On Monday, hundreds took part in the funeral of Majdi Ghabayen, 18, of Beit Lahia. He had been wounded on September 13 by an explosion close to the border line with Israel, which left six dead and 25 wounded. The young man passed away on Sunday night. He is the second young man killed since demonstrations resumed near the fence between Gaza and Israel.
For days, thousands of Palestinians have been gathering in the areas that in 2018 were the sites of the “March of Return” organized by the Committee Against the Siege of Gaza, supported behind the scenes by the Islamic movement Hamas, in power in the small strip of Palestinian territory. Around 20 more people were wounded on Monday.
Israel is intensifying its military operations. On Sunday it targeted alleged Hamas observation posts and a “Palestinian command center” with artillery and air force after incendiary balloon launches – which also occurred on Monday – caused fires in the Israeli countryside. Another army battalion has been deployed around Gaza, and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant traveled to the border with Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi on Sunday.
Israel believes that the resumption of protests and balloon launches is Hamas’s way of indirectly signaling to Qatar, its longtime sponsor, its dissatisfaction with the Gulf country’s failure to increase the tens of millions of dollars in monthly aid it sends to Gaza in support of the population.
The Palestinians are saying this only plays a small part. Instead, they explain, the main reason is Israel’s September 15 closure of border crossings in response to the return of demonstrations on the eastern border. The closed Erez crossing is affecting 17,000 Palestinian laborers who have permits to work in Israel. It’s a serious blow to thousands of Gaza families, which creates instability and tensions that Hamas doesn’t want.
In recent months, the population’s discontent with its government has increased: they’re accusing it, both rightly and wrongly, of being “incapable.”
Meanwhile, the Islamist movements are raising the bar for armed confrontation with Israel. A few days ago, Hamas, Jihad and the Popular Front (FPLP, a left-wing group) held a top-level summit in Beirut. At the end, they announced that they would intensify attacks against Israeli settlers and military, particularly in the West Bank.
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