Uneasy calm over Gaza

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

The guns have fallen silent on the Gaza front this week while Palestinian and Israeli representatives hold indirect peace talks in Cairo. Israel withdrew its troops from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning as a 72-hour Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas went into effect as a first step towards a longer-term deal.

And an uneasy calm hangs over the West Bank where 10 Palestinians were killed and some 600 more were wounded last week in anti-Israeli riots in Arab East Jerusalem, Ramallah and other parts of the occupied territories.

In Cairo Egyptian mediators met a high-level Israeli delegation late on Tuesday, a day after conferring with a Palestinian delegation which included envoys from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad resistance movements. The Zionists want the complete demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip, which has been run by the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, since 2007. Hamas wants Israel to free all its Palestinian prisoners and end its crippling blockade of the Strip.

Whether this leads to a long-term truce is another matter. Israeli commandos are still deployed along the Gazan border while the Palestinian resistance says that their fighters were still on alert because the campaign will not be over until Palestinian demands are met.

In Gaza, Palestinian medical staff recovered 11 more bodies of martyrs buried under the debris following 29 days of Israeli aggression. Dr A’ed Yaghi, director of the Medical Relief Association in Gaza, said they faced a humanitarian catastrophe due to the human losses, the destruction of the infrastructure and the lack of electricity and water.

Initial estimates say that Gaza needs at least $6 billion to rebuild its devastated infrastructure as the Israeli attacks have destroyed many houses, hospitals, schools and mosques across the Palestinian territory. Most areas in Gaza, which already suffered from electricity shortages before the latest Israeli offensive, now do not have access to electric power. An Israeli attack knocked out the territory’s only power plant last week. Hospitals and clinics now only work with generators, which use a huge amount of fuel every day. Lack of clean drinking water is another problem following the damage inflicted on the water pipelines by Israeli artillery and missile attacks.

At least 1,865 Palestinians were killed and 9,470 wounded during the Israeli onslaught. Most of the Arab casualties were civilians including many women and children.

But the Zionists paid a price for their crimes. The Israelis say 64 of their soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on 8th July. But the Palestinian resistance puts the Israeli fatalities at more than 150.

Israel has also lost hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism and other sectors while facing, for the first time in many years, a domestic Jewish refugee problem in the south.

Some 250,000 Israelis, around 75 per cent of the Israeli population living in settlements, farms and kibbutzes across the Gaza frontier in southern Israel fled north when their settlements came under Palestinian mortar and rocket fire. Now around half of them are refusing to return to their homes because they don’t believe the Israeli army can guarantee their security.

Meanwhile anti-Israeli protests from across the world demonstrate the support of millions upon millions of people for the cause of the Palestinian Arabs. We are witnessing a “Palestinian Holocaust” was how veteran Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro put it in his weekly column in Granma, the Cuban Communist Party daily. Fidel points out that the Nazi genocide against the Jews raised the hatred of all nations of the world, and he asked why the government of Israel expects the world to remain insensitive in the face of this macabre genocide. And he adds that Israel should not expect the world to ignore the complicity of the US empire in this shameful massacre.