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Yousef Al-Helou

CONTRIBUTOR > Gaza: The weakest link

Yousef Al-Helou

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In the wake of Aug. 6 Sinai attack that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead at the hands of unknown attackers, Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah border crossing- Gaza’s only terminal that bypasses Israel leaving the costal territory largely cut off from the outside world. The underground tunnels between Gaza and Egypt have also been sealed. People in Gaza say the measure amounts to collective punishment as 1,000 of passengers including chronically ill patients.

In recent days, Hamas officials in Gaza have made plea and called on authorities in Egypt to reopen the crossing once and for good, asserting their willingness to cooperate in the ongoing investigation and are eager too to find out who really was behind the attack.

Eight days later, Egypt reopened the pedestrian terminal temporarily yet again, but just for three days, mainly to permit travel for humanitarian cases such as patients seeking medical care abroad, and students.

Hamas officials welcomed the move and called for further steps to alleviate the suffering of impoverished Gazans living in what known the world’s largest open-air prison.

Ordinary people in Gaza said they understand the feeling of their fellow Egyptians following the Sinai attack but said that the closure of the crossing is unjustified.

While the people of Gaza continue to show solidarity with Egyptians following the bloody attack by unknown assailants, the mode in Gaza is one of disappointment, as it seems Gaza would be the main political victim of the attack.

One must seriously ask who gains from this attack in Sinai which some within Egypt tried to blame Hamas for. A political expert said that Israel has exploited the attack by putting more pressure on Egypt in order to regain its security control of Sinai.

No one has claimed responsibility for the assault.

Following the attack, The Defacto government of Hamas in Gaza ordered the closure of the tunnels on the Gaza side to prevent possible infiltration by attackers.

For its part, the PA president Mahmoud Abbas has publicly supported Egypt’s new plan to destroy the tunnels, saying the tunnels did not contribute to the economy in the Gaza Strip and were being used only by a small number of people for personal gain.

A top aid to PA’s president accused fundamentalists of being behind the attacks and that some came from Gaza, these comments were denounced by Hamas saying that the PA’s move contradicts all values and ethics and national responsibilities and accused Abbas of “cheap opportunism.”
Ordinary people of Gaza who continue to suffer under years of siege and split between Hamas ruled Gaza and the western-backed PA in the West Bank, found themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place.

The Gaza strip a costal territory, 25 miles long, 8 miles wide, is a home to about 1.7 million people.
Israel with the help of ousted dictator Husni Mubarak placed the tiny sliver under a crippling blockade following Hamas’ takeover of the costal territory, this has forced Gazans to resort to underground tunnels to bring in their basic supplies and needs, such as consumer goods, fuel, construction and raw materials.

The tunnels described as the lifeline that provided for 80% of goods in Gaza over since the siege came into effect in 2007. Now with the closure of the tunnels this will make the already dire situation even worse.

But as a matter of fact, some tunnel owners have become very rich, brining and smuggling all sort of things. The network of tunnels along the border with Egypt is controlled and monitored by Hamas.
What concerns people in the tiny sliver is the way how both rivals in the two separated geographical entities widen the division by avoiding implementing the national reconciliation agreements agreed in previous years, some blame Hamas, other blame Fatah, and those who blame both for failing to put the national interests above their factional considerations.

And as Israel still in full control of Gaza’s air space, territorial waters and border crossing, it remains to be seen how the relationship between Fatah, Hamas and Egypt would look like, especially in light of the bad security situation in Sinai and the hidden fingers behind the latest bloody attack.


*Yousef Al-Helou is a freelance journalist based in Gaza. The full version of this piece appeared on the Palestine Chronicle on Aug. 16.

August/18/2012

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