LEARNING WITH THE TIMES: Gaza blockade — Over $100m in aid stuck

Why does war keep breaking out in Gaza?
Under the 1993 Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel, a Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was set up to govern Palestinian areas of West Bank and Gaza. In 2005, Israel withdrew its forces and settlers from Gaza. In 2006, the fi rst Palestinian government was elected. While the main Palestinian group Fatah won in West Bank, radical Islamic Hamas won in Gaza. Hamas had its origins in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. While carrying out welfare work among Palestinians and gaining popularity, Hamas was involved in violent strikes against Israelis. After this victory, a confl ict broke out between Fatah and Hamas leading to the ouster of Fatah from Gaza. Hamas became Gaza’s de facto ruling party. This was unacceptable to Israel because Hamas was strongly opposed to it.

Why did Israel blockade Gaza?
Responding to Hamas victory in Gaza and its belligerence, Israel imposed a land, air and sea blockade in 2007, controlling the fl ow of essentials and regulating entry and exit of Palestinian workers. Export of produce was stopped and electricity supply cut. Gaza slid into poverty. It’s largely dependent on international aid channelized through UN agencies, and smuggling through tunnels. Even UN aid must be cleared by Israel and according to a recent UN statement, over $100 million worth of aid is blocked because of a 10-month delay in Israeli clearance. Israel carried out a series of assassinations of key Hamas functionaries. Angered at the blockade and Israeli attempts to destroy it, Hamas began fi ring rockets at Israel regularly. The Israelis retaliated and attacked Gaza.

Why the current Israeli attack?
After the 2012 attack, a ceasefi re was in place between Hamas and Israel. In April 2014 US-initiated peace talks on the Palestinian issue failed. In June, Hamas and Fatah reconciled and formed a Unity government, ending eight years of confl ict. Israel saw this unity between the two major Palestinian factions as a threat. Meanwhile, three young Israeli men were kidnapped and killed by a West Bank Palestinian family. Israel claimed this was Hamas’s work, although Hamas denied it. Israel carried out mass arrests of Palestinians and ratcheted up pressure. Hamas responded with rockets. Israel got the pretext to strike back.

Have Israelis succeeded?
There’ve been three major Israeli g ro u n d – c u m – a i r operations against Gaza. In these attacks, about 2,557 Palestinians and 52 Israelis have died. In intermittent clashes and air strikes, some 594 Palestinians and 41 Israelis have died. It doesn’t appear as if Hamas is getting weakened by these attacks and nether is the safety of Israelis getting better. Much more extreme Islamic groups, like Islamic Jihad, are fi nding a toehold in Gaza.

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