Nearly two million Gazans are living in a state of poverty and shortages, with few options of leaving and even fewer options for work. Nearly two million people who live in a giant prison, and Israelis cannot even begin to fathom how terrible their situation is.
“I’m extremely concerned that if you leave Gaza in the state it’s currently in, you’ll have another eruption, and violence, and then we’re back in a further catastrophe, so we’ve got to stop that,” warned Quartet envoy Tony Blair during a visit to the Gaza Strip on Sunday. It was his first trip to the Gaza since the last war, and Blair spent his time meeting with ministers and surveying the progress – or lack thereof – toward rehabilitating the Strip.
The scope of destruction in Gaza remains enormous. According to the UN, over 96,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed by Israeli air strikes. The donor states that have pledged to transfer money have yet to do so, re-building is going nowhere, many are still seeking refuge in UNRWA schools and the winter storms have only increased the damage to the homes and neighborhoods that survived.
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The Israeli blockade, which prevents exports, economic development and importing building materials not previously approved by Israel, and which includes firing at fishermen, continues to choke the Strip. Furthermore, the Egyptian government has only tightened the blockade on its end over the past months. Egypt has destroyed all the tunnels into Sinai, keeps the Rafah crossing closed on a regular basis, and has destroyed large parts of Rafah in order to create buffer zone between the city and its Gaza counterpart. And all this after the Egyptian government banned Hamas’ military wing, calling it a “terrorist organization.”
Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, which killed over 2,000 people, including hundreds of children and entire families, lead not only to destruction, but also to a breakdown in Palestinian reconciliation. Fatah and Hamas continue to find reasons not to make reconciliation a reality: Fatah refuses to pay the salaries of Hamas members (partially because Israel has frozen the tax revenues it owes the Palestinian Authority), Hamas is blaming the situation in Gaza on the unity government and attacks on members of Fatah are becoming routine.
According to an in-depth analysis by Ma’an News Agency’s Ramzy Baroud, the outcome out of these processes is leading to Hamas being pushed out the political circles of the southern Arab states (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) and back into arms of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, from which Hamas broke off two years ago. Like Blair said, this can only mean a return to the circle of violence. And as Yonatan Mendel wrote recently, no single major Israeli candidate is offering an alternative to this path of destruction.
Nearly two million Gazans are living in a state of poverty and shortages, with dilapidated infrastructure, few options of leaving and even fewer options for work. Nearly two million people who live in a giant prison, and we cannot even begin to understand how terrible their situation is.
This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.