Avi Melamed ~ Inside The Middle East
Weather forecasts are forecasting a tropical storm accompanied by high winds and mostly heavy rainfall that will impact the Sinai Peninsula and southern Israel and Gaza Strip over the weekend (October 27-28). The storm may cause severe damage to infrastructure (roads, power grid, drainage systems, sewage systems, etc.) in residential and agricultural areas.
The storm could have significant implications particularly in the context of the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement since June 2007. The Gaza Strip is a small area of 20 miles by 8 miles and a population of approximately 2 million Palestinians living in:
- Cities – Gaza City in northern Gaza, where half a million people live, Deir Elblah in the center of the Gaza Strip and the cities of Rafah and Khan Yunis in southern Gaza
- Villages and agricultural communities
- 8 Refugee Camps
Under Hamas rule, the plight of Gaza residents has increased greatly. The rounds of violence initiated by Hamas against Israel have resulted in the killing of thousands of Palestinians and the wounding of thousands more, severely damaging the Gaza Strip’s infrastructure and residential areas, some of which have not been rehabilitated to date. The Rafah crossing controlled by Egypt which is the main land crossing linking Gaza with the world and is closed most of the time.
The harsh reality in the Gaza Strip is increasing criticism among Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. In March 2019, Hamas used gunfire to oppress mass demonstrations in southern Gaza. Thousands of Gazans – and especially the young – are trying to leave the Gaza Strip. Reportedly (January 2019) 36,000 young Palestinians who left Gaza did not return.
Another source fueling growing public criticism in Gaza over Hamas is the mass demonstrations initiated by Hamas near the fence with Israel since March 2018 entitled “The March of Return”. According to Palestinian sources, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured at these protests.
Hamas offers the families of young people injured – many of whom have lost their foot or eye or become paralyzed – financial compensation of $100 and this causes tremendous outrage among families for several reasons: First, families are forced to bear health care and rehabilitation costs of their sons. Second, the injured sons become a financial burden on families instead of a source of income. As a result, families are holding protest rallies in the Gaza Strip – as of now, the protests have not been violent.
Should the storm be as intense as the meteorologists predict, the expected damage caused by the storm in the Gaza Strip may be extremely severe. Hamas does not have the means and resources to repair the damages that may be caused to infrastructure, homes and agricultural crops. Therefore, a severe winter storm has the potential to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and to develop into a mass public protest in Gaza, which would present a significant challenge to Hamas.
As I always say to my students – when trying to analyze reality and trying to asses what might happen in the future, it is important to consider things outside of the “political” sphere…
On the March of Return, read my article: Hamas’ March of Return End Game in Gaza (April 2018)