This trio of stories highlights why it is so hard to be a hardliner for any one side on the issue we calle The Middle East, which of course really refers to Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Hamas and Fatah, among other players.
Israel has imposed a virtual news blackout on the Gaza Strip. For the last ten days no foreign journalists have been able to enter the besieged territory to report on the escalating humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s complete closure of Gaza’s borders for the last two weeks.
Steve Gutkin, the AP bureau chief in Jerusalem and head of Israel’s Foreign Press Association, said that he personally “knows of no foreign journalist that has been allowed into Gaza in the last week.”
Gutkin said that “while Israel has barred foreign press from entering Gaza in the past, the length of the current ban makes it unprecedented.” He added that he has received no “plausible or acceptable” explanation for the ban from the Israeli government.
I am definitely piling on the Israeli government if this situation is as it’s being reported to be-which includes numerous citations of severe humanitarian challenges.
Unity talks between the two main Palestinian political factions Hamas and Fatah failed before they even began this week following Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to release 400 Hamas prisoners held in PA jails in the West Bank.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip, demanded their release as a precondition for attending the talks which were due to take place in Cairo under Egyptian mediation.
Last week Hamas released 80 Fatah political prisoners from Gaza’s jails and demanded the PA reciprocate.
According to human rights organisations, the bitter political rivals continue to imprison, torture, persecute and abuse their political opponents as the power struggle for supremacy across the Gaza Strip and the West Bank intensifies. These are the two main Palestinian territories.
The PA, which controls the West Bank, has recently stepped up its sweeping arrest campaigns throughout the territory.
Human rights campaigners say the majority of Hamas detainees in the West Bank have no relationship to the military branch of the organisation or its fundraising activities. The majority of arrests by both parties are politically motivated and have nothing to do with either security or crime, they added.
Okay – so this doesn’t make anyone real eager to engage with either of them, now does it? Anyone else out there interested in condemning this awfulness?
Let’s pile on Hamas some more on behalf of Israelis who live in Sderot and are under another barrage of Kassams:
Residents of the hard-hit Mem-Shalosh neighborhood, on the town’s south side, had been sleeping better the last six months thanks to the cease-fire with Hamas.
Until about two weeks ago, that is, when the Israeli army blew up a tunnel that Hamas was building. The army believes the tunnel was to carry out another kidnapping operation of the kind that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still missing.
Since the army operation, the region has been hit by a daily barrage of rockets—about a dozen Monday, more than 30 the day before. Sixty have fallen on Sderot alone so far this month, according to the town’s security officer, returning the situation essentially to what it had been for much of the past eight years.
Do these stories make you wonder, “How can people live like that?”?
If you were there or had been there, you’d understand a lot better.
The residents of Sderot aren’t happy, but they’re also not surprised.