Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) offers care to almost 5,000 people suffering burns or traumatic injuries in Gaza. The wounds and accounts of the patients offer a window into their daily life.
“When I don’t have enough money for food, I ask around. Sometimes my stepmother lends me 15 shekels. I feel so ashamed. But she says we’re family, that I’m like her son and we have to support each other.”
— Abdel Raheem, a 30-year-old patient
First off, Gaza means confinement. A strip of land 42 kilometres long and 12.5 kilometres at its widest, it takes just an hour and a half to drive from north to south.
Gaza is hemmed in by the sea to the west, a “security barrier” — a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire — to the east, while in the north a wall several meters high has been erected to prevent people from crossing the border. And yet another wall, this one underground, is under construction. This is home to close to two million people.
Many of Gaza’s inhabitants have never been able to leave, particularly since a blockade was imposed by Israel after Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in 2007.
“I’ve only ever left Gaza once. It was for an operation in Egypt when I was eight. I don’t remember a thing!” says 22-year-old Hassan, who was shot on the border in December.
Still today, the Israelis deliver exit permits extremely sparingly and, between 2016 and 2017, the number fell by 50 per cent. According to OCHA, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an average of only 240 people a day were authorized to cross the border in one direction or another during the six first months of 2017 — for business or educational purposes, medical reasons, or because they are members of international organizations. For everyone else, the journey is quite simply impossible.
“We don’t have the right to travel like other human beings. But we are human beings,” insists Hassan.