[News] Gaza: Crushed Between Israel and Egypt

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 2 18:58:53 EDT 2013

October 02, 2013

*Partners in Crime*

  Gaza: Crushed Between Israel and Egypt



The furore over the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria has 
overshadowed disturbing events to the south, as Egypt's generals wage a 
quiet war of attrition against the Hamas leadership in Gaza.

Hamas has found itself increasingly isolated, politically and 
geographically, since the Egyptian army ousted the country's first 
democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in early July.

Hamas is paying the price for its close ties to Egypt's Muslim 
Brotherhood, the Islamic movement that briefly took power through the 
ballot box following the revolutionary protests that toppled dictator 
Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Since the army launched its coup three months ago, jailing the 
Brotherhood's leadership and last week outlawing the movement's 
activities and freezing its assets, Hamas has become a convenient 
scapegoat for all signs of unrest.

Hamas is blamed for the rise of militant Islamic groups in the Sinai, 
many drawn from disgruntled local Bedouin tribes, which have been 
attacking soldiers, government institutions and shipping through the 
Suez canal. The army claims a third of the Islamists it has killed in 
recent operations originated from Gaza.

At an army press conference last month, several Palestinians "confessed" 
  to smuggling arms from Gaza into Sinai, while an Egyptian commander, 
Ahmed Mohammed Ali, accused Hamas of "targeting the Egyptian army 
through ambushes."

The Egyptian media have even tied Hamas to a car bombing in Cairo last 
month which nearly claimed the life of the new interior minister, 
Mohammed Ibrahim.

Lurking in the shadows is the army's fear that, should the suppressed 
Muslim Brotherhood choose the path of violence, it may find a useful 
ally in a strong Hamas.

A crackdown on the Palestinian Islamic movement has been all but 
inevitable, and on a scale even Mr Mubarak would have shrunk from. The 
Egyptian army has intensified the blockade along Egypt's single short 
border with Gaza, replicating that imposed by Israel along the other three.

Over the past weeks, the army has destroyed hundreds of tunnels through 
which Palestinians smuggle fuel and other necessities in short supply 
because of Israel's siege.

Egypt has bulldozed homes on its side to establish a "buffer zone", as 
Israel did inside Gaza a decade ago when it still occupied the enclave 
directly, to prevent more tunnels being dug.

That has plunged Gaza's population into hardship, and dealt a harsh blow 
to the tax revenues Hamas raises on the tunnel trade. Unemployment is 
rocketing and severe fuel shortages mean even longer power cuts.

Similarly, Gaza's border crossing with Egypt at Rafah -- the only access 
to the outside for most students, medical patients and business people 
-- is now rarely opened, even to the Hamas leadership.

And the Egyptian navy has been hounding Palestinians trying to fish off 
Gaza's coast, in a zone already tightly delimited by Israel. Egypt has 
been firing at boats and arresting crews close to its territorial 
waters, citing security.

Fittingly, a recent cartoon in a Hamas newspaper showed Gaza squeezed 
between pincers -- one arm Israel, the other Egypt. Sami Abu Zuhri, a 
Hamas spokesperson, was recently quoted saying Egypt was "trying to 
outmatch the Israelis in tormenting and starving our people".

Hamas is short of regional allies. Its leader Khaled Meshal fled his 
Syrian base early in the civil war, alienating Iran in the process. 
Other recent supporters, such as Turkey and Qatar, are also keeping 
their distance.

Hamas fears mounting discontent in Gaza, and particularly a 
demonstration planned for November modelled on this summer's mass 
protests in Egypt that helped to bring down Morsi and the Muslim 

Hamas' political rival, Fatah -- and the Palestinian Authority, based in 
the West Bank -- are reported to be behind the new protest movement.

The prolonged efforts by Fatah and Hamas to strike a unity deal are now 
a distant memory. In late August the PA annnounced it would soon be 
taking "painful decisions" about Hamas, assumed to be a reference to 
declaring it a "rogue entity" and thereby cutting off funding.

The PA sees in Hamas' isolation and its own renewed ties to the Egyptian 
leadership a chance to take back Gaza.

As ever, Israel is far from an innocent bystander.

After the unsettling period of Muslim Brotherhood rule, the Egyptian and 
Israeli armies -- their strategic interests always closely aligned -- 
have restored security cooperation. According to media reports, Israel 
even lobbied Washington following the July coup to ensure Egypt 
continued to receive generous US aid handouts -- as with Israel, mostly 
in the form of military assistance.

Israel has turned a blind eye to Egypt pouring troops, as well as tanks 
and helicopters, into Sinai in violation of the 1979 peace treaty. 
Israel would rather Egypt mop up the Islamist threat on their shared 

The destruction of the tunnels, meanwhile, has sealed off the main 
conduit by which Hamas armed itself against future Israeli attacks.

Israel is also delighted to see Fatah and Hamas sapping their energies 
in manoeuvring against each other. Political unity would have 
strengthened the Palestinians' case with the international community; 
divided, they can be easily played off against the other.

That cynical game is in full swing. A week ago Israel agreed for the 
first time in six years to allow building materials into Gaza for 
private construction, and to let in more fuel. A newly approved pipe 
will double the water supply to Gaza.

These measures are designed to bolster the PA's image in Gaza, as 
payback for returning to the current futile negotiations, and undermine 
support for Hamas.

With Egypt joining the blockade, Israel now has much firmer control over 
what goes in and out, allowing it to punish Hamas while improving its 
image abroad by being generous with "humanitarian" items for the wider 

Gaza is dependent again on Israel's good favour. But even Israeli 
analysts admit the situation is far from stable. Sooner or later, 
something must give. And Hamas may not be the only ones caught in the storm.

////*Jonathan Cook* won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for 
Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: 
Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0745327540/counterpunchmaga> (Pluto 
Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human 
(Zed Books). ///His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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