Signs of increasing suicides in devastated Gaza

Updated 30 September 2015
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Signs of increasing suicides in devastated Gaza

GAZA CITY: Muammar Quider was set to marry, but he reached his breaking point as he dealt with the unique pressures of life in the Gaza Strip.
The 21-year-old Palestinian recently tried to kill himself by swallowing rat poison.
“All doors were closed for me,” he said after having survived and been treated, explaining that police had repeatedly arrested him and shut down his fruit stand, depriving him of an income.
Signs have emerged of an increase in suicides and suicide attempts in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave run with an iron fist by militant movement Hamas and devastated by three wars with Israel since 2008.
It is impossible to obtain official figures on the subject, which remains taboo in a territory where traditional and religious values dominate. Police insist that it has not become widespread. But a source within the security services told AFP on condition of anonymity that the numbers were “frightening,” saying there were cases on a “near-daily” basis.
Doctors have also expressed alarm over the number of patients having ingested toxic substances, but they say the police have the final word on the causes of such poisonings. Mohammed Abu Assi has been among them, having spent several days in a coma after swallowing poison. He said that “at 30 years old, I did not even have enough to feed my young children.”
“I preferred to die instead of seeing them die in front of me,” he said.
Gaza is filled with desperation, particularly following last summer’s conflict that left more than 100,000 people homeless and killed more than 2,200.
The small territory of 1.8 million people faces an Israeli blockade and a closed border with Egypt, and rebuilding following the 2014 war has been extremely slow. Access to water and electricity is limited, while the unemployment rate is among the highest in the world at 42 percent, according to the World Bank.
More than 60 percent of young people do not have work, while 39 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 80 percent depend on various forms of aid.
The United Nations development agency said recently that Gaza could become uninhabitable for residents within five years.
“The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unliveable by 2020,” it said.
The crisis is so acute that 52 percent of Gazans want to leave the territory, a recent poll showed, but closed borders prevent many from doing so. Some have attempted the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean to try to reach Europe.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.