Gaza for 10 years it still continues and pointed out that so far Israel has not kept any of her promises which proves that she will not in the future either. It was noted that the blockade destroys any hope for Gaza’s future.
In the press meeting IHH President Bulent Yıldırım said that the ongoing blockade on Gaza has an awfully negative repercussion on human lives;
“Unemployment is 50%, 80% lives in poverty. Over 100.000 people are homeless and living with their relatives. Half of the population is under age 18 out of which 300.000 are children with one of the parents dead thus traumatised. 80% of the population is living on international aid. Power is given 8 hours maximum on daily basis and sometimes only one-hour power or none at all is given. These power cuts harm small businesses and hospitals. 23 babies in every thousand die during birth.”
Yıldırım highlighted that the tunnels which are windpipes of Gaza has been destroyed by occupying forces and that patients cannot get proper treatment.
“As you know Rafah gate to Egypt is shut down by coup d’etat perpetrator Sisi government. People cannot get outside nor can they communicate with outside world. Therefore blockade on Gaza should be lifted. The media campaign is that the blockade has no meaning or function which is simply a lie,” he added.
Referring to Israeli Consul General to Istanbul, Mr. Shai Cohen’s remarks that came out in the press recently Yıldırım said “In other words the consul general says that no matter what you do Israel will have its own way.”
“The consul general claims that the blockade has legal ground. However there is no instrument which proves that including UN and European Parliament resolutions. Unfortunately this has been acknowledged by Palmer Commission’s papers which certain bureaucrats have been signatories in spite of the president, the prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs.”
He said that they are aware of the significance of condition no. 3 which is a pre-requisite for normalization of affairs between two countries and noted that ‘apology condition’ is a positive thing. However he highlighted that the figures quoted as compensation are ridiculous. “There are some rumours about the amount of compensation. Israel had already offered 1 billion USD to us through different mediums. Nonetheless in such a case international law requires for 3 billion USD. Now Israeli consul general is talking about 20 million USD” he explained.
Yıldırım commented on Israeli consular Kohen’s statement that “Aid will go through Ashdod port because as of now Gaza does not have a port” regarding Turkey’s third condition of “removal of blockade.” He said:
“Would Turkey agree on Ashdod port? Turkey went to the extent of internal feud for the sake of this issue. As you know a certain clique said that ‘permission should have been taken from the authorities.’ Yet government and public opinion sided with us and said that ‘there is no such thing as authority, it is humanitarian crisis.’ So aid coming from Turkey delivered through Ashdod port means the recognition of the authority which does not make sense in the discourse of this struggle, does it?”
Yıldırım noted that Israeli consular thinks he is so clever with these remarks. “The consular is mocking Turkey by saying that ‘Natural gas production in Mediterranean is very important for us. It is equally important for Turkey to transfer this gas to Europe through Turkey. However it will take three to four years’ time to do that. The research area should be detected and deeper research should be carried out.’ This is another way of saying ‘I am giving you a 20-year-goal but I will take back all your gain in 20 minutes.’ Is it possible for Turkey to accept that? Turkey is not what it used to be!”
Yıldırım also asserted that Palmer Commission served to manipulate public opinion. Regardless of MPs refusing the commission’s resolutions affiliated bureaucrats’ remarks encouraged the Israeli consular to take the liberty to make this arrogant statement.
Yıldırım reminded that affiliated bureaucrats are those who supervised the government during February 28 period when people were suppressed and expressed his unease shared by IHH and victims’ families about foreign ministry undersecretary Mr. Sinirlioğlu being the sole negotiator in the commission.
IHH President highlighted that they were not going to withdraw the lawsuits they have filed in Turkey and around the world for Mavi Marmara. He noted that recently 40.000 people were banned from entering Turkey. The list was issued by Israel and certain countries and was put in effect without any further evaluation. He added that;
“IHH executive board member Osman Atalay and me myself are on the list as well. One of Bosnia’s bravest men Hasan Cengic, Palestine minister of foreign affairs and many other important people are on the list. This list issued by Israel gets approved without any evaluation. IHH and its board members are projected as terrorists in the public. People listed by Israel are labelled with G87 and G89 terrorists. We will file official complaint about those responsible from approving this list without checking.”
Yıldırım also commented on Turkey-Israel relations and noted that Israel is an arrogant country so much so that on the same night when NATO veto over Israel was lifted Israel has bombed Gaza.
Although Turkey has claims over Israel due to Mavi Marmara assault, Israel has upper hand after NATO veto is lifted, Yıldırım said.
“Why does Israel have an upper hand although it is testified by all international bodies that we were wronged in Mavi Marmara? How can we answer to victims’ families? How can it be reciprocated with a few tons of concrete that they allow to let into Gaza? Did not late Abdulhamid II protect Gaza at the expense of his dethronement by saying “these lands were taken with blood and can only be given away with blood.”
IHH President Yıldırım called out to Turkish General Staff as well and questioned why do not they call those responsible from killing 6 soldiers on duty in Iskenderun on 30 May to account? He asserted that Israel has already waged war to Israel by attacking Turkish military forces.
At the end of the press meeting Yıldırım listed down the conditions Israel has to meet as follows;
“Israel should list the blockade, pursue the legal procedure for those she has detained, pay compensation according to tort law, recognize free zones in Gaza and West Bank, stop killing children, stop attacking Masjid Aqsa, release Raid Salah.”
On 31 May a string of activities and events will be held in Istanbul to honour the spirit of Mavi Marmara with participants coming from outside Istanbul as well. “We will show Israel that Mavi Marmara spirit is alive and continues its journey” he said.
