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  1. M K Lim
  1. Associate Professor, Department of Community, Occupational & Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore, MD3 16 Medical Drive, Singapore 117597;

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    “Welcome to Gaza, the safest place on Earth!” announced our driver Mahmoud, with deliberate hyperbole, as we passed the last of a series of alternating concrete barriers designed to make gate-crashing at the Israeli border checkpoint an impossible feat. Feeling reasonably secure behind ¾n^-inch bullet-proof glass, I thought to myself: So this is Gaza—land under occupation, where occupational health takes on a whole new meaning!

    The scene before us on that bright sunny morning, as our Cherokee four-wheel-drive negotiated the narrow and dusty streets of Gaza City, was one of uneasy calm punctuated by the intermittent honking of impatient drivers in competition with slower moving mules, men, women, and children, for right of way. Only the day before, thousands of defiant Palestinians had marched on these streets to mark the second anniversary of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (literally, “uprising”) and to protest the incarceration of their leader, then under siege in his office in Ramallah, surrounded by Israeli tanks, troops, and bulldozers. Two deaths and 15 injured were incurred. Tension had been high the day before that (when I arrived) because the militant group Hamas had publicly promised retaliation after Israeli helicopter gunships had, on the previous day, obliterated a moving car carrying three wanted men and wounding 45 bystanders, including 15 children on a busy street.

    As my intended destination, Gaza City, was temporarily “off limits”, I had remained in East Jerusalem for two days in the cosy American Colony Hotel, which …

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    • Prof. Lim was recently in West Bank and Gaza as a World Bank Consultant in Health Sector Development