Email From Gaza

Wrecked buildings from the 2014 war with Israel litter the street in an area of Shejaiya, east of Gaza city, in Autumn 2014. CRISISGROUP/Nathan Thrall

In this letter from International Crisis Group’s one-man outpost in Gaza to our Middle East & North Africa Program Director, our analyst there, Azmi Keshawi, describes daily difficulties, deep tensions within Palestinian ranks and the growing likelihood of a new round of war with Israel.

When Joost Hiltermann, Crisis Group’s Middle East & North Africa Program Director, invited Azmi Keshawi, our analyst in Gaza, to join the annual retreat in our Brussels headquarters, Hiltermann was not expecting that it would be easy to arrange. Indeed, Israeli and Egyptian restrictions make it almost impossible for Keshawi to leave Gaza, like all the 1.8 million people who live there in what amounts to captivity. But we are publishing Keshawi’s reply, since it illustrates the depth of deprivation that Gazans are currently living through and the growing risk of a new war over the strip of territory.

29 April 2017

Dear Joost,

I too am sorry that I will not be able to participate or see all of you in person, but it is a great idea to try Skype. I would really love to connect with all of you, even if briefly.  At home, we hardly see the electricity now. But what is worse, for the past three weeks the internet is also very bad. Anyway, I will try to make it work on the 7th of May. Just send me the time and the Skype name. I will try to find a place with both electricity and a good internet connection, and hopefully it will work.

As you probably know, the situation is getting worse by the minute in Gaza. We have an unscheduled 3 hours of electricity every 16 hours, but the PA [Palestinian Authority] has already informed Israel that at the beginning of May it will stop paying for the 30 per cent of Gaza’s electricity that Israel provides. So soon we might start getting zero electricity, if the announcements by Israel and the PA are carried out. If this happens, the deterioration of every aspect of life in Gaza will be rapid. Nothing in Gaza can sustain such pressure: neither the failing economy nor the dilapidated infrastructure. We already lack clean water and now they have started dumping even larger quantities of raw sewage into the sea [because of a lack of fuel to run the treatment plant], which means no swimming at the beach this summer or eating clean fish. Lastly, the Hamas folks in Gaza will not have the patience to resist these pressures for very long: the clock is ticking faster now and this will get us very quickly to the zero hour.

[Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor] Lieberman said today that although he does not wish to see an end to the calm on the Gaza front, he is ready to go to war, and the next war is not going to be like the ones before it: it is going to have to end Hamas.

When the parties are cornered, it is all too possible that the current crisis will be crowned with a war. In interviews with Hamas officials today, I was told that they are not willing to concede anything to [PA President] Abu Mazen, no matter the price. The only way forward, they said, is for him to accept and implement what has been agreed in prior reconciliation agreements. They added that they are determined not to grant him the satisfaction of bringing Gaza to its knees in order to impress Trump and thereby convince the US that Abu Mazen is a serious partner for peace, one who is capable of delivering an end of conflict.

Let me know the time of the Skype connection and the Skype account name so that I can start working on trying to set it up. I will let you know beforehand whether it will work.

Best wishes from Gaza for a fruitful and successful retreat.

Azmi.

Azmi Keshawi, analyst Gaza.

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