Stories written by Mohammed Omer
Mohammed Omer reports for IPS about surviving in the blockaded Gaza Strip. Much of his work arises from his personal experience in the volatile situation of this Palestinian territory. He was the co-winner of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism 2007.

And Now This Filthy Flood

Wearing tattered shoes and hopping between dirty puddles, 14-year-old Sabeh manages to find his way to the market at the Al Shati refugee camp, one of Gaza’s most heavily populated and poor areas.

Gaza Returns to Donkey Days

The garbage trucks of Gaza city are at a standstill due to an ongoing fuel shortage affecting all aspects of daily life, including garbage collection, sewage and waste disposal and other vital services. But the local donkeys are here to help.

Hamas Strikes Just the Wrong Note

Mohammed Assaf is on to a winning track with recordings in Dubai and performances scheduled across Arab countries after winning the Arab Idol contest. But the 23-year-old who has become Gaza’s pride is virtually disowned by the government in Gaza.

Attack Brings Renewed Strength for Hamas

The Islamist party Hamas had been losing support as a result of economic difficulties and factional fighting. Today Hamas is popular again, heralded for its retaliation in Israel’s latest military assault on the Gaza Strip.

In Gaza, Another Eight Days of Killing

Fouad Hijazi was watching the 7 p.m. news with his wife and eight children when a missile fired by an Israeli F-16 hit their house in Jabalyia refugee camp, Gaza’s most densely populated area.

There’s Bride at the End of the Tunnel

Mai Ahmed, a 26–year-old from the West Bank fell in love over the Internet with Mohammed Warda from Nussirat refugee camp in Gaza after they ‘met’ on the Internet. The Israeli government refused permission for her to travel to Gaza. Mai travelled to Jordan, flew from there to Egypt, drove across the Sinai, and then crossed through a tunnel into Gaza, where she now lives. “It’s a story I will tell my grandchildren,” she says.

When the Lights Go Out, Talk

When the lights go out, Gazans look for generators to switch on. And, they find people to talk to. With so many power cuts over so long now, people are giving themselves the somewhat dubious comfort that human relations may have improved as a result of these power cuts.

MIDEAST: Flowers Fight Their Way Out

Ayman Siam, 41, is not growing carnations as usual this year. It’s limonium and statice flowers instead because they are hardier. Given the risks of an Israeli blockade, it’s a political decision.

Gaza women demonstrate to demand release of their loved ones in prison in Israel. Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS.

MIDEAST: In Prison, and Denied Education

Access to education for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is getting worse as international organisations remain unwilling or unable to intervene. Secondary- school students here completed their exams in June, and received their results by end of July. However, the 1,800 Palestinian prisoners who were supposed to complete their exams were not permitted to do so by the Israeli Prison Service.

Mohammed Othman. Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS.

MIDEAST: Where Freelance Means Abandoned

Sitting by the hospital bed of freelance photographer Mohammed Othman, Ashraf Abu Amrah knows that nobody owns a freelance journalist from Gaza who gets injured, or dies.

Palestinians agitate for the promised opening of the Rafah crossing. Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS.

MIDEAST: Promised Crossing Denied

Many hoping to find free movement between Egypt and Gaza have found the border gates at the Rafah crossing closed. Egyptian officials closed the gates on Saturday, according to Palestinian officials.

The Al Qaramani mosque in El-Arish is now accessible to Bedouins. Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS.

EGYPT: Revolution Brings Religious Freedom to Sinai

Abu Sumaia’a Al Suoarki is 29 years old and a Muslim, according to the personal identification card issued by the Egyptian government. These days, however, his religious belief is no longer just a detail on his ID card, but is something he openly practices every day.

An Egyptian soldier relaxes on his tank in Sinai. Credit: Mohammed Omer

Never Tip the Army in Egypt

Abu Mustafa Al Matriah and Abu Ahmed Abu Amrah, both Bedouins in Northern Sinai are thankful to the army that they can complete their daily deliveries without having "to pay so much baksheesh" (gratuity).

MIDEAST: Mubarak Name Easier to Erase Than his Legacy

It was easy enough to rename Mubarak Children’s Hospital the Al Tahrir Hospital in Gaza. Not so easy is the task of managing patients who need to cross over to the Egyptian side for treatment, or come back in.

Hungry Gazans Feed Egyptian Troops

Mustapha Suleiman, 27, from J Block east of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, crosses through gaps in the iron fence on the border carrying bread, water, meat cans and a handful of vegetables for Egyptian soldiers stationed on the other side.

With the army on their side, many demonstrators want to keep up the pressure. Credit: Mohammed Omer

EGYPT: Why the Army Won’t Shoot Protesters

Khalid Ibrahim Al-Laisi has been a soldier in the Egyptian army for 20 years. Today, far from shooting protesters, he says the time has come "to revolt against oppression."

A lone soldier is no threat to a crowd in Cairo. Credit: Mohammed Omer

EGYPT: Unrest Spreads to Sinai

A Bedouin youth casually spreads out a piece of cloth before a police headquarters in Sheikh Zwayyed town in Sinai, the vast desert area to the east of Cairo across the Suez. "I will leave when Mubarak leaves," he says.

Goods waiting for months to be transferred to the Gaza Strip at the Israeli-controlled Karni crossing. Credit: Mohammed Omer

MIDEAST: But the Coffins Do Come In

Samir Tahseen Al-Nadeem died after waiting 35 days for an exit permit for treatment for his heart condition. He was 26. The medicines he needed could not get in. But the coffins do.

Zaki Al-Habeel (left) prepares his boat. Credit: Mohammed Omer

MIDEAST: Dreaming of Fish, and Flowers

As the many colours of the fish and flowers slowly disappear from the Gaza landscape, the already grim prospects of the besieged residents begins to look even bleaker.

Children selling their wares in Gaza. Credit: Mohammed Omer

MIDEAST: The Lights Are Going Out on Gaza

The Muslim festival Eid approaches, but not the end to power cuts that have darkened the month-long Ramadan fasting leading up to the festival. Or to the agony of Gazans, made worse by the reminder that it's approaching festive time.

Families of Palestinians prisoners hold up their pictures at a protest in Gaza city.  Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS

MIDEAST: Hunger Strike by Palestinian Prisoners Cuts No Ice

Raed Abu Hammad, 27, was allegedly kicked to death by Israeli prison wardens on Apr. 16. This while Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have been on hunger strike since Apr. 7 to press for better treatment.

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