Israeli closure on Gaza takes toll on dead

By Xinhua

Gaza : Three months have passed and the tomb, where Ahmed al-Bardaweel’s 70-year-old mother rests in a Gaza city graveyard, still has no sign except a small piece of carton refers to the identity.

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Ahmed, a government employee who barely provides for his family in the impoverished strip, says he tried to finance the construction of his mother’s tomb and headstone but his attempt fell short due to unprecedented lack of building materials.

Since mid June, Israel imposes tight closure on Gaza Strip where Islamic Hamas movement routed forces of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas and took over the territory.

No export is allowed from the costal enclave and import is limited to medicine and basic food stuff. Many construction projects were suspended due to shortage of materials as a result of the closure.

“I was able to find some white concrete but could not buy because the price of one sack has jumped from 20 Shekels to 200,” Ahmed says. “We are waiting the prices to go down and then we willbuild the grave in order to achieve the equality with all the other dead.”

At the crowded cemetery in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood north of Gaza city, Khaled Abu Ghadaien was busy building a grave. The customer, who only identified himself as Sami, said he was able to pay for his father’s grave.

“It cost me 1300 Shekels, I’m able to buy but there are many others who can’t, the question is why the price has jumped to such high levels,” Sami spoke out.

In Gaza city, there are three main cemeteries, one of them, in the downtown, is full and has no more space. Another cemetery is in the outskirts of Gaza near the borders with Israel. Many people fear Israeli attacks or incursions as they are burying their dead.

Khaled, who lives at the cemetery in Sheikh Radwan, the third in Gaza, and works as a guard and builds the graves, says this was the first tomb he builds in recent three months “though we are at the height of the season,” referring to the Greater Bairam feast which falls on Dec. 18.

“I used to build around ten tombs every month before June, now I hardly find someone who is eager to pay a doubled price,” Khaled says.

“People are keen to get the graves built before the feast so they can come and visit it in the Bairam but now they don’t have it done.”

Abdallah Jarbou’, an official from the ministry of religious affairs, said that the ministry sponsors the construction of 1000 graves every year, “but most of them have been occupied and the vacant tombs will be filled by the end of the month.”

He also warns that a disaster, happened seven years ago when floods of rain drifted the graves, may take place again this year because people bury their dead in primitive measures.