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Gaza Unlocked

Child in Gaza, where AFSC has worked since 1948. Photo: Mike Merryman-Lotze/AFSC 

Earlier this year, the U.S. news media reported on escalating violence in Gaza as tens of thousands of Palestinians began participating in a sustained nonviolent protest known as the Great Return March. Protests continued throughout the summer, and as of this writing, more than 175 Palestinians have been killed and 18,000 more injured by Israeli soldiers. 

But while the brutality of the violence has made the news, the conditions in Gaza that compel so many to protest remain largely invisible. And so have people’s demands. 

These deficits in portrayals of people in Gaza aren’t new. When you read news stories about Gaza, you rarely hear about everyday life for the two million Palestinians living under an Israeli-imposed military blockade. 

For over a decade, the blockade has restricted essential access to nearly every facet of life in Gaza—health care, travel, employment and education opportunities, and water, electricity, and other basic services. 

Last year, AFSC launched its Gaza Unlocked campaign to provide a platform for Palestinians in Gaza to share their stories with the world. Since then, thousands of people have visited our Gaza Unlocked website to read their accounts and find resources to advocate against the blockade. 

We’ve also brought our Gaza Unlocked campaign to cities across the U.S. Hundreds of people have attended AFSC speaking tours featuring journalists who cover Gaza, briefings, and other public education events. We’ve helped thousands of people contact their representatives in Congress, urging them to take steps to help end the blockade. And we’ve created opportunities for people to share messages of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza on social media. 

Here you’ll find a sample of the resources on our Gaza Unlocked website—firsthand stories from Palestinians in Gaza, news about the impacts of the blockade, and opportunities to make a difference.

Shorouq Hajjar, Volunteer medic 

In 2009, I lost one of my relatives, my aunt. We lost her because we didn’t know how to give her first aid after she was injured by an Israeli rocket. This incident did something to my soul. I couldn’t help her when she was passing away. 

During my first year at the university, I went to the first aid emergency unit at the Red Crescent Society. I told them that I would do volunteer work there to know more about how to help people in emergency situations. 

My life in Gaza imposed something on me. I live in very difficult and dangerous situations. I need to be able to deal with all these situations. My humanity means that I need to treat other people who are suffering from injury or other things but don’t have a chance to be treated. 

One of the things that we learned at the Red Crescent was that you need to be able to treat people from nothing. You have to use your mind. You have to be able to use the little equipment you have. Often during attacks or other situations, you don’t have a lot of things that can be used.

Osama Khalili, Head of the Nutrition Department, Palestinian Ministry of Health 

This lab analyzes the food and water available in the Gaza market. We also analyze nutrients and contaminants in the soil, mud, and waste water. 

Since 2006, the lab and analysis have deteriorated. We have approximately 10 machines in the Israeli ports that are prohibited from entering Gaza for “security reasons.” We also have advanced equipment in the Ministry of Health’s warehouses in Gaza that we cannot use because the experts who can train us to use them are prohibited from entering Gaza. 

Another major hindrance is the prohibition of the chemicals that are needed for our analysis from entering Gaza. This problem puts us at risk for diseases and illnesses that we cannot detect. 

The market in Gaza contains many foods that enter through the Egyptian tunnels with no supervision or control. There is general negligence in food factories due to poor control and monitoring. This leads to the use of many carcinogenic items in food. This is shown in the large number of cancer patients in Gaza. 

The rockets that were dropped on Gaza during the three last wars also adversely affect the soil and the underground water. During the next few years, they will be the source of cancer and many other diseases in Gaza.

Firas Ramlawi, AFSC staff member 


We have a good relationship with batteries in Gaza. At home we have batteries for our lights. We have a battery for our fridge. We have batteries for hand lights to use in the stairs when the power is out. I bought an extra battery for my computer, and we have spare batteries and chargers for our phones. We spend around $1,000 per year just on batteries. We can afford this, but how else do you live with only four hours of electricity? 

When we sleep, we plug everything in in case the electricity comes on. Then everything will charge. Yesterday the power came on in the middle of the night. My wife got up and started ironing, cooking, doing the wash, and more. She was doing four things at once. It was crazy, but she finished everything. You do what you can when the power is on.

Ezz Al Zanoon, Photographer 

The place we live in is small, extending only 40 kilometers in length. If you try to move beyond the horizon, you run into a wall, a tank, a plane, or a military ship that belongs to the occupation. You can drive from the top of Gaza to its bottom in one hour. 

Each person deals with the situation in their own way. Me, I refuse to accept the blockade. 

We reject the images of us that are being shown to the world. We are humans. We are proud of our achievements despite the difficult circumstances. We continue to live and fight for a dignified life. 

I will photograph life and publish these photos and give the chance to whoever wants to see to learn about life in Gaza. I will publish the reality that exists far from the media spotlight. I will use social media campaigns to reach out to people. I will break the blockade, and I will live.

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