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Gazans struggle with continued Israeli restrictions

Despite the cease-fire agreement, Hamas is threatening to resume fighting if Israel does not allow Qatari aid and other help to reach it soon.
SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The head of Hamas’ political bureau, Yahya Sinwar, said during a meeting with educators in Gaza City on June 5 that his movement will not accept anything less than a major economic breakthrough for the Gaza Strip from the indirect negotiations that Hamas is conducting with Israel under Egyptian sponsorship.

Sinwar stated that the various benefits from what he called Hamas' victory over Israel will not be limited to Gaza's immediate situation, but become regional and long-term gains.

Ever since the bloody clashes between Israel and the military factions in Gaza ended on May 21, the Israeli authorities have been tightening the siege on Gaza even further than usual.

Israel has kept the commercial and individual crossings with Gaza essentially closed since May 11.

The Palestinian NGOs Network said in a June 5 statement, “The Israeli occupation authorities continue to impose a strict siege on the Gaza Strip, blocking the movement of citizens and goods to and from the Strip despite the massive destruction and severe damage to the infrastructure, housing and facilities in Gaza following the last war.”

The network pointed out that Israel prevents the entry of most goods through the only commercial crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, with few exceptions including scarce amounts of food, medicine and fuel.

According to the statement, Israel also continues to prevent the exportation of all kinds of products from the Gaza Strip, including agricultural products, in addition to preventing the movement of citizens and mail through the Erez-Beit Hanoun crossing. The statement added that Israel continues to restrict fishing off the Gaza coast and its soldiers shoot at fishermen. 

In response to the ban on exports of Gazan produce to the West Bank and other Arab countries since May 11, the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza announced June 3 that the importation of fruit from Israel to Gaza would be halted June 6.

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on June 4 that according to Qatari mediators, Israel prevented Qatari aid from reaching Gaza. Hamas asked the Egyptian mediators to warn Israel that the movement is willing to resume the fighting.

Al-Akhbar also noted that Hamas informed the mediators that the resistance factions could resume the confrontation with Israel, but will give the aid until the end of next week to reach Gaza. “If that does not happen, it will make an important decision regarding the mutual cease-fire,” he said.

On May 24, Israel agreed to partially reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip for the entry of medical equipment and humanitarian aid.

On June 2, a Palestinian citizen died while waiting for an Israeli permit to enter through the Erez crossing to complete his cancer treatment inside Israel. According to Physicians for Human Rights, data from the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee showed that since the cease-fire, more than 90% of requests for exit permits from Gazan patients seeking urgent medical care in hospitals inside Israel or the West Bank have been rejected or ignored.

Wassim Mushtahi, head of the Palestinian Society of Tourism and Travel Agents, told Al-Monitor that maintaining the closure of the Erez-Beit Hanoun crossing after the cease-fire has completely paralyzed the travel and tourism sector in the Gaza Strip. Mail parcels from the West Bank are no longer reaching the Gaza Strip, and vice versa.

“Over 6,000 passports are still processing due to the continued closure of the Erez-Beit Hanoun crossing,” he added.

Mushtahi pointed out that there are thousands of such transactions, be it issuing or renewing passports and tourist visas or certifying university degrees.

Ali al-Hayek, the chairman of the Palestinian Businessmen Association in the Gaza Strip, told Al-Monitor, “The cease-fire was a positive step to stop the destruction and killing, but we have yet to see other benefits, including prioritizing reconstruction. Many factories were destroyed and thousands of people became unemployed. This economic collapse is due to the direct targeting of the economy during the recent war.”

“The solutions must satisfy the residents of the Gaza Strip. The current situation of increased Israeli economic restrictions is not at all reassuring,” Hayek noted.

Saeed Quraiqa, a clothing merchant from Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “Months before the war, Israel agreed to export clothes from Gaza, but the restrictions increased after the war. There is no export or import of raw materials, making our lives difficult.”

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