Conflicts & War

Gazans struggle 15 years after Hamas takeover

By Saud Abu Ramadan

Gaza, Jun 15 (EFE).- While the Islamist group Hamas celebrates 15 years since it took over Gaza, residents of the coastal enclave remain isolated and impoverished amid a power struggle with the rival faction Fatah and a years-long Israeli blockade.

“Each day is worse than the other,” Mohamed Bannat tells Efe. “I am 34 years old. I am not married, nor do I have any basis for life.”

The dispute between the Islamist group and the West Bank-ruling secular Fatah political party reached its peak in 2007 when Hamas seized power in Gaza and broke the national unity government established three months earlier.

The takeover on June 15, 2007 came after five days of fighting with Fatah troops, in a battle that left 120 people killed.

This resulted in removing any Fatah-linked official from the coastal enclave, dissolving president Mahmoud Abbas’ unity government and dividing the Palestinian territories and its people.

The international aid to the Palestinian National Authority almost stopped and Gaza was plunged into a political and economic crisis.

“The Gaza division is nonsense” Majed al-Jabri says.

“The two movements (Hamas and Fatah) didn’t benefit us at all,” the 58-year-old adds.

When Hamas took power, Israel and neighboring Egypt imposed tough restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza over security threats, isolating more than 2 million Gazans from the world.

Like the vast majority of Gazans, Bannat cannot leave the strip to work, study, receive medical care or visit relatives.

“I am tired, I mean, we are not able to go outside to work and we are not able to stay here to work,” says Bannat, who graduated from Arab studies at Gaza University.

“Life before the separation was very good, I worked before the division, and thank God my life was good.

“Of course, after the division, we lost.”

For Gazans, the strip that is 40 kilometers (25 miles) long and 10 kilometers wide, became the world’s “largest open-air prison” 15 years ago.

“The Gaza closure blocks talented, professional people, with much to give their society, from pursuing opportunities that people elsewhere take for granted,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said on Tuesday.

“Barring Palestinians in Gaza from moving freely within their homeland stunts lives and underscores the cruel reality of apartheid and persecution for millions of Palestinians,” he added.

Some 80% of the population in Gaza depends on humanitarian aid and most families do not have access to reliable electricity, healthcare and clean water.

In the Palestinian enclave, the youth unemployment rate is currently at 70%, according to Hamas figures.

“The Palestinian division between the Hamas and Fatah movements had a negative impact on the Palestinian youths, Palestinian merchants, the Palestinian families as well as everyone who lives in Palestine,” Mohamed Abu Sadia says.

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