Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh
Photo: AFP

Gaza on verge of eruption

Hamas faces unprecedented crisis, as Israel, Egypt prepare for flare-up

Egypt asked Israel to put its forces along the Gaza Strip border on alert, while at the same time the Egyptian army is on special deployment on the Philadelphi Route and south of it. Officials in Israel and Egypt estimate that Gaza is on the brink of eruption that may be violently manifested on the Strip’s border with the two countries.


Israeli security officials estimate that Hamas’ Gaza regime has reached a dead-end and is facing an unprecedented crisis not seen since it took over the Strip. Hamas has no real answers to the distress of the Palestinian public and the last resort is a flare-up on the borders.


At Egypt’s request, and after power outages started in the Strip Tuesday, Israel decided to renew the supply of fuel to Gaza power stations as of Wednesday. Israel also agreed to turn a blind eye to the concentrations of Egyptian forces and weapons deployed near the Philadelphi Route these days even though they are forbidden by the peace treaty.


In light of the crisis in Gaza, Egypt put the special forces it brought into Sinai on alert and reiterated the threat to open fire at Palestinians who attempt to breach the wall it built along the Philadelphi Route.


The sense of suffocation faced by the Hamas regime in the Strip stems first and foremost from its isolation in the Arab world. Hamas’ ties with Egypt have hit a nadir. The Syrians, meanwhile, invited Mahmoud Abbas to the Arab League convention in Damascus, while Khaled Mashaal was not invited and Hamas members could not participate, even as observers. This move seriously undermined Hamas’ status.


And if that’s not enough, the contacts with Israel on the Shalit deal are stuck, Hamas failed to elicit European support for removing the political and economic boycott it faces, and the Yemenite mediation attempts between Hamas and Fatah have failed.


The Hamas regime has no legitimacy and it has failed to present any diplomatic achievement. Hamas’ only achievements are in the military arena: The improvement of rockets and weapons, the digging of tunnels, etc. The rest is stuck, and Strip residents are crying out.


Private sector collapse

Yet while Hamas is boycotted, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is receiving international aid to the tune of about $2 billion a year. Fayyad pays 77,000 PA public service workers in Gaza salaries totaling tens of millions of dollars so they do not switch sides and maintain their allegiance to the Ramallah-based PA.


On the other hand, since Hamas took power, about 90,000 people in Gaza lost their jobs. The “private sector” in the Strip in fact collapsed.


Just like in Israel, Gaza is also facing a water crisis because of the rainless winter. Some wells are contaminated while others are below the red line. The fuel crisis reached such extent that Hamas itself finds it difficult to engage in motorized patrols along the Strip’s main routes. Recently we have been hearing criticism regarding the corruption of the Hamas apparatus, and we should recall that we are talking about a regime that was considered to be free of corruption up until now.


Meanwhile, the civilian population constantly fears the IDF’s anti-terror attacks; clashes with the IDF cause casualties almost every day. Hundreds of wounded Palestinians are at the hospital and at home, surrounded by thousands of bitter families.


Voices in the Strip are calling to extend the fighting to the West Bank, in order to utilize another pressure lever on Israel. Also, a UN envoy to the Mideast offered the Palestinians and Israel a plan to deploy a multinational force along the Philadelphi Route that would enable the opening of the Rafah crossing under the supervision of Abbas’ forces. However, Hamas does not accept this solution, while Israel wonders which states would agree to send their troops to the Philadelphi Route.


At this time, the sense in Israel and in Egypt is that Gaza is on the eve of a violent outburst.


פרסום ראשון: 04.16.08, 10:03
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