Gazans Feel Pinch of Israel’s New Offensive

Jewish soldiers
Jewish soldiers © picture-alliance/dpa

It is not lost on the world that Israel is cynically using the “missing” Israeli Jewish colonists to launch a brutally punishing pan-Palestine offensive (including Gaza and the ‘West Bank‘). Even the normally cowed Germans see it, acknowledge that Israel is making the most of the situation for not only propaganda purposes.  Fortunately, the rest of the world can see this clearly and is not giving a lot of ‘ink’ to the “missing” Jewish colonists as much as it is to Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians.

25 June, 2014 Deutche Welle

In the wake of a major clampdown on Palestinians following an alleged Hamas kidnapping of three Israelis, the usually bustling streets of Gaza City are quiet in what is normally the busiest week leading up to Ramadan.

Fareq Nassar, 37, sells produce in Zwaya market, one of the main markets in Gaza City. He empties his pocket showing just 140 shekels (30 euros), the sum total of money he has left this week.

“At this time of year people are usually elbowing each other to just get into and through the market. Last year I was making around 2,000 shekels in a week,” he says.

An eerie quiet

Gazans have been tentative about leaving their homes and walking around the streets. Their reasoning is twofold – they are nervous about Israeli airstrikes that have killed 18 Palestinians in Gaza so far and the worsening economic situation since the interim unity government was sworn in.

Mohammed Abu Kwaik, 23, told DW his wife is expecting their first child in a matter of months and his business selling jewelry in a small shop near Zwaya market is slow. This time last year, he said, it was busy in the run-up to Ramadan and believes the new interim government is to blame. Recently banks were closed for up to 10 days but it is unclear if the orders came from Hamas, members of the new government or the banks themselves.

Mohammed Abu Kwaik
Mohammed Abu Kwaik’s business is struggling. © dw/k. shuttleworth

“With the closure of the banks for more than 10 days people were afraid to spend money. Just to have money was a struggle, people are keeping what they have and hiding it for future crisis.” Abu Kwaik also said he didn’t believe an election would be held within six months.”These are lies, there will be no election – the government has sunk.”

Gazans feel the pressure

Meanwhile the Israeli security crackdown has excacerbated an already tense situation. For nearly two weeks now Israeli soldiers have been searching for the three yeshiva students Gilad Shaer, Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach. They got into a car as hitchhikers near the Israeli settlement of Gush Etzion. One of them made a call to police for help, but so far there have been no signs of life from the three youths.

Hebron has been the center of a military sweep that has now extended to house-by-house searches and arrests also being carried out in Ramallah and Bethlehem.

The latest Israel Defense Force reports show that up to 1,500 houses in the West Bank have been searched, 450 Palestinians arrested – 260 are believed to have ties to Hamas.

This week Hamas fighters took to the streets in Gaza City near al-Omari mosque as part of a funeral procession for five Hamas al-Qassam Brigade fighters. They were killed in an explosion in underground training tunnels, in an attack allegedly carried out by Israel. According to medical officials, 19 Palestinians have died in the Hamas-controlled enclave since the kidnapping of the three Yeshiva students nearly two weeks ago. Of those killed 13 were militants and six were civilians including a three-year-old. Another 74 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank have been wounded.

Growing divisions among Palestinians

Mamoun Abushahla, who was recently sworn in as the Minister of Labour in the interim unity government, said he was convinced the kidnapping of the three yeshiva students was a story fabricated by Israel.

“First we are talking about allegations – until now we are talking about under two weeks and the Israeli’s still haven’t shown any signs that Hamas, or even the Palestinians in general have anything to do with these missing students. We cannot talk clearly about a kidnapping as there’s no evidence – they might use it as an excuse to implement already written plans to attack Palestinians in the West Bank and put them under more pressure and maybe push Abu Mazen to backtrack on the reconciliation. There’s a big hypocrisy here – we have 1.7 million Palestinians kidnapped in the Gaza Strip, besieged and boycotted. As you can see many people have not been able to leave or move from here for more than seven years,” he told DW.

To date 50,000 Hamas government employees have not been paid their salaries – a cost Abushahlah said was sitting at around $600 million.

Banks and shops have closed in Gaza
Banks and shops have closed in Gaza. © dw/s. al-Farra

“The salaries have to be paid – it is an obligation of this government that the salaries are going to be paid, but to find the money is something difficult. This is not going to happen before Ramadan, it will take some time,” said Abushahla.

Bassem Naim, former adviser to ex-Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was “swimming against the current” and hadn’t carried out the actions he’d signed up to in the reconciliation agreement.

“He is acting as if the new government is an extension of his old one – the Ramallah-based government. Abu Mazen should leave, I think he’s a catastrophe for the Palestinian people – I’m not advocating for a militant leader, I just think we should have someone who can do his job at a political level,” Naim told DW.

In terms of Israeli military action Naim believed it was not in Israel’s political interests to heighten its strike on Gaza, but would instead focus more heavily on punishing Palestinians in the West Bank to increase divisions among Palestinians.

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