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Gaza beach the only vent for blockaded Gazans to zest
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20:42, June 03, 2009

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Ramadan Malaka and four other young workers had just finished building up their summer cafeteria west of Gaza city on the 40 kilometer long beach of the Hamas-ruled blockaded Gaza Strip. The cafeteria was built out of old timbers and palm trees' leafage.

"I haven't yet brought the plastic chairs and tables and the beach umbrellas. I keep calling the plastic furniture vendors to bring them, and they said they will bring them soon at the end of the day," said Malaka, who named his cafeteria al-Ghoroob, or the sunset.

Next to Malaka's cafeteria, along the beach of the Gaza Strip, dozens of small summer cafes and cafeterias were recently built after their owners obtained the needed licenses and documents from the government of Islamic Hamas movement.

Rafiq Mikki, acting mayor of Gaza City said that Gaza municipality in cooperation with the ministry of health has sent experts to check the healthiness of Gaza water, adding that there are two places on Gaza city's beach were prohibited because the seawater is mixed with sewage.

Malaka, who said that he has already bought a used refrigerator to save fresh drinks and ice-cream and a stove to make coffee and other hot drinks for his customers, expressed hope that this year's business will be better than the two previous years.

"Thursday nights and all Fridays are the best two days for business, where I receive dozens of families who come with their children to spend the night or spend the whole day enjoying the beach," Malaka said. "The rest of the weekdays are also good, mainly in the afternoons."

He added that in addition to chairs and tables, "I also build up 10 tents in front of the cafeteria for families who need privacy. Everything is getting so expensive, and there is no raw-material due to the Israeli siege that has lasted for almost three years."

Abdallah Mohamed, a Palestinian food products vendor said the beach is the only place in Gaza where anyone can go with his family to spend good time "away from the uncountable daily problems, mainly the problems that were a result of the Israeli siege."

Om Ibrahim, the 69-year-old woman, mother of three sons and one daughter, where each has two children says she comes to the beach with her children and their families every Friday "to enjoy a goodtime and forget about her daily problems."

A three-month summer vacation began in the Gaza Strip, where hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren finished their studying and received their school certificates. They have nowhere to go except the beach, which is the only outlet for them to escape from the difficulties of living.

Right after Hamas movement won in the parliamentary election held in the Palestinian territories in 2006, Israel imposed a blockade on the 1.5 million people living in the 350 square kilometer poor and narrow enclave of the Gaza Strip. The blockade was tightened after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

In addition to school children who finished their studying and began their 3-month summer vacation, there are around 70,000 civil and security employees, loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas. They receive their monthly salaries, but were instructed to stay home and not to work under Hamas command.

Osama Hamdouna, head of the psychological therapy at al-Azhar University in Gaza City said that going to the beach "even everyday, is not the only way to get out of the daily living problems, mainly in the Gaza Strip. There are other programs that can help the population, mainly children to get out of boredom."

"The last war on Gaza and its impact on the population, mainly children as well as the three-year-old siege had left the population suffering from different social and psychological problems," said Hamdouna, adding "therefore, the beach is not the only place where we can treat our problems."

Palestinian non-governmental organizations as well as the United Nations (UNRWA) had finalized their preparations for holding summer camps for schoolchildren, not only on Gaza beaches, but also in schools and playground.

The ministry of health, run by Hamas in Gaza said in a statement that it had finalized the preparations of the Gaza Strip beachside for the population to spend their summer vacations. It said that it had established 11 medical points and 11 medical tents to be on alert in case of emergency.

Source: Xinhua

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