“Our dream is to live a fulfilling life of freedom, freedom of movement, of travel, to live safely and not to worry about leaving the house.”
These were the words of 29-year-old Hanin Bargouti, a Gift of the Givers staff member who was born into a life of occupation on the West Bank.
Bargouti manages the humanitarian projects implemented by the organisation in West Bank Jerusalem and Gaza, including the distribution of hot meals, food parcels, medical supplies and hygiene kits, among others.
Speaking to the “Cape Times” on Wednesday Bargouti said the focus of their work had turned to Gaza.
“We are trying to help with whatever we can. It is a humanitarian crisis, the suffering is widespread with a lack of basically everything in Gaza including clean water, food supplies, people are on the verge of starvation. People are sheltering in hospitals. There has been no electricity for two months and there is a lack of fuel to run generators, and the daily airstrikes, so most hospitals have stopped working. The amount of fuel allowed during the truce as small amounts was not sufficient.
The health sector has collapsed due to the continuous targeting. Many hospitals got bombed, doctors and patients were forced to evacuate. Flour mills are not working, they are targeted by the Israeli military, so people are not finding bread."
“I live in the West Bank and it is also occupied; everyone is living under occupation. Gaza is a special case. It is under siege, an open-air prison with Israelis controlling all entrances. Living in occupation, we can't move freely; raids happen every day.” She said that even before October 7, daily raids and attacks “were the norm”.
“I’ve been working since 2018. The humanitarian situation in Palestine, even before this war and especially in Gaza has been bad. There is high poverty and unemployment rates even though people are educated. We were implementing medical projects, kidney transplants, seasonal projects like Ramadan, back-to-school clothing and school bags. After this war, all our work is now focused on Gaza and medical supplies.”
She described the situation on the ground as horrific, with no safe space to be.
“Threats and death surround us from all sides. It’s cold, people are hungry and thirsty.
“The wounded and injured aren’t getting sufficient medical care.”
She said Israeli forces were taking advantage of media attention on Gaza, as crimes in the West Bank continue, without the world knowing.
“Almost 300 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since October 7. Illegal Israeli settlers living in settlements between the West Bank are armed and willing to kill.
“They commit acts like throwing rocks at our cars and burning olive trees in Palestinian villages for no reason,” Bargouti said.
Bargouti described how her father and brother were currently in Israeli prisons and, since October 7, they have not been allowed to see their family.
“My father was arrested a year-and-a half ago. My cousin was killed in the West Bank by the IDF, my brother was arrested on October 20.”