Hunger across Gaza as Bread Runs Out

Christmas 2008

The misery in Gaza pushed me to report on the hunger of my people.

I stopped by Al Shanty Bakery in the middle of Gaza City. It is one of the biggest bakeries in Gaza and provides tens of thousands with bread. Hundreds of people were crowded outside the bakery in a very long, long line waiting for bags of bread, which is running out in Gaza.

Abed Mas’od, 24, is a labour working in Al Shanty Bakery. I spoke to him while he was very busy preparing bread for thousands. I managed to get some information out of him.

Before the deadly crisis of a bread shortage, which started 2 days ago, this bakery was preparing 30 bags of flour. But since today, 25 December, it is making bread from around 100 bags, each bag weighing 60 Kilograms. Abed refers to this rise of bread-making quantity to the unrprecedented requests from the population for bread, which came after Israel banned flour coming into Gaza and closed the border.

“Our bakery is out of bread since days and what we have is only for another 24 hours. In fact, we stopped our work yesterday as we ran out of flour. Now, we use grain (fodder) used for animals which will finish in hours,” a bakery lworker said.

Among the crowd, a woman’s voice arose above the people in the row. She started to scream and appealed for God requesting a salvation and easing of life’s conditions. I came closer to the woman, introduced myself, and asked her some questions. The woman, Om Ali Shoman, 45, with a pale, bleak face draws upon the suffering of the population.

She said, “This is our destiny. It’s a conspiracy machinated against us. What’s the fault of my children at home to stay with no bread. Did they fire rockets? Did they kill Israelis? Are they holding guns?”

There are 47 bakeries in Gaza, but now only 14 are in operation.

Normally, Gaza needs 450 tons of flour; 100 goes for bakeries and 300 for household use. Part of the household share flour is being provided by UNRWA which halted its work lately. The remaining flour and wheat quantities will cover the needs of people for only a few days.

Samah A. Habeeb, is a photojournalist, peace activist, humanitarian, and child relief worker in Gaza, Palestine. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Samah, or visit Samah's website.

23 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. George Salzman said on December 25th, 2008 at 10:41am #

    Oaxaca, 25 December 2008
    The attempt by Israel to commit ethnocide against the people of Gaza is the most intolerable horrendous action that I have been both 1. fully conscious of while it was/is happening and 2. am living through (though at a distance) in real time. It manifests the total failure of so-called modern civilization to provide any justification for humanity to allow the dominant system of values to continue.
    I wrote an open letter to Mazin Qumsiyeh which began “Your anguished appeal of December 3 crying out for humane treatment of the people of Gaza is horrifying in its awful truthfulness. If ever there were actions calculated to generate massive generalized (i.e. unfocussed indiscriminate) anti-semitism, the grinding, deliberate destruction of the indigenous Palestinian society by the Jewish state of Israel must surely stand in first place. Cruel to an extent that ought to be beyond belief, and proceeding as rapidly and brazenly as they dare, the dominant Israeli Jews and all their supporters, particularly among the English-speaking Jews of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are even more despicable than were the German supporters of the Nazi Judeocide. We Jews know very well what the Israeli government is doing. We are far better informed than many Germans were during the Hitler regime. The internet has largely opened up and supported a flood of honest, non-corporate, non-government news sources. Moreover, Germans who criticized and/or more actively opposed the Nazi extermination of Jews and other untermenschen (subhumans) placed their own lives at risk. We English-speaking Jews in the half-dozen countries mentioned can voice our criticisms of Israeli policies at no risk to our lives, and yet a great many of us, perhaps even a majority, either remain silent or overtly support Israeli destruction of Palestinian society.”
    The letter, which I submitted on Dec 17 to both Dissident Voice and Counterpunch in the hope of wider dissemination, has not been published at either site. If you wish to see it, please write me at george(dot)salzman(at)umb(dot)edu.

  2. mary said on December 25th, 2008 at 11:50am #

    I am very sorry Samah to hear how bad things are there in Gaza and to hear of the anguish of the people. It is heartbreaking but all we hear on the mostly state influenced/controlled media in the UK are details of the ‘Hamas militants firing dozens of rockets’. This retaliation against the siege is never put into context and the facts of the Occupation, the oppression and killing and maiming of your people, the cruelty and the injustices they suffer are not mentioned or discussed.

