|09JERUSALEM72||2009-01-07 18:20:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Consulate Jerusalem|
O 071820Z JAN 09 FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3747 INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY WHITE HOUSE NSC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L JERUSALEM 000072
1. (SBU) Summary. Contacts report that aerial bombardment
lessened overnight on January 6 in Gaza city, but intensified
in south and central Gaza. Gaza contacts also reported a
worsening humanitarian situation, with displaced persons
crammed into UNRWA shelters and lengthening bread lines. They
expressed hope that a short-term humanitarian "pause" could
be extended. End Summary.
FEAR AS BOMBING INTENSIFIES
2. (C) Contacts in Gaza City report January 6 was quieter
than the night before and "allowed our children to sleep."
Contacts in southern and central Gaza said airstrikes
continued in their areas unabated. Eman al-Bayyuk, who works
for a youth NGO, reported to PDOff that there was intense
bombing near her house in the southern Gazan city of Khan
Yunis during the night. She said that many people, including
her cousins, had fled the outskirts of Khan Yunis after they
received phone messages from the IDF telling them to evacuate
their homes and head for the town center.
3. (C) Kamal Abu Shamala, a former PD exchange grantee and
director of the UNRWA school in Nussayrat refugee camp in
central Gaza, told PDOff that the worst bombing yet occurred
in Nussayrat on January 6, with IDF strikes on several houses
in his neighborhood. Shrapnel from one missile landed just
outside his house. "Nothing is safe here," remarked Abu
Shamala: "No tree. No stone. No child."
SAMARITAN ACTS TEMPER FOOD/WATER SHORTAGE
4. (C) Contacts reported widespread shortages of food and
water, especially among the displaced. Abu Hashim, a wealthy
Gazan businessman, told EconFSN that he went to visit an
UNRWA school in Al-Shati refugee camp on January 6, and found
over 750 displaced persons seeking shelter in the compound.
Many of them were hungry and had not eaten for some time.
Abu Hashim purchased large quantities of rice and tomato
paste and some ground beef providing a meal for all 750
people. "Maybe it didn't taste so good," he said, "but it
was a meal."
5. (C) A health officer at the Al-Shati UNRWA clinic told
USAID FSN that people have been coming to the clinic to get
water and to use the generator to charge their cell phones.
A contact in Burayj refugee camp told USAID FSN that dozens
of families have been bringing their unbaked bread to a local
mosque. They also carry with them electrical ovens, and, as
soon as the mosque powers up its generator, the imam lets
them use the power to bake their bread. Likewise, the mayor
of El Zahra City, Dr. Tarik Hiju, told USAID FSN that the
city is allowing families to bake bread at the water pumping
station when they operate the one generator.
6. (C) Bayyuk noted to PDOff that the food shortage in Khan
Younis is growing more and more acute, with bread lines as
long as eight hours outside bakeries. She said that families
were strategizing in order to buy bread: "They go right after
dawn prayer, and then several members of the same family get
in line, so they can each get a bundle of bread."
CRAMPED QUARTERS IN UNRWA SHELTERS/SHIFA HOSPITAL
7. (C) Contacts described a dire situation at several UNRWA
facilities sheltering families displaced by the IDF
offensive. Abu Shamala told PDOff that there are five UNRWA
centers in Nussayrat, each sheltering between 600 to 800
displaced persons. In his school, people are sleeping thirty
to a classroom. Abu Shamla said most had come from the
border area with Israel. "Either their houses were
destroyed," Abu Shamala said, "or they got a phone call from
the IDF telling them to leave."
8. (C) American Corner Gaza Director and al-Azhar University
professor Dr. Awni Karzon told PDOff that he considered
moving his family to an UNRWA shelter, and went to visit the
Al-Shati UNRWA school on January 7 for that purpose, but he
said the people there were living in "miserable conditions",
without enough blankets and with very little food. UNRWA/Gaza
Deputy Director Sebastian Trives reports that UNRWA was able
to distribute food and water to all of its shelters,
including ones that had no access for 2-3 days as they were
behind IDF front lines. UNRWA, however, has been able to
distribute blankets and mattresses to only 70 percent of the
9. (C) Bassam Naser, a USAID sub-contractor, told USAID FSN
that his wife works as a nurse in the Shifa Hospital in Gaza
City, and that the hospital is in "complete chaos," with
thousands of patients and lacking any semblance of proper
order. Many displaced people are sleeping in the hospital
corridors and backyard, according to Naser. Yehia Idris, a
MEPI grant recipient and manager of the Basma Society, which
promotes peaceful expression and reconciliation, told PDOff
that doctors from nearby Shita hospital often come over
between shifts just to rest. "What they say is beyond
belief," Idris said: "He says there are almost all civilians
at the hospital. Children. Women. They are not Hamas
GRATEFUL FOR A SHORT CEASE-FIRE
10. (C) Many ConGen contacts expressed hope that a
three-hour "humanitarian pause" on January 7 would grant them
some temporary relief. All said they wish it could be
extended for a longer term. Dr. Karzon said that the
humanitarian situation remains dire for him and his family,
who are staying at a friend's apartment in Gaza City along
with four other families. There is still no water,
electricity, or cooking gas, and food supplies are dwindling
for the more than twenty people under one roof. Karzon was
grateful for the pause, which allowed him to go out and
search for food in the shops and return to his
partially-destroyed home to retrieve canned food and baby
formula for his one-year old.
"I CANNOT WORK ON PEACE IN THE FUTURE"
11. (C) ConGen contacts shared a mounting despair over the
prospects of a peaceful future, whether in the near or long
term. When asked what this conflict would mean for his work
to spread the messages of peaceful expression and
reconciliation within Gazan society, Idris replied, "This is
a mad war. It is deepening the culture of violence in this
society. I cannot work on peace in the future."