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Under blockade and political rift, crimes soar in Gaza Open in fullscreen

Mohammed Arafat

Under blockade and political rift, crimes soar in Gaza

A Palestinian man mourns outside the morgue in the al-Shifa hospital January 29, 2016 [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 April, 2017

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As an unprecedented spike in crime rocks Gaza, Arafat looks at the core factors throwing Gaza into further instability.

"Her graduation ceremony was going to be after one month only. He killed her, and he orphaned my kids,” came the heartfelt cry of Nisreen Sultan’s husband.

In a robbery gone wrong, a thief stormed into the 33-year-olds house situated in Gaza’s Nosairat on Saturday when she was alone. Cutting off her ears to steal her earrings, when Nisreen saw the thief and recognised him, he killed her by hitting her head with a gas jar.  

Nisreen's murder is not the crime that has taken place in the besieged Strip during the last week. Three days after Nisreen’s brutal death, a husband killed his wife in Rafah, days after she had given birth. In Tal el-Hawa, attackers robbed a 70-year-old man and killed him, throwing him through his house’s window.

Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights condemned these crimes, urging the Palestinian government in the Strip to respond quickly before it becomes a phenomenon. 

The question every Gazan is asking however is why are people committing these crimes and whose responsibility is it. Research suggests depression is a strong factor in the manifestation of violent crime, caused by poverty, which currently affects more than three quarters of the population.

Commenting on Gaza’s recent crimes, Aymen Batniji, Gaza’s spokesperson for the police force, said around 88% of these crimes are due to addiction to drugs like Tramadol.

"The drugs today are different from anything Gaza had before. They cause hallucinations to those addicted to them."

It is not unreasonable to extrapolate that that some people are at greater risk of becoming offenders due to the circumstances they are born into. While not removing their agency, poverty, parental neglect, low self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse are all factors as this elementary BBC bitesize article explains.

The coastal Gaza Strip has been under the Israeli siege for over a decade, affecting every aspect of their lives. With the political divisions between Fatah and Hamas, poverty rate rose to over 65% and unemployment to 43%, increasing to 64% among the youth.  

72% of Gaza families suffer from food insecurity, while at least 4600 families are homeless and 5000 are living in tents after their homes were destroyed during Israel’s offensive against the Strip in 2014.

I tried to work, but I found no jobs. I tried to leave Gaza to work, but I couldn’t due to the closure of the crossings. What shall I do? Shall I kill myself?"

The UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressed his deep concerns over the “growing tensions” in Gaza.

MP Jamal el-Khodary, head of the Popular Committee against the Siege, said on Sunday that a million and a half of Palestinians living in Gaza are stuck below the poverty threshold.

"We urge the international community to end the Gaza siege since it affects everything, increasing poverty and unemployment," added the council member.

Derdah el-Shaer, Doctor of Psychology at al-Aqsa university, said that lastest statistics show that about 55% of Gazans suffer from depression due to the bad economic situations affecting the Strip.

"Instead of developing, we are going the opposite way as though we are in the Middle Ages, unlike others living in the twenty-first century."

Dr. Ziyad Abdulaziz, a Palestinian psychologist, said that he always receives dozens of people suffering psychiatric disorders, especially among the youth.

"Every day I treat more than one suffering depression and other mental health issues where they find themselves in a position where they have no hope in life.”

Like many others at his age, 25-year-old Mahmoud abu Namous, explained his situation by saying that he suffers from lack of vision as well as a sense of constant depression and ennui.  

"I no longer know what to do in Gaza. I tried to work, but I found no jobs. I tried to adapt myself to Gaza life, but I couldn't because I am a human who wants to live at least a normal life. I tried to leave Gaza to work, but I couldn’t due to the closure of the crossings. What shall I do? Shall I kill myself?"

>> Read more: We need to talk about Gaza's suicide epidemic

Hanadi Saman, an unemployed graduate added that she would rather travel than remain in Gaza since "animals can't live our lives."

"Look around you, crime is everywhere. People started to hate their wives so they kill them," she added referring to the crime on Saturday.

The impossible has become possible in the besieged enclave, and many Gazans believe that the situation will get worse if nothing happens to change their reality. Murder, suicide and drugs have never been part of Gaza, but the political rifts and occupation have made even nightmares come true.  

Mohammed Arafat holds a bachelor degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and is preparing for a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies. Author of, Still Living There, a book documenting Gaza's last war and its aftermath.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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