Emergency aid may be too little, too late for Palestinians trying to survive a crisis

Zarifa Abdel Khadr came in secret to Gaza City's jewellery souk this week to sell the two gold rings she has owned for half a century.

She had no intention of telling her five sons and four daughters that she was parting with her possessions for about £150 to help feed them and her grandchildren.

"They wouldn't allow me to do this if they knew," she said. "I'll buy flour, the basics and give it to them. I'll tell them God sent it to me. Of course the rings are dear to me, but my children and grandchildren have to eat."

Mrs Abdel Khadr, 78, said three of her sons were Palestinian Authority employees, among more than 150,000 in their third month without a salary because of Israel's decision to withhold $60m (£32m) a month in duties owed to the PA and the international community's cancellation of the PA's direct aid until Hamas fulfils conditions set for it.

She was far from alone in a gold market where the dealers were doing all the buying and the public all the selling. Yasser Mtar, 35, who runs a gold stall, said his purchasing volume had increased by 70 per cent since December last year. "It is a sign of how things are," he added. "What can they do? They have no choice."

That was certainly the view of Sabrin Turk, who, although only 17 years old, has already been married to a PA police officer for two years and has an infant son and daughter. She was hoping to get £150 for the gold ring and necklace that she had acquired as marriage dowry. "My husband was getting 1,500 shekels [£180] a month and now he isn't getting anything," she said. "This will help us pay back money we borrowed for furniture and to buy food."

Ms Turk's position will not change because of Tuesday's decision by the international Quartet in New York to approve emergency aid to a Palestinian economy in which, even before the current squeeze, more than 60 per cent of the population lived on less than $2.10 per day. For, as one of more than 70,000 members of the security services, her husband will not benefit from a fund directed at health and education.

The timetable for establishing such a fund - which one European diplomat said he hoped would take between one and two months but admitted could take more - is far less clear than the scale of the crisis it will attempt to alleviate. As Ishmail Haniya, the Hamas Palestinian Prime Minister, expressed suspicion of the plan, it was clear yesterday that many details were still to be agreed.

The scene at the market underlined that the Palestinian economy depends disproportionately on PA salaries. However, the cancer ward at Gaza's Shifa hospital is an equally potent illustration of another point repeatedly made by aid agencies: that they cannot possible replicate the essential services provided before the boycott.

Rima al Majdalawi, a mother of four, has metastatic ovarian cancer and needs chemotherapy. But there are no drugs for it at Shifa, any more than there are antibiotics for certain specific uses. Instead, the only treatment Ms Majdalawi, 28, is receiving is symptomatic. This includes paracetemol for fever and morphine for the pain, a drug which itself is in short supply and issued only when it is desperately needed. "We could run out of it any minute," Saleh al Dali, the hospital's haematology and oncology chief nursing officer, says.

Officials say four kidney patients have already died after their dialysis was reduced from three times to twice a day because of drug shortages.

"We have nothing to do with Fatah or Hamas," Ms Majdalawi's mother, Ataf, said. "But we are paying the price. We are always facing pressures but now they want the Palestinians to overturn their government."

Ms Majdalawi should have been seen by doctors in Israel's Tel Hashomer hospital recently, but was refused permission. "I am dangerous," she said. "I am a security risk."

But while security reasons are often cited for not allowing patients into Israel, Dr Basem Naim, the Palestinian Health Minister, said that many of the 270 patients awaiting visits to Israeli hospitals were unable to go because the PA simply did not have the money to pay for their treatment.

Whether the emergency measures pledged in New York will come soon enough or be wide-ranging enough for patients like Ms Majdalawi remains to be seen.

Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Foreign Minister, said for the first time last night that Israel might after all be prepared to release the monthly duties owed to the PA to the new fund - provided that they were for purely "humanitarian" and not for PA salaries.

In the shorter term,Israel's initial reaction to the latest blow to hit the Palestinians, the Israeli company Dor Energy's decision to cut off petrol supplies to the Palestinian fuel monopoly because of unpaid bills, was that it would not be using the funds to repay the fuel debt. But the pressure not to allow a full-scale Palestinian fuel crisis, Hamas or no Hamas, could yet prove irresistible.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing