A DEEPENING HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
2018 has been a terrible year for the Palestinians from Lebanon to Gaza to the West Bank. The most right-wing government in Israeli history is in power and the Trump administration has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a blank cheque to pursue pro-settler policies and butcher Palestinian protesters with impunity. Donald Trump’s scandal-ridden tenure as American president, controversial domestic policies and bellicose rhetoric and stance on Iran and the Syrian War have distracted the international community from the crisis brewing in Gaza, the tiny sliver of land which is a pivot to both the Sinai desert in Egypt and Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Other crises have overshadowed the plight of the Palestinians for several years. The Iraq War, the rise of Al-Qa’ida and ISIS, and the Arab Revolutions (including vicious civil wars in Iraq and Libya) which toppled multiple regimes in 2011 have reshaped the Middle East while elsewhere across the world, events - from climate change to the Rohingya genocide to the North Korean nuclear crisis - have distracted the world from one of the longest running refugee questions in the 20th and 21st century: the fate of the Palestinians. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and wounded in protests since the beginning of 2018.
A major war in Gaza would spark a major humanitarian crisis. In 2014, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, 11,000 homes totally destroyed, 160,000 homes were damaged during the seven weeks of war. 35,000 people remain displaced by the 2014 War (a total of 500,000 were estimated to have been displaced by violence) and renewed conflict would elongate a likely return to their homes in the strip. Doctors Without Borders stated on social media on November 13th that ‘Further conflict would be a disaster for Gaza, where the health system is already overwhelmed by the injured from marches at the border’ after a heavy night of shelling and bombings by Israeli military jets. In September 2015, the UN said that Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020 and this is fast becoming a reality. The protests, nurtured by supporters Hamas, is also a response to deteriorating socio-economic conditions in Gaza and its civilians are directing their rage against the Israelis who have imposed a blockade by land, air and sea since the rise of Hamas to power in 2006 elections. Speaking on 13th November, Saleh Hegazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director warned that “another armed conflict risks accelerating the full collapse of Gaza.”
tHE MOGADISHU ON ISRAEL’S DOORSTEP
Tightening the screw on Hamas, (hopeful that the Palestinians will get fed up with Hamas’ inability to support the population with basic needs such as clean drinking water, electricity, jobs and good nutrition), the Israeli siege of Gaza is a strategy intended to drive the Islamist political movement from power. This was a strategy adopted by Ariel Sharon in the siege of Beirut in 1982, when water and electricity supplies were cut off from Lebanon’s capital to suffocate popular support for Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation amongst the Lebanese. The tactical manoeuvre succeeded and the PLO were eventually ejected from Beirut, an evacuation which was overseen by the Multinational Force comprised of U.S marines and Italian and French soldiers. The victory was short-lived, as was the tactic of pulverising Beirut and terrorising its population. Israel’s forces were sucked into a quagmire for over a decade and lost hundreds of soldiers in a prolonged guerrilla war with Hezbollah and other militia groups. Furthermore, Sharon was forced to resign as Defence Minister due to his role in the Shabra and Shatilla massacre.
The siege of Gaza, thus far, has failed to accomplish its objectives and it has been a much lengthier blockade then the one imposed on Beirut which lasted less than a year. As Crisis Group explained in July, 2018, ‘Hamas understands that Israel has no strategy for exiting Gaza in the unlikely event it retakes the territory and would gain little from another war that leaves Hamas in control. Israel believes that a new war might increase Hamas’s popularity in the short term but after the dust settles would leave it, and the Gazan population, in even worse shape than they are in today.’ Rockets are still being fired into Israeli territory, the massacre of protesters in May, 2017, and Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, has poured gasoline on the fire. The blockade of the Gaza Strip, described by many as a the largest open-aired prison in the world, is turning the land into a new Mogadishu controlled by competing militias and insurgents, terrorist organisations, what former Defence Minister Moshe Dayan would describe as ‘a nest of snakes’.