‘Don’t ask me how I am,’ a colleague said to me when I arrived at the office yesterday morning. ‘You know how bad things are here now, so please don’t ask.’
Things are certainly very bad in the Gaza Strip. The fuel crisis grinds on, and though Israel has just allowed a small consignment of fuel in, nearly 90 per cent of private cars remain off the road. Bus and taxi services are overwhelmed, and since the taxis have more than doubled their rates, most of us are still walking. Black market fuel prices are extortionate, and the streets reek with gassy and oily fumes because drivers have resorted to converting their cars to use cooking gas, or even cooking oil. These crude conversions are potentially dangerous, liable to induce nausea, eye infections and asthma. The lack of industrial fuel has sparked widespread power cuts (Gaza’s sole power plant is operating at partial capacity), as well as shortages of drinking water: the electric pumps shut down when the power goes off. Up to half of Gazans only have access to drinking water at home for between four and six hours a day. Domestic cooking fuel is increasingly scarce, and on some days there are long queues for bread, because bakers have started turning off their ovens to save gas.