On International Civil Defence Day, it is clear that civil defence in Gaza has a very different status and meaning than in most other parts of the world. Due to the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip, members of the Civil Defence Corps say that the unit is struggling to meet the needs of the people. This is especially so after the Israeli war against the Strip, which destroyed much of the infrastructure. Several civil defence workers were killed during Operation Cast Lead and many more were left with horrific injuries.
One civil defence sector that is in serious disarray is the Fire Brigade, which lacks the specialist vehicles and equipment necessary to rescue citizens from burning and damaged buildings. Despite such a lack of resources, the Civil Defence Corps still provides essential services to citizens and continues to save lives. It has a major responsibility not only to protect citizens in times of natural disasters but also to assist and save those who are targeted almost daily by Israeli occupation forces which set out deliberately to cause as much damage and chaos as possible during its "security operations".
According to Colonel Youssef al-Zahar, the Director General of Civil Defence in Gaza, the unit has lost 40% of its infrastructure but still manages to carry out its work. He called on Arab and Islamic states, as well as international organisations, to break the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and supply the vehicles and equipment needed to operate an efficient civil defence service. Resources are also required for the first aid and emergency awareness programmes run by civil defence officers to educate the population about how to cope in future emergencies.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad