Saturday, 26 April 2014

Gaza wants back in from the darkness as Hamas feels the isolation

In his haberdashery, Saleem Salouha tracks the ups and downs of his business against events beyond his control.

The good times for his shop in Gaza City were when Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were in power in Egypt. The bolts of cloth stacked behind Salouha came via the network of smuggling tunnels under the border at Rafah. Gazans had money too to buy his goods in the middle of a mini-economic boom.

All that, however, ended last July when Morsi was deposed in a military coup and the new regime deemed the Brotherhood a "terrorist" organisation.

Egypt accused Hamas, the Brotherhood's sister group that rules Gaza, of contributing to the security crisis in northern Sinai and closed down the smuggling tunnels.

Now Salouha orders the same goods, but they are brought through an Israeli crossing, pushing up prices by 30%, even as half his customers have withered away.

"It is a double blockade," Salouha says, referring to the long-term Israeli policy of limiting goods to Gaza since Hamas assumed control in 2007. He adds bitterly: "Israel and the Egyptians are competing with each other."

The story of the Salouha shop, in business since 1962, offers a microcosm of what has happened to Gaza and Hamas since Morsi was ousted.

It explains too why, after seven years governing Gaza at odds with its rival Fatah on the West Bank, Hamas might just be serious this time about moves to reconcile the often toxic Palestinian divisions. And if it is not serious, why Hamas views the agreement, signed this week, as an expedient move.

That deal – vague on detail – will see five weeks of talks for a national unity government, apparently largely technocratic. It would see moves to bring Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad under the umbrella of the PLO and the prospect of elections by the year's end. more

Human Rights Watch calls on Israel to stop shooting at Gaza civilians


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel must stop shooting at Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said Friday, noting four have been killed near the border fence since the beginning of 2014.

A report by the New York-based watchdog cited UN data which also said more than 60 civilians were wounded by Israeli gunfire near the perimeter fence of the Palestinian enclave led by the Islamist Hamas.

It focused on seven incidents between Jan. 2 and March 1, in which the four were killed and five others wounded, "none of whom posed a threat to the soldiers or others."

HRW noted that "Palestinians living in the densely inhabited Gaza Strip use land near the fence with Israel for agriculture, collecting rubble, scrap metal, and other reusable materials, and recreation." more