Gaza unrest sends message about economic misery under Israeli blockade

Gaza unrest sends message about economic misery under Israeli blockade
Palestinian men take out migratory quails from a net on a beach, as catching migratory quails offers seasonal jobs for some unemployed Gazans, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, Sept. 30, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 October 2023
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Gaza unrest sends message about economic misery under Israeli blockade

Gaza unrest sends message about economic misery under Israeli blockade
  • Some 2.3 million people live in the narrow coastal strip, where per capita income is around a quarter the level in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
  • In the recent unrest, youths hurling stones and improvised explosive devices faced off against Israeli troops along the border fence

GAZA: Weeks of violent protests by young men in Gaza have sent a message about the dire financial squeeze in the Israeli-blockaded enclave, economists and even some senior Israeli officials believe, and relief measures may be in the offing.
Ostensibly the protests, organized by youth groups but backed by Gaza’s ruling movement Hamas, were about the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and visits by Jewish groups to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, who know it as the Temple Mount.
But a senior Israeli official noted the relative restraint by Hamas, which did not officially join the protests itself or launch more rockets at Israel. He suggested the more immediate reason for the unrest was less long-time grievances related to the Palestinian national cause and more Gaza’s economic misery.
“The protests are about money,” said the Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the topic’s sensitivity. “What we’re seeing on the (border) fence is a message. They are asking for financial help.”
Some 2.3 million people live in the narrow coastal strip, where per capita income is around a quarter the level in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and where over half the population lives below the poverty line, according to IMF estimates.
In the recent unrest, youths hurling stones and improvised explosive devices faced off against Israeli troops along the border fence who responded with live fire before calm was restored last week by Egyptian, UN and Qatari negotiators.
Sources close to the mediation said while some of Hamas’s demands are political, relaxing economic sanctions against Gaza is key to at least maintaining calm along the frontier.
The sources expect Israel, which along with Egypt maintains a tight blockade of the Gaza Strip that has helped cripple its economy, to announce further easings in coming days, including hundreds more permits for work in Israel.
Since 2021, when it fought a 10-day war with Hamas, Israel has softened some curbs on Gaza, offering thousands of work permits as well as measures to facilitate exports and improve its dilapidated utilities after years of underinvestment.

FRAGILE CEASEFIRE
A recent International Monetary Fund report said that for any stable long-term economic recovery in Gaza, “lifting of the blockade and easing of the Israeli-imposed restrictions are essential.”
It noted that Gaza had lagged far behind the West Bank over the past 15 years, mainly due to the years of isolation and repeated conflict after Hamas came to power in 2007, with 77 percent of households receiving aid, mainly cash or food.
With an official unemployment rate in Gaza of over 46 percent, Hamas itself has faced rumbling discontent over its economic management although for its part, the movement blames the Israeli blockade for the enclave’s economic woes.
“If there’s to be an explosion, let it be against the party that created these conditions, which is the (Israeli) occupation,” said senior Hamas official Bassem Naim.
Hamas leaders say any calm in Gaza will remain fragile unless Israel lifts the blockade and ends “aggressive measures and assaults in the West Bank and Jerusalem,” but they signal no interest in a new war.
Aware of the potential for worsening instability in Gaza, Israel has issued over 18,000 work permits to Palestinians there, which has allowed workers to bring in some $2 million a day and offered other forms of economic relief.
“The permit is everything for me, it is my life. If permits stop I will stop,” said Bilal Al-Najar, who took in 30-35 shekels ($7.70-$9.05) a day as a vegetable vendor in Gaza before earning 10 times more working in a restaurant in the southern Israeli city of Lod.
Gaza’s clothing sector, one of the main beneficiaries of any moderation of the blockade, has seen sales rise 10-fold since 2015, the year after an earlier war, and this year revenues look set to top the $22 million generated in 2022.
“If crossings are open, and the political situation is good this makes things in Gaza fit for a bigger revival both for work and for living,” said Bashir Al-Bawab, CEO of Unipal Company, one of Gaza’s largest clothing factories that have partnerships with Israeli companies.
But while Israel has offered economic incentives to avoid conflict, they are always liable to being cut off abruptly, exposing companies like Unipal, which exports 150,000 items a month to Israel, to constant uncertainty.
Last month, Israel imposed a brief blockade on exports from Gaza after inspectors said they uncovered an attempt to smuggle explosives into the West Bank. It then followed up by closing crossing points used by workers going to their jobs in Israel and the West Bank in response to the border protests. ($1 = 3.8675 shekels)


