For almost a month now, the Gaza Strip has been closed off – nobody leaves or enters. Foreign journalists don't dare enter in fear of abduction, as in the BBC reporter Alan Johnston incident, entry by Israeli reporters has been banned by the IDF, and diplomats and foreigners who work for various agencies prefer to stay inside Israeli territory.
Yet despite this, the cry and crisis of 1.5 million Palestinian residents pierces through the border fences and reaches us here in Israel, because numerous residents have reached the conclusion that they can no longer bear the suffering and wish to directly inform the Israelis of this, while circumventing Palestinian leadership.
The local journalists in the Strip, who are the only source of information, are reporting that the anarchy has reached new heights: A Fatah Force 17 member was thrown off the roof of an 18-story building after being shot in the knees; in response, an imam at a Gaza mosque, a Hamas member, was executed in a similar manner.
The battles between PLO and Hamas members in the Strip do not cease for even a moment despite the frequent ceasefire agreements – dozens of residents, both members of the various factions as well as innocent civilians, are killed every day.
At this time, Hamas has the upper hand and its members are crushing their Fatah rivals, yet the human toll is intolerable.
Local journalists are reporting that residents are fed up with both Hamas and the PLO. They want a short break from internal wars and Israeli Air Force attacks. In desperation, they turn to the Israeli enemy and seek to stir some compassion. Najwah Sheikh, a resident of the Nusseirat refugee camp, wrote a letter to Haaretz where she addressed, among other things, Air Force bombings: "I cannot live in constant anxiety and wonder when my time will come…I cannot live like this, the anxiety and tension are draining my strength as a mother and a normal person…"
Sick and tired of leaders
Turning to an Israeli newspaper, either in writing or verbally, was uncommon until now among Gaza residents and was considered treason. Yet residents no longer care – last Friday, during an Arabic-language show on Israel's Channel 2, reporter Sliman al-Shafi recounted the suffering of Gaza residents and said that those who wish to provide more details should phone the station.
Within minutes, the station was flooded by hundreds of calls from the Strip from residents who wanted to share their difficult story. Some explicitly said they wish to revert to direct Israeli control, which in their eyes is much better than their lives in the current hell.
Al-Shafi said that when Israeli reporters were still allowed to enter the Strip, residents would ask him to be interviewed and insisted on speaking Hebrew, in order to convey a message to Israelis. They did not speak with reporters for Arab or foreign stations, but rather, explicitly asked to make their case to Israeli reporters.
In the current state of affairs, some will argue this is proof that we must intensify our pressure on the Strip, both economically and militarily, without stopping. At the same time, the new signals from the Gaza Strip constitute a clear message to all of us; a message that should be examined.
What is almost certain is that Gaza residents are sick and tired of their current leaders of all camps, and maybe, just maybe, they seek to turn a new leaf in their relationship with us.