Since protests along the Israeli fence enclosing the Gaza Strip began on March 30, the Israelis have launched numerous bombings of Palestinian civilian targets, exacerbating the grave and ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region.
GAZA CITY – The Gaza Strip seemed to maintain a tenuous calm Tuesday after a de facto ceasefire between Palestinian factions and Tel Aviv ended a week of heightened violence that saw the Israeli military pound civilian targets across the coastal enclave.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported that the Israeli assault has raised the death toll to 168 Palestinians killed and over 18,000 injured over the past four months in the besieged coastal region and home to 2 million people that is regularly referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison.
Since protests along the Israeli fence enclosing the Gaza Strip began on March 30, the Israelis have launched numerous bombings of Palestinian civilian targets, exacerbating the grave and ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region. Last week, Israeli forces demolished neighborhoods and civilian targets like the Al-Meshal Cultural Center.
World media outlets have largely ignored the Israeli provocations — which are backed by the U.S. and its Saudi-led Arab junior partners — instead laying unilateral blame on the Hamas government in Gaza.
Hard-line Israeli military chief Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that if the pause in fighting remains stable, occupation authorities would loosen their grip on the coastal region.
Palestinian officials working to ensure the flow of supplies to the Gaza Strip claim that commercial products banned in the July 9 clampdown are now free to enter the territory.
Under the ban, Israelis have prevented needed construction materials including cement, gravel, and steel bars along with numerous spare parts, vehicles and computer hardware from entering the territory on the grounds that these are “dual use” items with national-defense applications. Local media have reported that truckloads of construction materials have been allowed to finally enter the Gaza Strip in recent days.
The Israeli military has also pledged to extend the allowed-fishing zone for Palestinians in Gaza from the present three-mile zone to nine miles from the coast. Since 2000, the Israelis have typically limited Palestinian vessels to a maximum of three to six miles from the coast, often shooting residents who attempt to venture further offshore – a blatant breach of previous agreements with the Palestinian Authority like the 1993 Oslo Accord.
The stepped-up measures by Tel Aviv to control Gaza Palestinians’ access to the sea and receive goods were imposed on the pretext of punishing the 2 million people in the region for the launch of several rudimentary balloon and kite-based projectiles blamed for a spate of fires in the southern territories adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
Egypt and Israel continue to collude in the pacification of Gaza
The Israeli talk of easing the siege comes amid efforts by Egypt to ensure a long-term ceasefire, as well as a rare admission by an Israeli cabinet minister that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Cairo in May to negotiate the terms of a prolonged end to fighting with Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
During the meeting, which lasted several hours, the two allegedly discussed a potential easing of their blockade on Gaza and rebuilding its war-ravaged infrastructure. They also discussed the so-called “Peace Plan” that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and his Saudi and Israeli allies have sought to foist on the Ramallah-based Palestinian National Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas.
Reports of the meeting by Arab and Israeli outlets had been denied by Netanyahu’s office but were subsequently confirmed by Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, who told Israeli Army Radio that Cairo and Tel Aviv were closely coordinating their moves toward ensuring relative calm in Gaza. “Everything that will happen in Gaza will be done with Egyptian mediation and involvement,” the minister said.
The Egyptians and Israelis have subjected the Gaza Strip to a withering blockade since 2007, when a U.S.- and Israeli-backed coup attempt against the elected Hamas government backfired, which led to the Palestinian resistance faction driving out followers of the coup-plotting Fatah movement strongman in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan.
Since then, Palestinians confined to Gaza have faced several devastating onslaughts by the Israelis, as well as a crippling blockade by Tel Aviv and Cairo that has resulted in the collapse of the coastal strip’s economy. Monitors and advocates across the world have decried the grave humanitarian crisis prevailing in Gaza that has resulted directly from its being deprived of needed goods including construction material, electricity, food, water and medicine.
In a report on Gaza last November, local human rights monitor B’Tselem noted:
Israel used its control over the crossings to put Gaza under a blockade, turning almost two million people into prisoners inside the Gaza Strip, effecting an economic collapse and propelling Gaza residents into dependency on international aid.
As part of the blockade, Israel prohibited travel in and out of Gaza, the import of goods into Gaza – including restrictions on food items, toys and paper – and export to Israel, the West Bank or foreign countries. According to documents exposed in October 2010 following a Freedom of Information petition filed by the Gisha organization, it emerged that Israel had employed a ‘deliberate reductive policy,’ based on calculations of the minimal caloric intake required for Gaza residents to survive.”
On Tuesday, Al Jazeera reported that Gazan medical facilities have an 80 percent deficit in needed medication supplies, threatening the lives of 8,200 cancer patients who require chemotherapy treatment.
According to Hamas officials, Palestinian representatives will hold talks Tuesday in Cairo on the terms of the truce.
White House wants “peace,” with or without Palestinians
Trump administration officials told Israeli daily Haaretz that they hope to see a viable ceasefire agreement establish calm in Gaza regardless of whether the Palestinian Authority supports such efforts.
According to Haaretz, the White House supports Cairo’s efforts to secure a ceasefire and “remains in close communication with Israel, Egypt, and the UN with respect to Gaza.” The administration official also claimed that an end to the fighting doesn’t necessarily require the participation of the Palestinian Authority, but “it would be best if the PA reasserts control in Gaza so we can get on with making lives better.”
The recent violence in Gaza was largely the result of a process set in motion by the Trump administration, especially its decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to the illegally occupied Palestinian city of Jerusalem.
The embassy move was a de facto recognition of Israeli claims that the city is the capital of the Israeli settler-colonial state, and was precipitated by White House and Israeli efforts to sabotage attempts to form a unity government encompassing the West Bank and Gaza that would be comprised of Hamas and the Ramallah-based Palestinian National Authority.
Trump administration officials like Special Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt and senior adviser Jared Kushner had warned that a Palestinian governing entity uniting the two factions would have to unequivocally surrender its right to resist Israeli apartheid, relinquish its demand for the right to return to their stolen ancestral lands, and accept the Zionist claim that the State of Israel built atop the land of Palestine is “the homeland for the Jewish people.”
Top Photo | Palestinian mourners carry the coffin of 23-year-old pregnant mother Enas Khamash and her daughter Bayan, whose picture is on the coffin, during their funeral in Deir el-Balah, central Gaza Strip, Aug. 9, 2018. Khamash and her daughter were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza. Adel Hana | AP
Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.