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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss