By Saud Abu Ramadan
Gaza, May 10 (EFE).- As Gazans mark the one-year anniversary of the bruising 11-day conflict with Israel amid a slow reconstruction process, concerns are rising of yet another war.
No offensives have been launched in Gaza so far this year but the possibility of another escalation between the Israeli military and the Strip-ruling Hamas Islamist group remains on the table in the wake of a recent spate of violence that broke out more than a month ago in the region.
Some18 Israelis have been killed in six attacks by Palestinians in the last month. Perpetrators mostly acted individually but one of those attacks was claimed by Hamas, which might lead Israel to consider retaliatory military action.
The May 5 attack that resulted in the death of three Israeli civilians in the city of Elad prompted calls from the right-wing — and some of the Israeli public — to demand prime minister Naftali Bennett assassinate Hamas commanders, especially the leader of the movement, Yahya Sinwar.
The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, threatened an “unprecedented response” if Israel attempted to launch attacks on their top leaders.
Since March, Hamas has praised all attacks against Israelis and joined in by launching missiles toward Israeli territory in April.
Hamas also threatened Israel with a “great battle” after days of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians around the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.
Last year, clashes in Jerusalem and the protests over the possible eviction of several Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood triggered the 11-day war, which left 260 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
The current sequence of events is relatively similar to last year’s.
The situation in Gaza, however, has not changed much since last year. The coastal enclave, where 2.3 million people live, remains under an Israeli blockade that came into force in 2007 when Hamas came to power.
The Israeli government raised the number of work permits for Gazans to 12,000 this year and promised to further increase it to 20,000, although this measure is relative because the situation in Gaza is still precarious.
Unemployment in the territory exceeds 50% and poverty 55%, while 70% of the population depends on humanitarian aid, Maher al-Tabaa, director of the Gaza Chamber of Commerce, tells Efe.
The 2021 war left some 50,000 homes damaged and 2,000 completely destroyed and the already poor infrastructure systems were also affected.
A year later, the reconstruction is still in an initial stage, explains Naji Sarhan, the deputy secretary of the Gaza Ministry of Housing and Public Works.
Egypt and Qatar have pledged $500 million each for reconstruction. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) also received $60 million from the United States.
But Gaza’s “reconstruction and development cannot only depend” on Israel easing restrictions or financial aid, but also on a political solution for the enclave, according to al-Tabaa.
“The fear of another war is dominant in Gaza,” Balsam Ayyad, a 25-year-old Gazan engineer, tells Efe, adding that a large part of the civilian population of the enclave lives every day in fear. EFE