Israeli strikes target Lebanon’s Baalbek for first time since Gaza war

Israeli strikes target Lebanon’s Baalbek for first time since Gaza war
Updated 26 February 2024
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Israeli strikes target Lebanon’s Baalbek for first time since Gaza war

Israeli strikes target Lebanon’s Baalbek for first time since Gaza war
  • The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago
  • Israel’s air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Buday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks

BEIRUT: The Israeli military said Monday its air force was striking targets of the militant Hebollah group “deep inside Lebanon,” where residents reported explosions near the northeastern city of Baalbek.
The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago. They come a day after Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to step up attacks on Lebanon’s Hezbollah even if a cease-fire is reached with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Lebanese security officials said Israel’s air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Buday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks. Buday is a Hezbollah stronghold. There was no immediate word on casualties.
A Hezbollah official confirmed that three strikes hit near Baalbek. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
The Israeli army said further details will follow.
The airstrikes near Baalbek came hours after Hezbollah said its fighters on Monday shot down an Israeli drone over its stronghold in a province in southern Lebanon. Anotehr missile fired by Hezbollah toward the drone was intercepted by Israel, and landed near a synagogue in a town close to Nazareth in northern Israel. There were no injuries or damage.
Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli troops along the border since the Israel-Hamas broke on Oct. 7.
The strike on Baalbek, because of its location deep inside Lebanon, is the most significant one since the early January airstrike on Beirut that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri.
Hezbollah, which has been exchanging fire with Israel throughout the war in Gaza, has said it will halt its nearly daily attacks on Israel if a cease-fire is reached in Gaza.


Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns
Updated 26 February 2024
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Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns
  • Move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up Palestinian Authority
  • Shtayyeh says he is resigning to allow broader consensus among Palestinians following Israel’s war on Gaza

RAMALLAH: Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday he was resigning to allow for the formation of a broad consensus among Palestinians about political arrangements following Israel’s war against the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
The move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Palestinian Authority as international efforts have intensified to stop the fighting in Gaza and begin work on a political structure to govern the enclave after the war.
His resignation must still be accepted by Abbas, who may ask him to stay on as caretaker until a permanent replacement is appointed.
In a statement to cabinet, Shtayyeh, an academic economist who took office in 2019, said the next stage would need to take account of the emerging reality in Gaza, which has been laid waste by nearly five months of heavy fighting.
He said the next stage would “require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip, the national unity talks, and the urgent need for an inter-Palestinian consensus.”
In addition, it would require “the extension of the Authority’s authority over the entire land, Palestine.”
The Palestinian Authority, formed 30 years ago under the interim Oslo peace accords, exercises limited governance over parts of the occupied West Bank but lost power in Gaza following a struggle with Hamas in 2007.
Fatah, the faction that controls the PA, and Hamas have made efforts to reach an agreement over a unity government and are due to meet in Moscow on Wednesday. A senior Hamas official said the move had to be followed by a broader agreement on governance for the Palestinians.
“The resignation of Shtayyeh’s government only makes sense if it comes within the context of national consensus on arrangements for the next phase,” senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.


UAE floating hospital begins operations at Al-Arish to treat Palestinian patients

UAE floating hospital begins operations at Al-Arish to treat Palestinian patients
Updated 26 February 2024
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UAE floating hospital begins operations at Al-Arish to treat Palestinian patients

UAE floating hospital begins operations at Al-Arish to treat Palestinian patients

AL-ARISH: A floating hospital provided by the UAE, anchored in Egypt’s Port city of Al-Arish, commenced operations on Sunday to provide treatment for injured Palestinians.

