Gaza In Dire Straits

gaza palmer
Usually, food distribution on a large scale comes in the wake of a natural disaster. In Gaza, politics are to blame, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

Day after day, more than a million people need aid just to feed themselves.

"It's really inhumane," said John Ging, of United Nations Relief and Works Agency. "People here are preoccupied with survival at the moment. Every family in Gaza is touched by a crisis."

Like it or not, they're also ruled by the Islamist forces of Hamas, which took over Gaza in June.

To put pressure on Hamas, and to retaliate for rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, the Israeli government sealed Gaza shut.

Palmer visited Gaza's main freight route into Israel, which normally would be bumper-to-bumper with heavily laden trucks. But it is completely closed, as is every other border crossing in the country. Nothing is coming into Gaza and nothing is getting out.

Not even goods the rest of the world wants - like carnations - grown under contract for the European cut flower market. Now they end up dead and rotting in the fields.

All of Gaza's main businesses have shut down too.

For 25 years, Mohammed Balah's juice factory hummed along. Two dozen Palestinian workers keeping the assembly lines moving.

But a few weeks ago, Balah had to let his employees go. It was a move he worries might help the extremists.

"All of these people who have to stop work, they might become violent as a result," Balal said.

Nasim Alsawalma was thrilled to be accepted this fall to the engineering program of a Canadian University, then crushed to find he wasn't going to be allowed to leave Gaza.

"Not all Gaza is Hamas. Gaza's people are human - want to live, want to study, want to work," Alsawalma said.

Instead, they're locked into a country that is for now a prison, trapped between Israel and the sea.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."