One month after the start of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, one in five people in the Gaza Strip has no access to running water. The Israeli airstrikes between May 10 and 21 also damaged water infrastructure: wells, pumping and wastewater treatment stations and desalination plants.
There is also a lack of public electricity throughout much of the day, and untreated sewage is going into the sea. Children still swim there, because that’s the only vacation they can have in Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade for 14 years.
The engineers of the Water and Coastal Towns Authority need miles of metal pipes and thousands of spare parts to repair networks and water systems, but Israel, in most cases, does not allow these supplies to enter the Strip, because, it claims, they could be used by Hamas to build rockets.
But that is only one of the problems that Gaza is confronting these days. The list is long: from a stagnant economy to unemployment. The latest military escalation has worsened already unsustainable living conditions for the more than two million Palestinians in the Strip, and hundreds of families are still mourning the nearly 260 deaths caused by the airstrikes.
The leadership of Hamas, which a month ago thought it had emerged victorious from the military confrontation with Israel, and thought it had secured a leading role in the system of regional alliances by setting itself up as the protector of Jerusalem, is now discovering that it is still confined to Gaza, squeezed between the pressures of its Arab sponsors and unable to escape the diktats of Israel and of its “new friends” in Egypt.
“It is clear that the occupation (Israel) continues to practice its policies against us and our people in the Gaza Strip,” protested the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, two days ago after his talks with the UN Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, complaining that Israel was engaging in blackmail. “The meeting was bad, it was not at all positive,” added Sinwar, who appeared less bold than a month ago. “They listened to us attentively, but there are no signs that there are intentions towards solving the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.”
Israel did not accept even a single Hamas request during the indirect negotiations mediated by Egypt, and, with the exception of an authorization for partial resumption of exports from Gaza, does not seem to have any intention to ease the blockade. It has also blocked the monthly $30 million that Qatar is donating to the population of the Strip. Before it considers any concessions, Israel wants the return of the bodies of two soldiers who fell in combat in 2014 and the release of two of its citizens—an Ethiopian and an Arab—detained in Gaza.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s tone leaves no room for interpretation: “Our enemies will know the rules: we will not abide by violence and a slow trickle [of rockets]. Our patience is over,” he said in recent days. And there are also those who are calling for an invasion to remove Hamas from power and return Gaza to the control of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
What makes it all even more difficult is the de facto unbridgeable rift between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas. While on one hand, according to the polls, the president of the PNA has now lost the support of his people because of his “low profile” approach towards the threats of expulsions of Palestinian families from two districts of East Jerusalem and the consequences of the Israeli raids on Gaza, on the other hand, the EU and the US continue to consider him the only interlocutor for the reconstruction projects in the Strip. For this reason, he has set up an ad hoc commission without Hamas representatives, a move that has infuriated the Islamist movement.
A new war is already on the horizon.
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