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.


Latest Gaza flare-up: What does it mean for the blockaded strip?

This cease-fire, like others before it, is fragile and could easily be derailed. (AFP)
Updated 18 November 2018
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Latest Gaza flare-up: What does it mean for the blockaded strip?

  • “Unfortunately aggression against the Palestinian people will continue.”
  • Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in Gaza since 2008

AFP JERUSALEM: A truce in Gaza has left Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu battling to keep his government afloat after Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman walked out in protest.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, welcomed Lieberman’s resignation on Wednesday as a “victory” — but what will it mean for Gaza?

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in Gaza since 2008, interspersed with simmering hostilities and periodic spikes in violence.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel. The Jewish state, like the US and the EU, defines Hamas as a “terrorist” organization. For over a decade Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on the coastal strip.

An apparently botched Israeli army raid into the Gaza Strip triggered the worst escalation in violence since 2014 and brought the two sides to the brink of war.

On Tuesday, Hamas and Israel accepted an Egyptian-mediated cease-fire. Denouncing it as “capitulation,” Lieberman resigned from his post the next day, leaving the government with a majority of just one seat in Parliament.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad declared the cease-fire with military powerhouse Israel “a political victory.”

It came after Israel in October allowed Qatar to provide Gaza with fuel to help ease its chronic electricity crisis, under a UN-brokered deal.

In parallel, Egypt and the UN have been seeking to broker a long-term Gaza-Israel truce in exchange for Israel easing its embargo.

The events of the past week gave a boost to Hamas and its allies, said Gaza political analyst Mukhaimer Abu Saada. “But if there is a war that could change,” he said.

After the pounding Gaza took in 2014, most residents want above all to avoid a rerun. Indirect contacts between Israel and Hamas have eroded the status of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

A peace initiative by US President Donald Trump is expected to emerge in the next few months. The PA fears that it will drive the wedge even deeper between Gaza the West Bank, two territories long envisaged as part of a unified Palestinian state.

Jamal Al-Fadi, a professor of political science in Gaza, says such a divide suits Israel. “We can not have results against Israel except by unity,” he said.

This cease-fire, like others before it, is fragile and could easily be derailed.

With the Israeli political tensions unleashed by Lieberman’s departure, there will be fresh domestic pressure on Netanyahu to hit Hamas harder.

“The coming days will be difficult” for Gaza, Al-Fadi said.

“It was a right-wing government and the (next) elections will bring another right-wing government,” he said.

“Unfortunately aggression against the Palestinian people will continue.”