There are fears that humanitarian conditions will deteriorate further in the Palestine’s Gaza Strip in the coming days, with the scene now set for an escalation of violence.
Gaza has been witnessing an upsurge in Israeli airstrikes in the past few days, against the background of rocket attacks and attacks with explosive balloons by Gaza-based factions on Israel. The Israeli air force recently staged a series of attacks on several sites in different parts of the coastal enclave, especially in northern Gaza, after Gaza factions launched rockets on Israel.
The Israeli army held the Gaza-ruling faction Hamas, responsible for the attacks and is threatening to target sites managed by the faction in response. Israeli Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett is also reportedly in the process of preparing a large-scale military operation against Gaza.
Palestinian Rejection Of Trump’s ‘Deal Of The Century’
The rise in violence in and from Gaza comes in the wake of the declaration by U.S. President Donald Trump of his blueprint for settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Touted by the Trump Administration as the “Deal of the Century,” the plan allows the Palestinians to establish a state for the first time in their history, but on a fraction of the land that used to be Palestine.
On the other hand, the plan gives Israel the right to claim all the territories it occupied in 1967, including massive portions of the West Bank. The plan also denies millions of Palestinians displaced outside their country the right to return to their homes.
As a result of these deficiencies, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, threatened to suspend security coordination with Israel. He also said that he and his people would maintain their struggle to retain their legitimate right, namely of establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Arab League And Gaza Factions Reject Trump Deal
On February 1, Arab foreign ministers gathered for an emergency meeting at the Arab League in Cairo, where they also rejected Trump’s blueprint. They called on the U.S. administration to abide by United Nations resolutions on the rights of the Palestinians. The Arab foreign ministers also said that a 2002 Arab peace initiative, formulated by then-Saudi crown prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and backed by all Arab states was still on the table.
Gaza’s factions also rejected the plan. This rejection threatens, however, to end a fragile Egypt-mediated truce between these factions and Israel. Most of the rocket and explosive balloon attacks coming out of Gaza failed in hitting their targets because of the success of the Israeli Iron Dome defense system in intercepting most of the projectiles. Nevertheless, these attacks are a major concern in Israel, especially in its southern part which is located in close proximity to northern Gaza.
Humanitarian Situation In Gaza Likely To Worsen
Israel’s reaction to the intensification of attacks from Gaza threatens to make humanitarian conditions in the territory worse. For one thing, Israeli authorities have started preventing cement shipments from entering Gaza. This will cause the construction sector to come to a halt, which will make tens of thousands of Gaza residents lose work.
About 45% of Gaza’s work force is unemployed, according to the United Nations, which further lists 46% of Gaza’s more than 1.8 million residents as living under the poverty line.
This coastal Palestinian enclave has been under an all-out Israeli siege since 2007 when Hamas overran it and kicked the government of the rival Fatah group out of it. Even before the ongoing upsurge in violence, Gaza has been suffering an acute shortage of cooking gas. The shortage amounts to 40% of the needs of Gaza, according to Bayan Bakr, the head of the Media Section of Gaza’s Ministry of Finance. He said the amount of gas coming into Gaza from Egypt and Israel have been on the decrease for several weeks now.
“The lack of gas has led to failure in managing the crisis,” Bakr said. “We used to get all our needs in the past, but now things are very difficult.”
International Failure To Fund Aid For Gaza
Compounding these tough conditions is the failure of the international community to provide the money needed for United Nations agencies to implement aid programs in this territory.
United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller announced on January 21 that $348 million was needed to execute these programs in the Palestinian territories, including in Gaza.
The United Nations called earlier for lifting the siege on Gaza, citing the suffering of the territory’s population. This came at a time 70% of Gaza’s residents were food insecure, according to Gamal al-Khudari, the head of the Public Campaign for Lifting the Siege on Gaza, a group that lobbies for ending the Israeli blockade on the coastal territory.
“Lifting the siege will be the beginning of ending the suffering of Gaza’s people,” al-Khudari said.