Desperate Gazans believe they have nothing to lose

Israelis look across at the Israel-Gaza border as Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops on Friday. Reuters
Updated 07 April 2018
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Desperate Gazans believe they have nothing to lose

LONDON: Few Palestinians expect Israel to heed the UN’s call for maximum restraint, but even the threat of a rising death toll is unlikely to halt further protests in Gaza.
The political horizons for Gaza’s almost 2 million inhabitants are severely constrained by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, a divided leadership, and a lack of concrete action either regionally or internationally toward peace.
Washington has yet to present any detailed peace plan and many Palestinians believe all they can do is try to make sure they are not forgotten amid the carnage caused by other regional conflicts, including Syria and Yemen.
Yehia Abu Daqqa, a 20-year-old student, said he had come to demonstrate and honor those killed in the past. “Yes, there is fear,” he told AP. “We are here to tell the occupation that we are not weak.”
Meanwhile, Hazem Qassem, the Hamas spokesman, emphasized that demonstrations would be peaceful.
“Maintaining the peaceful nature of the protests will strike all fragile Zionist propaganda,” he said.
The “March of Return” protests on the Gaza-Israeli border, organized by a network of Palestinian activists, are intended to draw attention to refugees displaced in 1948 by the creation of Israel. Refugees make up more than 90 percent of Gaza’s population and the protests will culminate on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s birth and a day the Palestinians call the “nakba” or catastrophe.
This year the anniversary will prove especially stark for Palestinians because the administration of President Donald Trump is scheduled to open a US embassy in Jerusalem. Israel annexed East Jerusalem — which the Palestinians want as their capital in a future state — after the 1967 war in a move that is not recognized under international law.
Many Gazans believe they have little to lose. Unemployment is around 50 percent, health care is meager and the blockade has turned the territory into an open-air prison.
A decade of Hamas rule has failed to improve the lives of ordinary Gazans. The divide between Hamas and the Fatah party led by Mahmoud Abbas has worsened, while the Palestinian president has found himself marginalized by Washington in spite of his previous overtures.
The humanitarian situation is set to deteriorate even further as Trump withholds aid payments to the Palestinians, accusing them of unwillingness to discuss peace with Israel. The US is by far the largest donor to UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency).
Many Gazans barely remember a brief window of hope in 2005 when Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the territory. For a short time, there was talk of economic regeneration backed by the World Bank and other organizations.
All that faded, particularly after Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 and the international community backed Israel by refusing any contact with the Islamist organization.
Israel and Hamas militants have fought three wars since 2008. With Washington’s apparent abandonment of a two-state solution that would be acceptable to most Palestinians, another war cannot be ruled out.


Israeli minister boasts his country has been ‘killing Iranians’

Updated 6 min 26 sec ago
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Israeli minister boasts his country has been ‘killing Iranians’

  • Hanegbi accused Iran, Israel’s main enemy, of seeking to create “chaos” and “harm freedom of navigation”

JERUSALEM: An Israeli minister boasted Sunday that his country was the only one that “has been killing Iranians,” after tensions between Britain and Iran rose in the Gulf.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi’s comments to public radio were a reference to Israeli strikes in neighboring Syria against Iranian and Hezbollah military targets.
But they came after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker on Friday, adding to tensions between Washington and Tehran linked to a 2015 nuclear deal.
Hanegbi accused Iran, Israel’s main enemy, of seeking to create “chaos” and “harm freedom of navigation.”
Asked if he feared that Israel would not receive the backing of the United States in the case of a conflict with Iran, Hanegbi suggested that Tehran would avoid such a scenario.
“Israel is the only country in the world that has been killing Iranians for two years,” he said.
“We strike the Iranians hundreds of times in Syria. Sometimes we acknowledge it and sometimes foreign reports reveal it.”
He added that the Iranians “understand that Israel means business.”
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah military targets.
It has vowed to keep Iran from entrenching itself militarily there.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke in a similar vein last week with cadets at the national security college.
“At the moment, the only army in the world to fight Iran is the Israeli army,” he said.
Earlier this month, Netanyahu warned that Israeli fighter jets “can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran.”
Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking “international maritime rules” came some two weeks after Britain seized an Iranian tanker at the mouth of the Mediterranean on allegations of breaching UN sanctions against Syria.