A senior member of the Hamas Political Bureau said on Monday that "the worst is still to come" as far as the Gaza Strip is concerned. Mousa Abu Marzook's remarks followed the announcement by the Palestinian Authority that it will withdraw its security officers from the Rafah Border Crossing, the only route between Gaza and the outside world through Egypt. He tweeted similar sentiments after the PA Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein Al-Sheikh pledged that more punitive measures to tighten the siege on the Palestinians in the coastal enclave are on the way.
This was said after a meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo. Abbas was there to take part in the opening of a mosque and a church in the new administrative capital zone, but it is unclear what exactly passed between the two men. Fatah Central Committee member Dalal Salama said that his movement would hold meetings with Abbas after his return from Cairo to discuss "stricter and more precise" measures against the Palestinians in Gaza.
Last week, when the PA paid its employees in the besieged territory, thousands did not receive their salaries. It was revealed later that they were either Fatah members who are loyal to the former Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan — a political rival of Abbas — or those who still disobey Abbas's diktat to refuse to work in the civil service under the Hamas-led government. Abbas gave his order in 2007 when Hamas pushed Fatah out of the Gaza Strip, ending eighteen months of security chaos which followed the Islamic Resistance Movement's clear victory in the 2006 general election. The PA leader has paid civil servants to stay at home for the past 12 years in order to usurp the popular vote.
According to Maariv, Abbas is likely to take extra punitive measures against the Palestinian people in Gaza in his efforts to score a political point against Hamas. The newspaper reported the findings of Israeli security officials, who believe that stricter punitive measures against Gaza are likely to affect the security situation in Israel because the Palestinian resistance accuses the occupation state of being behind all such moves and will respond by attacking Israeli targets.
All of this suggests that something very nasty is being prepared for Gaza. From Norway, the Director of the Global Network for Rights and Development, Lo'ay Deeb, reported informed sources saying that "unprecedented escalation against Gaza is coming soon." He added that an agreement signed by major Arab countries included the announcement that Gaza is "insurgent territory". Not only the Arab states have signed up to this; Israel has as well.
Furthermore, Israel's Channel 20 TV has just reported that the occupation authorities have announced the suspension of financial aid from Qatar which has been going through Israel to Gaza. The channel said that the Israeli government blamed the suspension on the fact that a rocket was allegedly fired from Gaza to Ashkelon during the night. The government asked the Qatari Ambassador to Palestine, Mohammad Al-Emadi, to postpone his visit to Gaza planned for Sunday when he was due to deliver the Qatari funds to pay government employees in the enclave.
Egypt has also signed up to the agreement. When the PA and Fatah take measures against Gaza or Hamas, Egypt usually asks them to think twice about their decisions or rescind them. This time, though, when the PA announced the withdrawal of its officers from Rafah, Egypt announced that it would close the border as from today, Tuesday; it will only allow Palestinians who are abroad and planning to return to Gaza to go back home.
The PA has imposed more punitive measures on the people of Gaza; the Israeli occupation authorities have banned high-level money transfers to the territory; Egypt has closed the Rafah Border Crossin, and an Israeli escalation appears to be on the horizon. Something serious is being prepared for the Gaza Strip and it looks as if Abu Marzook is right: the worst is still to come. If this happens, will the international community continue to keep quiet, as it did during previous Israeli military offensives, even though collective punishment is a serious breach of international law? The world has the chance to do something now; if human rights and the rule of law are to mean anything at all, the international community has to stand up against the ongoing oppression of more than 2 million people imprisoned in Gaza before it is too late.
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