The initiative is a part of the UAE’s “Gallant Knight 3” humanitarian operation.

The 100-bed hospital has operating rooms, an intensive care unit, radiology section, laboratory and pharmacy, state news agency WAM reported.

A 20-year-old Palestinian man was the first to undergo surgery at the hospital. He was treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder and injuries caused by shrapnel.

Doctors repositioned his shoulder, and he will require a follow-up operation to repair nerve damage.

The floating hospital was established in cooperation with the Department of Health - Abu Dhabi and AD Ports Group. It is being staffed by 100 medical workers who are skilled in anesthesia, general surgery, orthopedics, and emergency medicine.

Dr. Falah Al-Mahmoud, director of the hospital, said the facility would help alleviate the suffering of Palestinians.

Dr. Falah Al-Mahmoud, director of the hospital, said the facility would help alleviate the suffering of Palestinians. (WAM)

 


Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns
Updated 26 February 2024
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Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns
  • Palestinian PM says ‘new political measures’ needed amid Gaza war
  • The move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Palestinian Authority

RAMALLAH: Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday he was resigning to allow for the formation of a broad consensus among Palestinians about political arrangements following Israel’s war against the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
The move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Palestinian Authority as international efforts have intensified to stop the fighting in Gaza and begin work on a political structure to govern the enclave after the war.
His resignation must still be accepted by Abbas, who may ask him to stay on as caretaker until a permanent replacement is appointed.
In a statement to cabinet, Shtayyeh, an academic economist who took office in 2019, said the next stage would need to take account of the emerging reality in Gaza, which has been laid waste by nearly five months of heavy fighting.
He said the next stage would “require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip, the national unity talks, and the urgent need for an inter-Palestinian consensus.”
In addition, it would require “the extension of the Authority’s authority over the entire land, Palestine.”
The Palestinian Authority, formed 30 years ago under the interim Oslo peace accords, exercises limited governance over parts of the occupied West Bank but lost power in Gaza following a struggle with Hamas in 2007.
Fatah, the faction that controls the PA, and Hamas have made efforts to reach an agreement over a unity government and are due to meet in Moscow on Wednesday. A senior Hamas official said the move had to be followed by a broader agreement on governance for the Palestinians.
“The resignation of Shtayyeh’s government only makes sense if it comes within the context of national consensus on arrangements for the next phase,” senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.


Yemen’s Houthis announce first civilian death in US-UK strikes

Yemen’s Houthis announce first civilian death in US-UK strikes
Updated 26 February 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis announce first civilian death in US-UK strikes

Yemen’s Houthis announce first civilian death in US-UK strikes
  • One person was killed and eight wounded a day after US and British forces said they fired on 18 targets
SANAA: Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia have reported the first civilian death in US and British air strikes after the latest round of joint raids over the weekend.
One person was killed and eight wounded, the Houthis’ official news agency said late on Sunday, a day after US and British forces said they fired on 18 targets across the country.
The US-British strikes were in response to dozens of Houthi drone and missile attacks on Red Sea shipping since November, which the rebels say are in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.
“The American-British aggression on the district of Maqbana in the governorate of Taiz has left one civilian dead and eight wounded,” the Houthis’ Saba agency said, citing a statement from the rebel-run health ministry.
The Houthis, who control war-torn Yemen’s most populated areas, have previously reported the death of 17 of their fighters in the Western strikes targeting military facilities.
The Houthi attacks have had a significant effect on traffic through the busy Red Sea route, forcing some companies into a two-week detour around southern Africa. Last week, Egypt said Suez Canal revenues were down by up to 50 percent this year.
Washington, Israel’s vital ally, gathered an international coalition in December to protect Red Sea traffic. It has launched several rounds of strikes as well as four joint raids with Britain, which began last month.
The Houthis initially said they were targeting Israel-linked shipping in the Red Sea and adjoining Gulf of Aden, but then declared that US and British interests were also “legitimate” targets.