The prisoners of the Al Mawassi community

© Philippe Conti Click on image for large size
Al Mawassi, also known as Gush Katif, is a community in the southwestern Gaza Strip. Surrounded by settlers, some 3,000 Palestinians live on this piece of annexed land, completely under Israeli control. They could benefit from social and health care services but such programs are few, so they have to leave the enclave to travel to Palestinian-controlled zones. To get out, they are required to show pieces of identification that are distributed - at random - by the Israeli army. Few people have the official documents that allow them to move about. The others are stopped at roadblocks, sometimes for days. Access to health care is complicated if not impossible. For example, a pregnant woman who needed prenatal care was unable to wait for long periods at the checkpoint and finally turned back. The day we went to the Mawassi roadblock, nearly 50 angry people had been waiting for three days for permission to enter. Most had shown their identification cards to the soldiers, posted some 200 meters (220 yards) away, but had been ignored. One family that we treated told us that the soldiers had announced, without warning, that people would have to produce different identification cards. A little boy had been seriously injured when a settler's German shepherd bit him in the leg.
The same family told us of another incident that had taken place in the enclave several days ago. A little boy had been seriously injured when a settler's German shepherd bit him in the leg. The child's family was in a rush to leave Al Mawassi to get him to the hospital. The soldiers at the roadblock would not let them pass. The family spent the whole night waiting, in vain, for the soldiers to show some flexibility. The little boy died the next morning.