    Starvation in Gaza is in direct contrast to the over consumption of food and resources in the West. The overloaded trollies I saw in a local supermarket yesterday would give evidence of this. The populace is also being encouraged to spend, spend, spend as a way of solving the financial and banking crisis that has been created by these gangsters-in-charge. Some clerics are speaking out against this

    With best wishes. We stand with you and will do all that we can to put a stop to the injustice you are enduring.

  3. mary said on December 25th, 2008 at 12:16pm #

    A postcript:-
    This page on the BBC website only reports what military action Israel is planning against Hamas, the democratically elected government of Gaza. There is absolutely no mention of the Israeli siege and blockade, or the complete closure of the border, hence the food shortages .

    You will notice that Eqypt is co-operating with the Israelis in this inhumanity.

    Also on this Christmas Day, an Israeli kangaroo court has imposed a sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment on Ahmad Sa’adat. This is shocking.'adat

  4. Tree said on December 25th, 2008 at 12:43pm #

    My support goes out to the people of Gaza today, and to all people who struggle to have the basic necessities.
    I have been fortunate in my life to not know what that is like but I believe that can change at any time.

    Heartfelt wishes for peace to everyone and a Christmas wish for solidarity.

  5. DavidG. said on December 25th, 2008 at 6:13pm #

    Congratulations to Israel for helping the Gazians to lose even more weight during the Festive Season.

    What noble, altruistic people the Israelis are for making such a generous gesture! Their god will surely smile upon them.

  6. Don Hawkins said on December 25th, 2008 at 6:36pm #


  7. DavidG. said on December 26th, 2008 at 1:03am #

    I just heard on SBS, a local Australian Government sponsored Television Channel, that the letting through of a trickle of food into Gaza was, ‘An act of compassion!’

    So allowing a bit of food to go to the people who you’ve put under seige and who you’re collectively starving is an act of compassion, eh?

    The MSM are whores who will do anything for those with the money to pay them.

  8. Shabnam said on December 26th, 2008 at 7:30am #

    While Archbishop Desmond Tutu is shouting “force should be an option to get rid of Mr. Mugabe,” we don’t hear anything about the Zionist war criminals who are committing crimes against people of Gaza every day in the occupied Palestine. Tutu with no shame is advocating use of force against Zimbabwe but not against war criminals that have come from Europe and forced the indigenous population out of their land.
    Since the reelection that brought Hamas to power, the Israelis have implemented the same policy, divide and rule, to destabilize and finally to eliminate Palestinian from their land. To achieve this goal they have used siege and blockade to starve the population of Gaza to dead. According to Tutu himself, the apartheid system in Palestine is worse than apartheid system in apartheid South Africa a decade ago where Israel was a party to it.
    Israel’s siege of Gaza began on November 5th, is designed to undermine the truce with Hamas established last June. Israel wants to ensure that the Palestinians are seen as beggars and helpless with no political identity and therefore can have no political claims.
    You are correct when you write: “Egypt is co-operating with the Israelis in this inhumanity.” The Arab puppet head of states especially those states famous as “ the moderate Arab states” like Saudis, Egypt and Jordan are cooperating with Zionism against the population of Arabs and the region as enablers in Israelis’ War crimes against humanity.

    Mubarak has implied, “would not object to a limited Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip,” the London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi reported Wednesday. The paper claimed that Egyptian Intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, met last week with Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic-security department, and rejected Gilad’s request that Cairo use its influence to persuade Hamas to extend a truce with Israel that expired last Friday. It is shameful that Mubarak is willing to sacrifice the life of thousands of Gazan children to secular the future Presidency of his fu**ing son Jamal, a puppet. People of Egypt must send a strong message that they do not want a puppet to rule over them.
    The breakdown of the whole society is taking place in front of us without any action. There is no international response for people of Gaza beyond UN warnings which are ignored. Why keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza does not make the UN to take an action? How come the impoverishment and suffering of Gazan children does not make Desman Tutu to say force should be an option to get rid of the Zionist regime in occupied land? International law as well as human decency demands protection of Gaza population.
    Down with “world order” that forces population of Gaza to their graves because they have practiced their democratic rights and voted for Hamas to lead their government. The election was not based on choosing a puppet of Zionist‘s interest, like in the US, rather to improve their lives and to get out of inhumane condition where is forced upon them by the war criminals and their supporter in western capitals. Damn with phony western ‘democracy’ and ‘the rule of law.’

