The Israel Air Force on Tuesday struck targets in the northern Gaza Strip, killing a Hamas member and injuring another three. Earlier, a sniper from Gaza shot an Israeli soldier near the border, but his helmet protected him from serious injury.
The air strikes came hours after an Israeli official said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had decided not to allow a Qatari money transfer into the Strip following the escalation. Gazans have been holding weekly demonstrations near the border with Israel, pushing for the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the coastal enclave to be lifted to ease the extreme poverty where 2million people are crammed into an area of 365m².
According to the Household Expenditure and Consumption Survey, released by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) in May last year, there has been a significant increase in poverty rates in the Gaza Strip: from 38.8% in 2011 to 53% by the end of 2017. This is the equivalent of about 1.01million people, including 400000 children, living in poverty.Furthermore, two thirds of Gaza’s poor are considered to be living in “deep poverty”, which means living on less than R50 a day.
Since Gazans launched the Great March of Return in March last year, nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers during the protests and during clashes with Hamas gunmen. During the protests, some of the demonstrators have hurled incendiary devices and managed to break through the border fence with Israel.
In November, Qatar began a six-month, $150million (R2billion) programme to fund civil servant wages and shipments of fuel for power generation in Gaza, offering a measure of reprieve to the blockaded enclave. Another $15m was due to be delivered before Netanyahu blocked the move.
March organisers warned that unless the blockade was eased, they would escalate their protests. Israel warned that any escalation would see a severe military response.
The border violence is also related to tensions building in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Over 100 Palestinian political prisoners were hospitalised over the last few days with fractures and head injuries after the Ofer Prison, near the de-facto Palestinian capital Ramallah, was stormed by prison security forces after inmates launched a strike over searches for cellphones.
Angry Palestinians have subsequently been holding protests in the West Bank, slamming the Israeli authorities’ excessive brutality. African News Agency (ANA)