“Inhumane Consequences of the 10-year- Blockade” Report in Full by IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation
Israel has blockaded from land, sea and air when Gaza won the elections in 2007. Due to blockade and further restrictions it has become unbearable to live in Gaza which has 1,8 million population. It has become even more difficult when Egypt closed Rafah border following the coup d’etat in 2013 as a part of unannounced alliance between Egyptian regime and Israel.
The blockade resulted in national income of the region drop to its half thus unemployment skyrocketed to 50% while poverty reached 80%. Gazan people are condemned to live in an open air prison as a result of the blockade. The inhumane blockade did not only have economic and political repercussions but also damaged social fabric, breaking up families and escalating domestic violence. Over 100.000 people are left homeless and forced to live with their relatives as the houses were bombed by Israel. 1/3 of Gazan population consists of refugees and with increasing number of new homeless families life has turned to a bigger burden.
The fact that children under 18 make up half of the population makes the situation even more tragic. It causes people depend on external aids. The blockade does not only harm today’s adults but destroys the future of Gaza. 300.000 children have been traumatized by losing their loved ones or mortar shelling.
A huge population, that has to live on a tiny piece of land, become more dependent on international aid. Lacking infrastructure, Gaza is in terrible shape in terms of power, potable water, education and accommodation.
Economic situation in Gaza is worse off than it was under active Israeli occupation, which lasted until 2005. For instance while income per capita was 1327 USD in 1994 in Gaza it gradually dropped back 1273 USD in 2015. Meanwhile income per capita in Israel has increased 20 times within the same period. Although official unemployment rate is 30% in the region thousands of farmers, menders, fishermen who look employed on paper are de facto without job during most of the year. When this periodic unemployment is taken into account the rate goes up to %50. Youth unemployment is another problem in the region. Unemployment rate among the youth aged between 20 and 24 is %58. The only income of Gazan people is 50-100 USD money sent by their relatives who work abroad.
There often is shortage of food as a result of the destruction of farmlands, and greenhouses along with houses, schools and mosques by Israel’s periodic attacks. The same attacks kill livestock as well which leaves people unable to replace their source of living every year.
The most important agricultural source of income in the region such as strawberries, tomatoes and flowers are perishable produce which becomes impossible to export under Israel’s random restrictions. Hence, the region’s most important export item is out of the market. %35 of farmlands in Gaza is located close to Israeli border thus declared posing threat to Israel. Therefore farming in that area is banned by Israel. Likewise for fishing 85% of Gazan water is forbidden to fishermen.
One of the most dramatic economic consequences of Gaza is lack of food security. %80 of the population depends on humanitarian relief aid received from outside for a living.
Gaza receives 8-hour power at most. Even though people try to continue their lives with generators and high fuel expenses medical equipment in the hospitals is broken due to irregular power current which in return risks patients’ lives and costs more money. Especially diabetes patients are in danger due to recurrent power cuts.
After Israel’s last attack, 15.000 buildings, damaged schools and hospitals are waiting to be rebuilt and repaired. Only 1% of the construction material required for rebuilding houses, schools, hospitals, social facilities etc. destroyed by Israeli shelling is allowed into Gaza.
There are around 25 hospitals in Gaza. The total bed capacity is around 2.000. Compared to the population this is one of the lowest hospital-bed per citizen rate in the world. These hospitals are far from meeting the needs of patients in terms of resources, and technological infrastructure. Infant mortality rate is also very high with 23 babies in every 1000 dead.
Since Gaza has around 500.000 students the existing schools are unable to meet the needs and at least 250 more schools need to be built. The existing schools are trying to make the ends meet by three-shift schooling method.
In normal circumstances Gaza is connected to the world through six border gates out of which only three are working: Erez and Kerem Shalom gate opening to Gaza and Rafah gate into Egypt.
Since Erez gate is under Israeli control only those with special consent from Tel Aviv, certain patients, international visitors, humanitarian relief workers and Israeli businessmen are allowed to use that gate. For regular people in Gaza this gate is de facto closed.
On the other hand Rafah gate is an important one for Gazan to connect to the world. This gate has been open for 42 days in two years from 2014 to the beginning of 2016 and during this period all tunnels were demolished to stop Gazans from using them. In 2016 Rafah border was mostly closed. Last week it was open for two days only and from among 17.000 people who registered to get out only 1500 people was allowed. Rafah crossing is far from meeting the basic needs of local people.
Kerem Shalom gate, which is used for commercial goods only, is open half of the month. Within this limited period around 10.000 trucks cross the border monthly. Only 1% of these goods are export products meant for international market. Most of the trucks carry humanitarian relief aid of international relief organizations. The remaining is basic food items and very limited construction material. Although number of trucks appears high they can only carry 1/3 of the supplies the region needs.
Sufa, Karni, Nahal Oz gates are entirely closed.
Although entry of fuel, which is the most critical item, into Gaza has turned to normal in the last couple of months Israel’s random behaviour makes it impossible to sustain an improvement. In 2006 when Hamas came to power two million-litre-fuel used to enter Gaza and in 2009 it dropped to 0-litre. In 2012 it was resumed and jumped to 4 million litre level today. However this only suffices for half of what the region needs. Most of the fuel entering Gaza is used for generating power.
Although as a part of the negotiations politicians are keen on building a port in Gaza city and giving power through a ship power plant sent from Turkey, the military officials are rather hesitant about the idea.