October 7, 2018. It’s been 29 weeks, or just over six months, since the protests along the fence separating Gaza and Israel began. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, more than 150 people have been killed and thousands gravely injured by Israeli security forces; three Palestinians were killed this past Friday, including a 12-year-old boy, and seven people the Friday before that, including a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old. It’s almost as if the heat on the protests is being turned up as is the violent response to them.
Deteriorating living conditions in Gaza, the stalemate in talks between Israel and Hamas, and reconciliation talks between the Palestinian factions are feeding frustration and desperation in Gaza. Toward the end of last week, the Israeli military reported it was sending reinforcements to the border. Some predict another war might be near.
Last Saturday, Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman again announced that Israel would reduce the fishing zone from nine nautical miles off the coast to six and threatened further punitive measures targeting Gaza’s population in response to the protests. Not only are these measures illegal, but they have also proven to be useless. What is needed is the opposite – to stop punishing innocent civilians. A number of measures can be taken to immediately improve the humanitarian situation and restore some measure of economic activity as well as repair civilian infrastructure to meet basic needs in Gaza.
According to reports, Qatar recently pledged to fund fuel for the local power station. Extending the hours of available electricity would be welcome but it’s a reminder that Gaza’s two million residents, most of whom are children and young people, don’t live in twenty-first century conditions that many are used to, certainly in Israel. They are compelled to make due with four to six hours of electricity per day with the attendant consequences for water supply and sanitation services. More closure and more violence are the obstacles to security and prosperity for the region as a whole.