'Life and Death Are the Same': What Gazans Are Saying About the Latest Round of Violence With Israel

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Funeral in Gaza Strip on Sunday
Funeral in Gaza Strip on SundayCredit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/Reuters

The feeling among people in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night swung between despair and indifference, beyond the desire for revenge or fear of Israel's reaction. "The feeling is that there's nothing to lose," a Hamas activist wrote. "So maybe war will change something in the miserable reality of the Strip. People are prepared to take another blow if war or conflict will lead to change."

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Calls to take action against Israel intensified with the dozens of deaths in recent weeks; every neighborhood and perhaps every street has known a death, or somebody badly injured, the activist said – and at the same time, the humanitarian situation has not been improving.

"The reasons are legion but death is the same death," said Samir Zaqut of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, quoting an Arab saying. "I have been living continuously in the Strip since 1998, and we're in Ramadan, and this is the first time I see the despair everywhere, in every corner," said Zaqut, who has been monitoring social media.

"There is no joie de vivre, no joy during Ramadan. People have no incomes, no food, no medicine. The sense is that the world has forgotten about the Gaza Strip and its people. Life and death are the same side of the coin for a lot of people. I hear people say that explicitly."

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Maryam Mahmoud, a social activist in Gaza, told Haaretz: "I know people who in their despair have stopped caring. We don’t believe that war or escalation will lead to any material change in the humanitarian situation in the strip. We as residents feel we're actually hostages to a system of interests and power plays, and where they will lead, nobody can say."

In the meantime, the feeling in the coastal enclave is still that a head-on confrontation is avoidable. People also feel that the present round of violence will not necessarily lead to all-out war, as occurred between Israel and Hamas and its Gazan allies during the summer of 2014. Many even think the spike in violence that began Tuesday actually meant that the two sides were trying to send a signal to one another.

In Gaza, there had been hopes that another event entirely would make headlines – the small fishing boat that set sail from Gaza for Cyprus  with the announced goal of breaking the Israeli naval blockade. (It was accompanied for a few meters by a small flotilla of other boats, and then continued on its way alone). But the Israeli navy stopped the boat and the whole thing seems to have attracted little attention, in Israel or anywhere else. 

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