    The Arab intellectuals and freedom fighters must expose the true nature of the Arab puppet head of states, Saudis – Egypt – Jordan because these puppets cooperate with Israel and US in establishing ‘the new middle east’ in the interest of Israel and against the interest of people of the Middle East and Africa. I hope American people spend less time shopping and demand a change in Zionist policy of the empire in the Middle East, central Asia and Africa. We hope the puppet UN do its job and take an action against these terrorists and thieves. With best wishes, I hope the life for people of Palestine especially Gaza improves as quickly as possible.

  9. Moet said on December 26th, 2008 at 8:42am #

    To shabnum,

    tutu did open his mouth, but was refused entry toOccupied Palestine, told to keep quite and sent home. On his return there was a three line article in our newspapers. The ANC’s ‘advisors’ are all zionist. Where is Mandela today? Enjoying his ‘Kruger Millions’. Goerge bizos took care of that. All the white communists in S.A. Are jews. Period. So if you believe that there are any good in any of these ‘freedom fighters’ forget it. They are all puppets. So dont expect them to say, or actually do anything.

  10. Shabnam said on December 26th, 2008 at 9:15am #

    Thank you very much Moet for your information.

  11. Moet said on December 26th, 2008 at 9:40am #

    Oh and whats with the profanities? 🙂 today all leaders are corrupt, it should come as no surprise. They would love to ‘rule from the grave’. Dont get your blood pressure up!

  12. mary said on December 26th, 2008 at 1:53pm #

    My brother David who is a retired surgeon was denied entry to Gaza last month along with 16 medical colleagues even though he set up a charity there and the group were intending to observe and teach. He wrote this afternoon thus:

    ‘It is a beautiful afternoon here on Dartmoor. The sunlight has that
    quality one sees in Russian paintings of birch trees in the crisp snow.
    The three lovely grandchildren – girls, are here. We have been out for
    a walk on the moor in freedom – not stifled by a 60 year long occupation that started with a terror driven ethnic cleansing.

    I phoned my brother* in Gaza at noon. The couple had their fourth child, a baby girl, 7 days ago. There are now 4 children, so what future?

    There has been no electricity for 48 hours. If the hospital generators fail, those on ventilators etc might die. Those on ventilation are having their bronchial trees sucked out using syringes. 1500 need special medical care outside Gaza. Since June 2007 and the tightening of the noose, there have been 273 Palestinian deaths. One can assume at least three times that number have been wounded. I have seen many ‘amputees’ and appeared with one, Bashir, on Al Aqsa TV. 3,500 factories have shut and the unemployment rate is about 80%.

    The population is braced for a general invasion. The direction might be
    multiple. The CIA trained ‘Palestinian quisling’ forces might use the
    sealed Egyptian border. The sea ‘border’ might have a US element.
    They feel that Ms Livni and her Zionist conspirators have been greatly
    hurt by the solidarity of the people in Gaza in spite of every effort to
    cow them. They were required to kneel for a loaf. They prefer to die
    standing than to live on their knees. I embrace them in this, the
    2008th year of our Lord. That the barbarians should do this is no
    surprise. That the well fed but extremely ill educated nations of the
    west should not lift a finger in disapproval is no cause for surprise
    either. The ‘stance’ of the Arab ‘leadership’ is beyond words. It is
    loathed as much by the Palestinians as by the domestic populations.

    I cannot say happy New Year. The hollowness is even more extreme,
    rather as the State Broadcaster’s lies have become.

    * This is a doctor, the director of a hospital that was unbelievably shelled by the Israelis earlier in the year.

  13. mary said on December 27th, 2008 at 4:27am #

    Slow death by malnutrition of the Palestinians in Gaza has been superceded today by death and maiming of hundreds by missiles fired from Israeli F16 jets. More of the same is promised, even attack by land right through to the Mediterranean, in which case there will be massive fatalities on both sides. A bloody start to a New Year.

  14. MrCynic3 said on December 27th, 2008 at 6:32am #

    What a sickening and depressing tragedy. Is compassion and mercy
    have left the world??!!

