Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Gazans seethe over taxes and blackouts

GAZA CITY (Reuters) -- Hamas faces growing discontent in its Gaza stronghold because of renewed tax hikes and the mismanagement of a power crisis that has led to lengthy blackouts across the enclave.

Traders who import goods from Israel and the West Bank say Hamas authorities have introduced additional fees beyond the usual tax they collect, putting their businesses at risk and threatening the livelihoods of thousands of workers.

Hamas says the increase in levies is meant to protect homegrown products. But local analysts believe the group has been forced to tighten the fiscal screws at home because of a drop in funding from foreign allies, notably Iran.

Whatever the reason, many Gazans are fuming. A power crisis, sparked by a restriction on fuel smuggled into the Palestinian territory from Egypt, has only added to a widespread sense of discontent amongst the 1.7 million-strong population. more

Israeli forces enter northern Gaza, briefly close Erez border crossing

Israeli troops entered the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, sealing the Erez border crossing between the territory and Israel, Hamas officials said.

"Occupation forces moved into the northern Gaza Strip and began bulldozing work and closed the Erez crossing to travelers," a statement from the Hamas interior ministry said.

Witnesses told AFP that two Israeli bulldozers accompanied by three tanks had moved into the area and were operating in fields there.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the report, and the Israeli civil administration responsible for the Erez border crossing said it had no information on its reported closure.

An official at the crossing told AFP that it had opened late, but was now operating normally.

Israeli troops regularly carry out brief incursions into the Gaza Strip, despite formally withdrawing from the area in 2005. more

Video: IDF prepares for tunnel warfare in future Lebanon, Gaza conflicts

The Israel Defense Forces introduced a new method of conducting underground warfare on Tuesday, in preparation for a war with either Hezbollah or Hamas.

The method, which has been developed since the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead, is meant to combat the underground tunnel systems used by Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which are often used for weapons transfers.

The IDF believes that in Lebanon, the Hezbollah has dozens of underground bases, from which the organization operates its rocket launching operations.

Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, is running a similar underground system, including dozens of “combat tunnels” connecting Gaza homes, including “kidnapping tunnels” - through which kidnapped soldiers maybe taken, as well as “terror tunnels” used to move weapons. more