The Gaza Strip has nearly disappeared from the news since July when the Israeli assault on Lebanon began, but there is reason to believe the 1.4 million Palestinians effectively locked down in that tiny piece of land are suffering extreme deprivation and are turning on each other.

In an unusually blunt statement reported in late August by the Boston Globe, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan demanded that Israel open Gaza’s crossing points “immediately.”

“Beyond preserving life,” Annan said at the time, “we have to sustain life. The closure of Gaza must be lifted, the crossing points must be opened not just to allow goods in, but to allow Palestinian exports out as well.”

But the Israeli lockdown of Gaza continues.

The Economist, the British weekly, recently reported that violence is mounting between Palestinians under conditions of near-total unemployment, acute food and water shortages, and three months of little or no electrical power in the midst of sweltering heat.

“Aid agencies record steadily rising food prices, rates of disease and psychological stress,” it reported. “The Palestine Authority’s disintegration and the breakdown of Gaza’s social fabric are making it hard for any authority to impose order. The past months have seen continuous fighting between several of the clans [that increasingly] hold sway in various parts of Gaza.”

In 2001, a dissenting Israeli official summarized his government’s policy toward the Palestinian populations of Gaza and the West Bank thusly: “We’re strangling them to death.”

Legal, social and economic pressures are also escalating against the Palestinian population and workers of all nationalities living within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.