For several weeks now the Gaza Strip has been burning. This is not a matter of fighting between Hamas and Fatah activists or actions by the Israel Defense Forces, but battles between armed groups that for the most part are identified with large clans. Nearly every day for the past two weeks ,men, women and children have been killed in Gaza. Every day civilians are being wounded by deliberate or stray gunfire, the result of the unrestrained use of weapons. The number of armed men in the Gaza Strip, according to various estimates, is greater than 100,000. These men belong to security mechanisms, political organizations and above all to clans, and are trying to ensure the economic interests of their kinfolk. There is a tremendous amount of weaponry in the inhabitants' homes, the entire purpose of which is a potential quarrel with a neighbor, an acquaintance or a driver on the road.
In recent weeks attacks on Western and Christian targets in the West Bank have also become common. Members of terror cells identified with Al-Qaida-type organizations - compared to whom Hamas people look like boy scouts - are blowing up and destroying institutions linked to Western culture such as the American School, a church library and dozens of Internet cafes.
But the world is ignoring this. The media in Israel and the West, which reported on every person killed or wounded in the conflicts between Fatah and Hamas or because of "the Israeli occupation," are not taking any interest in Gaza. Even before the release of the Winograd report, the television news broadcasts and the major newspapers focused on trivial matters and chose not to deal with the danger to the lives of every Palestinian living in Gaza.
Even more obvious is the silence of the human rights organizations that publish reports on the roadblocks and the movement restrictions in the territories, while in the Gaza Strip crimes against women are being committed. Cases of women being beaten happen all the time and do not make headlines; worse than this are the cases of killings for "family honor." In recent months, the corpses of four women who were murdered for this reason have been brought to Gaza hospitals, but the number is higher. Women who are murdered are buried by members of their family in secret, and their deaths are not reported to any official body. The Palestinian media also refrain from reporting on this, for the sake of "family honor."
The Palestinian leadership, as usual, is impotent. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is on trips abroad, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh cannot influence the disarming of the militias and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has also lost the ability to exert full control over the organization's armed men. Mashal and Abu Mazen are continuing to discuss the reform in the PLO at a time when it is clear to everyone that both groups need to forbid at once the bearing of arms by anyone who is not a member of a security organization. However, neither Hamas nor Fatah would dare demand that the people in their military wings lay down their arms. The Gaza Strip has new leaders; clan chiefs like Mumtaz Durmush. There is no force in the Gaza Strip that dares to enter a confrontation with the Durmush clan, even though it is responsible for Afghanistan-style killings, kidnappings and more.
Perhaps in light of the weakness of the Gaza leadership, they are content with clicks of the tongue in Israel, too. The U.S. administration is busying itself with strengthening Abu Mazen and his national security adviser Mohammed Dahlan so that when the day comes they will be able to confront Hamas. And Hamas, which is not succeeding in dealing with the failure of the unity government it heads, is publishing reports of its maneuvers to abduct more Israelis. In the organization they are hoping perhaps that a military action in the style of the abduction of Gilad Shalit will lead the IDF into the Gaza Strip and distract attention from their own failings. In the meantime, the Palestinian public is looking on impotently at what is happening and for the most part is continuing with its daily routine or, alternatively, stockpiling weapons for the next battle of the clans.
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