  15. Shabnam said on December 27th, 2008 at 10:38am #

    Those who benefited from ‘September 11’ have struck again in Gaza. The following photos have been shown and continue to be shown all over the world, are designed and have been implemented by the same hands, ZIONISM AND THEIR SUPPORTERS. Destruction of world Zionism is necessary to address the root causes of terror and terrorism all over the world. Down with Zionism and their enablers.

  16. Gideon said on January 11th, 2009 at 5:25pm #

    How many people in Gaza have died from malnutrition between 1967 and 2006?

  17. Max Shields said on January 11th, 2009 at 8:15pm #


    Not sure why you don’t just answer that question yourself. A simple google will show you the high levels of malnutrition of Palestinians, particularly the very young. Generally they are on the scale of sub-Saharan Africa; but while the numbers vary, it’s clear that are substantial and certainly bear no resemblence to the full bellies of the children of Israel.

  18. Gideon said on January 16th, 2009 at 5:03pm #

    Please enlighten us. I could not find any? Is zero the right answer?

  19. Max Shields said on January 16th, 2009 at 5:38pm #

    Could it be you cannot read? I just said…the malnutrician of Palestinian children has been likened to the same levels experienced in sub-Saharan Africa. Should I repeat?

    Can you spell google? If you are incapable stop posting and go find the nearest Palestinian so he or she can help you.

  20. Gideon said on January 16th, 2009 at 5:55pm #

    Give us a number and your source.

    It is a simple question (you are allowed to use a life line or call a friend):
    How many people in Gaza have died from malnutrition between 1967 and 2006?

  21. Tree said on January 16th, 2009 at 6:41pm #

    Gideon, it seems comments here have been about the malnutrition suffered by the people in Palestine. There’s plenty of information one can access to prove this to be true. For example, one can read that the unemployment rate in Gaza of roughly 85% forces many to beg for food. The fact that just the other day the Israeli military bombed a UN building and destroyed thousands of pounds of food means even harder times for those already struggling to find even a loaf of bread or clean water.
    No one has written here of death from malnutrition, although the evidence points to that happening on a large scale in the near future. So your stupid, juvenile attempts to disrupt the thread not only prove you unworthy to carry an intelligent conversation but make you look like a heartless motherfucker.

  22. Gideon said on January 17th, 2009 at 2:28am #

    How Gaza, such a troubled place with limited resources has been so successful in outperforming these Middle East countries on major metrics?

    Gaza: population density is X64 times Jordan, X56 time Egypt, X40 times Syria, X11 times Lebanon

    Gaza GDP per capita is: 1/10 of these countries and 1/20 of Lebanon

    Yet, with 40 years of occupation, Gaza has
    Infant Mortality and Mortality significantly lower than all these countries but Jordan! and literacy higher than ALL of them.

    How Gaza, such a troubled place with limited resources has been so successful in outperforming these Middle East countries?

    Global Hunger Index ranks counties and regions in crisis. Regions in crisis exhibit death from malnutrition.

    War zone presents a Hunger risk! Humanitarian campaign will be needed to deal with the situation when cease fire will become effective in Gaza. International relief agencies are standing by to take action.

    Middle East demographics (source: Wikipedia)
    Gaza Jordan Egypt Syria Lebanon Israel
    Pop 1.5 6.2 75 19.6 4.1 7.3
    Age 0-14 44% 32% 32% 37% 26% 26%
    Age 15-64 53% 62% 63% 59% 66% 64%
    Age 65 – 3% 4% 5% 3% 7% 10%
    Pop growth 3.40% 2.40% 1.75% 2.30% 1.26% 1.80%
    Birth Rate 3.95% 2.01% 2.29% 2.83% 1.89% 2.08
    Inf Mortality 2.24% 1.56% 3.13% 2.95% 2.45% 0.689%
    Mortality 0.38% 0.27% 0.52% 0.49% 0.62% 0.62%
    Life Expectancy 72 78.7 71.3 70.3 72.6 80
    Fertility 5.19 2.63 2.83 2.73 1.92 2.9
    Literacy 92% 91% 71% 80% 87% 97%
    Pop Density 10,665 166 192 267 948 839
    GDP / Capita $600 $4,906 $5,495 $4,491 $11,279 27,146

  23. Red27 said on October 23rd, 2009 at 5:20am #

    Nevertheless, for the purposes of this paper, I will accept this problematic estimate 12 One cannot base sound policy on poor science. ,