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Red Dragon in Gaza

In February 2009, I went to Gaza as one of a European Parliament group to see the destruction caused by Israeli attacks. A year on, together with 60 members of parliament from 12 different countries, I returned.

As I expected, depressingly little had changed since Operation Cast Lead. Houses, factories, farms and schools are still in ruins. Water, sewage and electricity systems are wrecked.

In any other country, rebuilding would be well under way. But Gaza is different. It’s not that the people don’t want to rebuild; it’s that Gaza is still under Israeli siege. Its borders – land, sea and air – are closed. Concrete, glass, wood, pipes and other building materials are not allowed in.

There’s no lack of international support. In March 2009, a donors’ conference raised $4.5bn to help reconstruction and support the Palestinian economy. But not a single penny of that money could be spent in Gaza because the Israeli blockade prevents the import of construction materials. They are not considered as basic humanitarian goods.

The borders are also closed to people. We were fortunate: the Egyptian authorities allowed us in through the Rafah crossing, but most people can’t travel in or out. This means they are wholly dependent on the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which provides food, education, healthcare, social services and emergency aid.

When people in Wales hear about the situation in Gaza they tell me they want to do something.

The fact is that Wales is making a difference – however small it may seem to us. In one of the poorest areas of Gaza City, I visited the mobile dental unit funded by the Church in Wales. I’ve never been prouder to see the Red Dragon!

This unit provided desperately needed care for young people in particular. But the staff at the clinic saw the funding from Wales as a reflection of the solidarity of the people of Wales – which to them was priceless.

Jill Evans is a Plaid Cymru MEP.