Stories written by Eva Bartlett

MIDEAST: Some Comfort Fails to End Agony

Yousef walks barefoot into a children's room with four beds and points to a snoopy-blanketed bed by the window. "That's where I sleep," he says. A red remote-controlled toy racecar sits atop a new mini-laptop. The closet is full of clothes, a pot of soup simmering on the gas range in the spacious kitchen, and the wooden dining table is piled with seasonal fruit.

MIDEAST: Life Without Water a Growing Threat

"Taking our water is not like taking a toy. Water is life, they cannot play with our lives like this," says Maher Najjar, deputy general director of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) of the recent Israeli threat to cut electricity, water and infrastructure services to the occupied Gaza Strip.

In the face of the siege, Gaza's lifeguards have created their own rescue equipment. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: To Save From the Sea, and the Siege

It's a sunny Gaza morning and although a work day, the beach along Sheik Rajleen has enough people on it to keep Gaza's small number of lifeguards busy and alert. From a simple, raised wooden hut, a team of three monitor the sea, periodically calling out to swimmers below to move to calmer waters.

Mohammed Daowul has found a new trade. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: Work Has Come to This

It's a weekday morning, the beach is yet to fill with crowds seeking a break from the heat, but already the odd-jobbers are at work selling toys, clothes and food along the coast.

Short of passengers who can pay, a toy train still trundles on in Gaza. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

Gaza Clings to a Touch of Disneyland

On any given evening, Gaza's small downtown pedestrian area, the Jundi, is crowded with adults and children. Many are fleeing the heat of their homes during the regular power cuts. The majority are there for want of something to do, even if that means merely sitting on the park's simple concrete benches to talk and sip tea.

The now useless boat built by Abu Fayez. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: Boats Run Short of Sea to Sail On

"My father was a boat-builder and I learned from him, worked on boats all my life. Now there's no work at all." Abu Fayez Bakr, 64, is one of two boat-builders in the Gaza Strip, the last of a dying trade, despite Palestinians' penchant for the sea and its bounty.

For eight years, Umm Bilal has not been able to see her son in Israeli prison. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: Families Cry Out for Palestinian Prisoners

"We could enter the Guinness book of records for the longest running weekly sit- ins in the world," Nasser Farrah, from the Palestinian Prisoners' Association, jokes dryly. Since 1995, Palestinian women from Beit Hanoun to Rafah have met every Monday outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Gaza City, holding photos and posters of their imprisoned loved ones, calling on the ICRC to ensure the human rights of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel's 24 prisons and detention centres.

Modern cupping equipment based on an old tradition in Gaza. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: Alternative Remedies Fall Short in Gaza

"When I came back to Gaza in 2006, before the siege started, people came to me for acupuncture," says Dr. Hisham Mwtoweh, a medical doctor and acupuncture practitioner trained in China and Korea.

Furniture on display at the trade show in Gaza. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: Borders in Way of Orders

Waddah Bsaiso is ready to export, if the Israeli-imposed siege would allow him. He has the experience, the contacts, and the products, but is prevented by Israel's strict ban on virtually all Gazan exports, save a token amount of flowers periodically allowed out of the Strip.

A march to protest the Israeli-imposed buffer zone. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: A Weekly Walk to the Border

It is another sweltering morning in Gaza. Despite the heat, a tenacious group of women, men and children gathers near the bombed Agricultural College in Beit Hanoun for the weekly march to the "buffer zone", the 300 metres flanking the Gaza-Israel Green Line border which Israeli authorities have declared off-limits to Palestinians.

A destroyed mosque in Gaza. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: Mosques Carry the Scars of War

"The mosque was just 100 metres from our house. We prayed there every day, five times a day. But it was more than a house of prayer," says Mohammed, a Beit Hanoun resident, of one of the 34 mosques completely destroyed during the 23-day Israeli war on Gaza in 2008-2009.

Fish pools at the Ekhail farm. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: From the Sea to the Pond

"Farmed fish are now better than sea fish in Gaza. They shouldn't be, but because of the sewage in Gaza's sea and the Israeli fishing restrictions, farmed fish are cleaner and healthier than sea fish."

Too many medicines are too expensive for Gazans, or simply unavailable. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: Medical Crisis Worsening in Gaza

"During the first years of the siege, we could still manage, but nowadays we have no alternatives," says Dr. Hassan Khalaf, Deputy Health Minister in Gaza. "It is a major crisis: many health services have stopped, and I'm afraid this will spiral out of control, because Gaza doesn't have the essential medicines and supplies needed."

Gaza harbour, as seen from a destroyed boat. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: Fishing Under Fire

In Gaza's main port, beyond the newly-built memorial to the Freedom Flotilla martyrs, Gaza's fishermen prepare to go out trawling at shallow depths in Palestinian waters. Other fishers stay on land to mend nets and fix boats damaged or destroyed by Israeli navy gunfire, shelling, water cannoning and even ramming. Such moves as the opening of Rafah have done nothing for Gaza's fishermen.

For a Palestinian, this protest Jun.5 is not new. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

MIDEAST: Palestinian Spring Brings Nothing New

It is a scene replayed weekly in Palestine. In Gaza, groups of chanting demonstrators walk towards the border with Israel, singing, chanting, dancing. Ayat el Masari, 20, walks with the masses. An English major at Gaza's Aqsa University, the young woman is among many women who regularly attend Palestinian protests.

The memorial at Gaza port marks the Israeli massacre of the Freedom Flotilla in May 2010. Credit: Eva Bartlett

MIDEAST: Undefeated, Freedom Flotillas Expand

A gleaming new memorial towers in the centre of Gaza City's battered port. Flanked by flags of various nations whose citizens have sailed to the Gaza Strip to highlight the all-out siege on Gaza, the memorial's inscription bears the names of the Turkish solidarity activists who died one year ago when Israeli commandoes firing machine guns air-dropped onto the Freedom Flotilla, killing nine and injuring over 50 of the civilians on board.

It's a different Christmas under the Occupation. Credit: Eva Bartlett

MIDEAST: It’s Christmas Again, and Still No Way to Bethlehem

"We try to be happy and celebrate with our families during Christmas, but the atmosphere is not cheery as in other parts of the world," says Hossam Tawwil. And as around Christmas on Dec. 25, so for Orthodox Christians preparing to celebrate Christmas Jan. 7.

Agriculture of a kind on the roof. Credit: Eva Bartlett

The Roof Is Now the Field

"We grow on our roof because we are farmers but have no land now," says Moatassan Hamad, 21, from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza Strip.

One of the many schools in Gaza damaged in Israeli attacks.  Credit: Eva Bartlett

MIDEAST: The People Speak

The focus on people's movements in Palestine continues to gain momentum with growing non-violent demonstrations in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, and with a Palestine-wide call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

The Dabke dancers at a wedding party. Credit: Eva Bartlett

MIDEAST: Could Have Danced All Siege

"I'd planned to have my wedding party on a Thursday night, when more people could come, and stay later. But because the Dabke dancers weren't free then, I held it on a Tuesday," says Mohammed Ghronaim, 27, from Deir al-Balah, central Gaza.

An ancient church and mosque in old Gaza City. Credit: Emad Badwan

MIDEAST: Treasure House Under Threat

Few outside of Gaza would consider its history much beyond the decades of Israeli occupation. But Gaza is a historical treasure house. Many of those treasures are now in Israeli museums, and those that remain are becoming difficult to preserve due to the Israeli siege.

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