The recent Israeli offensive – codenamed Operation ‘Cast Lead’ by the Israeli authorities – claimed the lives of 118 women, and injured 825 more.1 In total 1,414 Palestinians lost their lives, 1,177 (83%) of whom were civilians. A further 5,303 were injured. The infrastructure of the Gaza Strip was decimated, for example, 2,114 homes were completely destroyed and a further 3,242 rendered uninhabitable, affecting 51,842 people. The true impact of the offensive, however, cannot be measured in terms of statistics and figures alone. Although the numbers of victims and casualties illustrate the appalling human toll of this conflict, the true extent of the suffering lies in the day-to-day reality of life in the Gaza Strip following Operation Cast Lead, as civilians struggle to rebuild their lives, come to terms with their loss, and restore some semblance of human dignity. Life in the Gaza Strip continues. It must.
But the continuing effects of the closure, and the visible reminders of trauma and devastation make normality – even by the standards of the Gaza Strip – an illusion; the reminders of tragedy are ever present, and all too real. At the time of writing, over six months after Israel’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire on 18 January, the Gaza Strip is locked in stasis: the situation in Gaza remains exactly as it was on the day the offensive ended. The visible scars of the offensive remain, rubble continues to litter the streets of Gaza, thousands are homeless, families are forced to live in houses with scorched interiors, blood stained floors, and bullet riddled walls. In some instances, victims are forced to look at the discriminatory and offensive graffiti scratched into their walls by Israeli soldiers.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) has released ‘Through Women’s Eyes’ in order to highlight the gender-specific impact of Operation Cast Lead and the illegal Israeli closure. As a result of the patriarchal nature of Palestinian society, women in the Gaza Strip – victims of ‘peacetime’ discrimination – are particularly susceptible to the marginalization, poverty, and suffering brought about as a result of armed conflict and occupation. Israeli attacks result in often ignored gender-specific consequences. PCHR has chosen to allow these consequences, and the reality of life after the offensive, unfold through the victims words; although this report is necessarily grounded in international law, it is perhaps fitting that human rights, and human suffering, are expressed through human stories.