Analysis

Gazans Will Suffer More as a Result of Hamas and Qatar Crises

The atmosphere is being compared to that on the eve of the 2014 Gaza war. Israel must decide whether and to what extent it will intervene

A Palestinian family warms themselves by a makeshift fire during a power cut in Gaza, January 15, 2017.
Khalil Hamra/AP

The 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War is of little interest to Gazans, who are more worried about the worsening humanitarian crisis in the territory. In both Israel and the Gaza Strip, the atmosphere is being compared to that on the eve of the 2014 Gaza war.

The Palestinian Authority demands that Hamas hand over rule to the Palestinian consensus government or forgo PA funding. Hamas has refused, and accuses Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of trying to appease Israel and America.

Hamas’ woes have been compounded by Qatar’s rift with several other key Arab states, which resulted in several senior Hamas officials being forced to leave Qatar. Among them was Saleh Arouri, who is responsible for Hamas’ military activity in the West Bank; Palestinians say he went to Malaysia.

The PA, whose punitive measures against Hamas have already reduced Gaza to four hours of electricity per day, also decided recently to stop paying for some of the power Israel provides to Gaza. Had Israel reduced the power supply accordingly, Gaza would be down to three hours a day.

Gazans say they have no choice but to buy electricity from private suppliers. “One person, who has money, buys a big generator and supplies power to homes for 100 shekels ($28) a month,” one man explained.

Moreover, because there isn’t enough electricity to treat sewage, raw sewage is flowing into the Mediterranean Sea and seeping into the groundwater. That could affect Israel as well.

The health system is suffering severely. Hospitals have only a few hours of electricity per day, so they rely on generators.

“Relying on generators 16 hours a day isn’t normal,” said a doctor at Abdel Aziz Rantisi Hospital. “And when there are people on respirators and babies who need oxygen, a breakdown could result in loss of life.”

Hospitals are short on money, too. In April, the PA gave Gaza $2.3 million to operate hospitals and clinics, according to data provided to Physicians for Human Rights by Dr. Munir al-Bursh, a senior official in Gaza’s Health Ministry. In May, that figure was slashed to just $500,000.

Drugs are also running out. Of the 500 drugs approved by the Palestinian Health Ministry, Gaza is completely out of 170. It also has just 10 percent of the cancer drugs it needs.

Nevertheless, an uprising against Hamas is unlikely. One Gazan activist said international or local charities support about two-thirds of Gazans and that “any attempt to voice criticism is immediately suppressed.”

Israel has been largely absent from this internal Palestinian power struggle, and Israeli politicians have largely refrained from even talking about the Gaza crisis and what Israel should do about it. But any effort to improve the situation would essentially bolster Hamas’ rule.

Meanwhile, Hamas is still trying to attack Israel in the West Bank to avenge the assassination of senior Hamas official Mazen Fuqaha. Two weeks ago, Hamas executed three Palestinians whom it claimed had killed Fuqaha on Israel’s orders. But many Gazans don’t believe they were guilty.