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17 May, 2016

Xinhua News Analysis: Gazans desire for peaceful life amid spiral of conflicts

by Keren Setton

JERUSAELM, May 14 (Xinhua) — The wounds from the 2014 war between Israel and the Hamas in Gaza have not healed yet and it seems the region is headed to another round of violence — the only question is when.

In recent weeks, the Israeli army has discovered underground tunnels that Hamas has built from Gaza and cross into Israel, threatening its sovereignty and posing a strategic challenge that Israel will have difficulty ignoring.

Hamas and Israel, accustomed to play a delicate game of tit-for-tat, both know that a single event of violence can spiral into a full-fledged war.

For now, Israel has retracted it’s forces once it announced it finished destructing the potentially dangerous findings.

And Hamas, which retaliated with mortar fire, made sure its fire was more a weak sign of objection and less an actual call for war.

But in the Middle East, the wicked dance of war that sometimes begins with a small fire, very often ends with a big explosion and devastating destruction.

Mkhaimar S A Abusada, Associate Professor at Gaza’s Al Azhar university, gives a grim outlook.

“Nothing has changed since 2014, poverty, closure of crossings, unemployment, slow reconstruction. Conditions which have led to fighting in 2014 have not changed and the threat to Israel hasn’t been neutralized. A new cycle is probably coming but when? I don’t know,” he notes.

The Israeli government and security establishment are divided on those conditions which Abusada brings up.

There is a debate on whether to allow Gaza to construct a much-needed sea port.

The Gaza Strip has been sealed into a blockade since 2007. It started when Hamas violently overthrew the moderate Fatah.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and members of his Fatah party were expelled from Gaza, which was left to be controlled by extreme Islamic militants who refuse to negotiate any settlement with Israel.

They do not even recognize the existence of a Jewish state.

Israel allows goods into Gaza through several crossings. The amount of Palestinians permitted to enter Israel is minuscule — only dire humanitarian cases are allowed in.

The Rafah border crossing which serves as a connection between Gaza and Egypt is also not a free-flowing one. Since Egypt has been led by Abdel Fattah el Sisi, the crossing has rarely been open, only for a few days every few weeks or even months.

Sisi and his government have led a bitter crackdown against Hamas, whom they believe is behind attacks in the Egyptian Sinai desert.

But there is a growing realization in Israel that in order to ease tension, Gazans and Hamas must feel at least a small improvement in their isolation and restriction of movement.

Or Heller, a military correspondent for Israeli Channel 10, explains the dilemma.

Nearly two million Palestinians cannot continue to live under extreme conditions or high unemployment, poverty, poor sanitary conditions and hunger without the ramifications spilling over into Israel which holds the cover of this boiling pot.

While Israel fears a port will be used to strengthen Hamas’ military infrastructure by bringing in materials and weapons, allowing Gaza to breathe will help Israelis breathe as well.

Israel is also hesitant about the perception a new sea port creates. Hamas will gladly portray this as a sign of their victory.

The events in recent weeks point to the fact that the countdown to the next war has begun.

Abusada believes there is at least 6 months of quiet ahead, although no one really knows.

“Hamas has made it clear that the current situation is unsustainable. Israel must lift the blockade and something has to be done,” Abusada adds.

As politicians on both sides contemplate their next moves, the tragedy is the innocent civilians caught in the middle.

“These rounds of violence are pointless, they do not achieve anything and they only postpone the next war,” says Heller, echoing what many in the region believe.

For Israelis living on the border with Gaza the thought of militants crawling out of of tunnels under their homes is unbearable and indeed a threat Israel will not tolerate for long.

At some point, once again — for Gazans living in extreme poverty with no option to leave or even improve their lives within their home, they will have nothing to lose from fighting another war.