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Gazans React to Israel’s Decision to Ease Blockade | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Gaza, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Israeli decision to ease the Gaza blockade and allow the entry of what is known as “materials for civilian use” has stirred up the enthusiasm of Gazans, amid lingering doubts as to whether Israel will indeed implement the decision to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Khamis Sabri, a library owner in the Al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Israel announced a week ago, in a statement issued by Netanyahu’s office, that it would allow the entry of stationery (library materials), but not a single sheet of paper has entered the Gaza Strip. People are continuing to rely on what is smuggled through the tunnels. Asharq Al-Awsat talked with several people walking along the Omar al-Mukhtar Street, which divides the city of Gaza into two. Doubt and pessimism were apparent in their reactions to the Israeli decision.

Samir Abu-Hudayb, a teacher in one of the city schools, told Asharq Al-Awsat, “It is clear that Israel is planning to allow additional foodstuffs. The stores are full of foodstuffs smuggled through the tunnels, and most people are unable to buy them because of their high prices. We primarily want freedom of movement.” He noted that the future of his brother has collapsed following the occupation authorities’ decision not to allow him to continue his education in one of the West Bank’s universities and to return him to the Gaza Strip. Ahmad Hammad told Asharq Al-Awsat that his daughter has been suffering from leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant, but so far, Israel has not permitted the family to take her through the Erez crossing.

While Palestinians were interested in commenting on the Israeli decision, Raid Fattuh, head of the committee coordinating the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip, expressed his surprise at Israeli statements about increasing the number of trucks loaded with goods permitted to enter the Gaza Strip. He noted that no increase has taken place in the number of trucks allowed to enter the Gaza Strip. Hamid Jad, a Palestinian economic expert, said that the Israeli decision only applied to consumer goods and not strategic materials, which could run the wheel of the Palestinian economy in a way that would lower the rates of poverty and unemployment.

In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Jad said, “The Israelis would not allow the entry of building materials and raw materials used in industries, as well as machines and industrial and agricultural requirements. This means that economic development cannot continue.” Jad noted that the construction sector, which employed 30,000 workers before the blockade, would not benefit from the Israeli decision. Construction workers would continue to survive on aid provided by the international organizations. He explained that the Israeli economy would be the primary beneficiary from the Israeli decision, because Israeli goods would enter, while Israel would not allow the exportation of Palestinian products. Jad said that Israel was trying to mislead the world by justifying its decision not to allow the entry of raw materials because they would be used in the production of weapons. He asked, “What is the connection between cement and weapons’ production? What is the connection between machines used in industries and weapons’ production?” He stressed that Israel’s aim is to ensure the non-revival of the Palestinian economy in the Gaza Strip. He noted that the Israeli decision did not include lifting the financial blockade. Israel is preventing bank transfers and the movement of funds, creating a serious liquidity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Jad affirmed that the paradox is that Israel is trying to mislead the world by using the word “goods” in referring to the commodities it is allowing to enter the Gaza Strip. It is saying that ketchup, which no one in the Gaza Strip needs, is equal to cement, which is the material the Palestinians need the most for rebuilding what Israel has destroyed.

Dr. Salah al-Bardawil, a prominent Hamas leader, regarded the Israeli decision as an attempt to circumvent the international solidarity movement demanding the total lifting of the blockade. He stressed that the Israeli decision reflected Israel’s desire to “manage the blockade” and not to lift it.

Al-Bardawil stressed that what is needed is permission for all materials to enter the Gaza Strip without any restrictions on type or quantity, because the Palestinians have a right to exist like other peoples of the world. In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Bardawil stressed that what is also needed is to allow the complete and unconditional freedom of movement for goods and individuals and open all the border crossings and seaports between the Gaza Strip and the world. Al-Bardawil noted that Israel was trying to punish the Palestinian people for their political choices represented in the results of the last legislative elections. He referred to the statement Netanyahu made Monday morning in which he said that by easing the blockade, Israel was trying to obtain international legitimacy to continue it. Al-Bardawil called on the world to exert pressure on Israel to lift the blockade. He urged the Arab states to stop conspiring against the Palestinian people and stop supporting the blockade, stressing that this behavior would not achieve any political results, but would make the Palestinians adhere to their democratic options as expressed by the results of the last elections.

Independent Palestinian Deputy Jamal al-Khadri, chairman of the anti-blockade popular committee, said that Israel is trying to mislead the world and beautify its image by talking about easing the blockade. In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Khadri stressed that to bring the blockade issue to a close, Israel must undertake four steps. It must “open all the crossings completely; allow the unconditional entry of all materials, including the materials needed for reconstruction; open a secure passage for the movement of people between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and open a maritime route between Gaza and the world under international supervision.” Al-Khadri stressed that without fulfilling these requirements, “the intifadah of the boats would continue.”

Meanwhile, in a statement released by the United Nations, the international Quartet Committee welcomed the decision to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip, but stressed the importance for practical measures. The Quartet Committee, consisting of the United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the EU, said, “The new policy towards Gaza just announced by the government of Israel is a welcome development,” noting that full and effective implementation will be important in ensuring the viability of this new policy.