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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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Red Tail

8/19/2012 5:46:09 PM

It should be noted that Hamas is a terorist organisation. Further, what kind of "open air prison" can be used to launch 4000 rockets from? And the rockets are sent to random targets such as hospitals, child care centres, etc etc. I find it perfectly natural that Egypt blocks the border when Hamas attacks them. HAMAS are terrorists.

Sandra Jacoel

8/19/2012 2:50:26 PM

@DAVID ELLISON & RIMON TREE- Absolutely right, Spot on!

rich bind

8/18/2012 6:57:01 PM

Gaza is NOT an open air prison. Does a prison have full shelves in its stores, estates for the wealthy, swimming pools, new cars in the streets and oh yes, a stock pile of weapons (including rockets) that could equip an army? For the last 2 years Israel has allowed in all consumer goods, medicines, etc. The Egyptian army has captured a number of the terrorists & guess what they are NOT Israeli, or Israeli agents. Lastly, Israel in NOT in control of all border crossings, think Egypt.

Aryeh Rapaport

8/18/2012 3:22:05 PM

You "forget" to mention why thers a blockade. To explain whats happening we cant just listen to one sided journalism as this article is. You mention Gaza blockade as if Israel is just a bad, evil, committed to hurting people for no reason. This is nonsense. It should be explained why Blockade Gaza? Why did Egypt (MB) close borders? demand 3 extremist figures from Gaza? Closed tunnels? There are extremist nuts in Gaza who are committed to achieving their goals via terrorism and death- that why!

Rimon Tree

8/18/2012 2:35:51 PM

There is only one receipe: Stop terror towarrds Israel and Gaza will be open to the world! By the way, the profit from the Gaza tunnels don't go to the population in any way, it's the Hamas leaders who keep the profit of the smuggled goods! Look at all the luxury shopping mails in Gaza city and stop talking about "helpless" Gaza. Israel is the only one who really sends all kinds of goods to Gaza on a daily base. I am very curious now which "blockade" the ship from Scandinavia will be protesting!

david ellison

8/18/2012 2:10:41 PM

Give us a break!!! Hamas kills, bombs and murders and suddenly they have no responsibility?? They would be giving out sweets if the same terrorists had murdered Israelis. Turkey should also learn that when you embrace theses types for short term economic gains....terrible things happen

Turk down under

8/18/2012 10:32:57 AM

"Ordinary Gazans"must b sick of living like this.I know Hamas has a history of severely punishing those who stand against their rule but if all united against Hamas's tyranny toward their people, life would greatly improve.Rocket attacks and hateful rhetoric toward Israel would stop.Israel would no longer feel threatened, borders would open and negotiations for 2 state solution would ensue. Life would be better for all. Is it really that hard? Another generations youth shouldn't be spent hateing

Johanna Dew

8/18/2012 7:26:26 AM

The Rafah attack bears some similarities to Nazi Germany’s Operation Himmler which used attacks by Nazi agents pretending to be Polish insurgents as a pretext for an invasion of Poland. But the Rafah attack also bears some similarities to the way that the Reichstag fire was used by the Nazis as a pretext for suppressing the opposition - So far thinking from Muslim Brotherhood perspective....

Danny B Danny

8/18/2012 5:34:56 AM

Power station Rutenberg, The Israeli power station at Ashkelon, Is the only power station in the world being attacked by it customers. Israel supplying electricity to Gaza and they shoot back at the power station. Israel supply Gas, Energy, food and building materials at the KEREM SHALOM & Karni crossings and they blow it up. Same with EREZ crossing where an industrial zone was built and for a while it was working perfect. Guess what happen there. Gazan worked in Israel, then buses blew up.

Danny B Danny

8/18/2012 5:23:16 AM

A new blockade imposed by Egypt. Gaza became the largest prison on earth. Where is the IHH and the Turkish solidarity? Where is the new Mawi Marmara with aid to the Palestinian. Suddenly Turkish government is quiet, The IHH group silent. What happen now ? aren't the crossing points with Egypt closed for same reason Israel closed them? Israel left Gaza on 2005. For the 1st moment they targeted Israeli town villages and schools. Journalist forgot that using the tunnels was mainly for weapons.
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