No early end in sight for Gaza’s weary citizens

Analysis: Palestinian factions must balance rocket fire against Gazans’ needs

A Palestinian mother and her sons survey the rubble of a destroyed home in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip. The funeral for seven members of the family whose house was attacked in an Israeli airstrike was held yesterday. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

A Palestinian mother and her sons survey the rubble of a destroyed home in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip. The funeral for seven members of the family whose house was attacked in an Israeli airstrike was held yesterday. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 08:34

Before the latest Hamas-Israel ceasefire collapsed, Said, a young Gazan, said: “No more war. It has to stop.”

His family’s house in Beit Hanoun in the northeast of the strip was flattened, forcing his parents, 12 siblings and other relatives to take shelter at a UN school in nearby Jabaliya.

His family is now living with an uncle. Said’s father, who collects metal from the rubble of blasted buildings, will have full employment once the conflict ends.

All Palestinian factions must lend an ear to Said’s cri de coeur when deciding what to do now that the ceasefire has ended and Israel has resumed its bombing campaign. The factions in charge, Gaza-based Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have to balance continuing rocket fire against meeting the needs of Gaza’s 1.8 million citizens.

The sidelined Fatah movement and the Palestinian Authority, which it controls, are obliged to support Hamas, which represents Gaza and is popular in the West Bank.

Having lost a leg to an Israeli missile as a child, Said demands not only an early end to this episode, the fourth major conflict he has known in his young life, but also an end to the siege and blockade that has condemned his generation to imprisonment in Gaza, limited opportunities and low-paid work or unemployment.

But Said may be disappointed. Former Palestinian minister and negotiator Dr Ghassan Khatib says: “It’s going to take time. Ending this war is not going to be as easy as launching it because of the internal politics of the two sides.”

He says Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu “must appear tough enough so that he will be victorious enough to pay a heavy price” for an end to the rockets.

Khatib adds that “Hamas must reach an agreement that lifts the closure” of Gaza so it cannot be accused of settling for a limited easing of the blockade, which could have been “reached in the first week of the war”.

‘Doomed by both scenarios’

Khatib predicts there could be “ceasefires alternating with low-intensity confrontations or a de-facto ceasefire”. He says both sides are “doomed by both scenarios” because neither can obtain their political objectives.

Israel can afford to wait for an end to this round longer than Hamas, although Israelis evacuated from settlements and towns near the Gaza border are clamouring to go home, and universities and schools in the region are eager to open.

Hamas and its armed allies are under massive pressure to reach a deal Gazans can accept without agreeing to Israel’s demand for disarmament and demilitarisation of the strip. Pressure is being exerted by the devastation wreaked by Israel’s renewed bombing campaign and the rising death toll, which stands at 2,040 – 76 per cent civilian – with 10,300 injured.

Half a million Gazans have been displaced: 230,000 are living in UN schools, 200,000 with relatives, and the rest in the streets or in hospital grounds.

Gazans are weary of returning to their still-standing homes or the ruins of their homes during ceasefires, and then hurrying to UN schools during bombardments. Elec- tricity is limited, water is in short supply, epidemics threa- ten due to crowding in schools and shared residences.

Gazans including Said understand they will have no relief from war, no decent standard of living and no future if the siege and blockade remain.

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