Friday, September 28, 2012

28-Sep-12: In Gaza, children die and families are outraged; their anger is channeled at Hamas

Children in Gaza protesting against the tyranny and incompetence that
embitters and endangers their lives [Image Source]  
We spent most of Thursday in the south of Israel, touring two of the Gaza crossings - Kerem Shalom and the Erez terminal - and hearing from military and civilian officials about the up-close experience of maintaining a vast humanitarian structure, complete with two-way crossings, inspection points and security technology that mostly cannot be written about. It was an extraordinary experience - for the most part made up of ordinary events that sometimes become unpredictable and always with the threat of the truly dangerous somewhere in the near-background. We will write more about this in the coming days.

Two of the officials we met spoke about a tragic event that happened just two days ago in Bureij, one of the teeming 'refugee' camps (population: 35,000) in the center of the Gaza Strip, and what happened in its aftermath. We went looking and found a Reuters report that captures the salient facts:

Boy's death ignites rare anti-Hamas protests in Gaza           
September 26, 2012 | By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - At least 500 protesters in the Gaza Strip have called for the overthrow of the ruling Islamist Hamas group in a rare demonstration triggered by the death of a three-year-old boy in a fire during a power outage. Protesters in the Bureij refugee camp, where the boy's family live, called for Hamas to be toppled and chanted "The people want to down the regime" late on Tuesday night, echoing slogans adopted in Arab revolutions in neighbouring countries. The police swiftly dispersed the crowd. Demonstrators took to the streets as the boy's body was being moved to a hospital, saying they were protesting against the incompetent way Hamas ruled Gaza. Anger spilled over after the boy died and his infant sister suffered critical burns when a candle lit amid a power outage burnt their house down.
Anti-Hamas protests in Gaza, where power failures have left households with just six hours of electricity a day since February, are extremely rare. Three children were killed earlier in the year by similar fires during an outage.Hamas blames the electricity shortages on Egypt which it says is restricting the flow of fuel, and on Israel, which imposed a blockade on the coastal enclave in 2007 when Hamas seized control from the Western-backed Palestinian Fatah party.
The dead boy's father called for more protests, saying he hoped a healing of internal Palestinian political rifts could ease the Strip's problems. "I call on people to take to the streets and not to fear being clubbed by policemen," Abdel-Fattah Al-Baghdadi, 23, told Reuters. "I hold both the governments in Gaza and in the West Bank responsible for what happened to us," he said. Earning 1,250 shekels ($318) a month from working as a civil guard at the Religious Affairs Ministry, he said he had been using candles to light his house during blackouts because he could not afford to buy a generator or fuel. "Besides my wife and two children, I had to spend money to help my bigger family," he said.
Taher Al-Nono, a spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, said the death of Baghdadi's son was a message to Egypt that it had to speed up its promised efforts to help solve the power crisis in Gaza. "The international community's silence is an accomplice in the crime of blockading Gaza," Nono said in a statement.
Hamas is sensitive to criticism and has looked on with concern as protests in the Israeli-controlled West Bank against high prices have spread in the past few weeks, fearing they may spill over into its own territory. Hamas has banned protests, including any demonstrations calling for an end to divisions between it and Fatah...
Hamas-controlled Gaza is one of the world's most repressive regimes. The levels of fear and intimidation there are well-known to people who come into contact with ordinary Palestinian Arab Gazans, as we heard today from people who interact with Gaza and Gazans every day.

The willingness of the 1.7 million population to continue to be cowed and held captive to a messianic-Islamist vision of over-running the hated Israelis and destroying their state at huge cost to the Gazans has limits. And as with communities elsewhere, sometimes it's the wanton death of a child that serves as the spark to ignite the kind of outrage that throws the thugs onto the scrap-pile of history where they so deservedly belong.

This has not happened yet, but whenever people take to the streets and scream their anger at the Islamist thugs of Hamas, there's hope for some degree of change in the future.

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