GAZA CITY (Reuters) — Hamas complained to Egypt on Friday after Israel suspended part of a Cairo-brokered truce agreement by halving Palestinian access to fishing waters in response to a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip.
Thursday’s salvo at the Israeli border town of Sderot, which caused no casualties, coincided with a visit to Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank by US President Barack Obama.
It was claimed by a small al-Qaida-linked faction that has challenged the Islamist Hamas group’s rule in the Gaza Strip.
Israel, which holds Hamas responsible for any violence emanating from the enclave, retaliated by shutting the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing on the Gaza border and by enforcing a newly restricted 5 km wide fishing zone.
The zone had been extended to 11 km as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended an eight-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in November, in which 166 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.
“We have informed Cairo of this violation and we are waiting to hear a clear position from Egyptian mediators on this,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, giving no indication that Hamas wanted to abandon the ceasefire arrangement.
An Egyptian official confirmed that the Hamas complaint had been received, saying Israel had complained separately about the rocket attack.
The official said Cairo would contact both sides to “restore their commitment to the truce”. Israel said on Thursday its new Gaza restrictions would be in place until further notice.
Magles Shoura al-Mujahedeen, a hardline Islamist Salafi faction with a small presence in Gaza and the neighboring Egyptian Sinai, claimed responsibility for the salvo on Sderot.
In an online statement, the group said it had struck during Obama’s visit to show up Israeli air defenses – a likely reference to Israel’s US-backed Iron Dome rocket shield.
Magles Shoura al-Muhajedeen and Hamas are both hostile to Israel. But the Salafis accuse Hamas of diluting Islamist doctrine by seeking accommodation with secular Palestinians.
Hamas has at times cracked down on the Salafis, seeing them as a threat to the stability of the impoverished Gaza Strip.
On Thursday the Hamas administration’s spokesman Taher al-Nono questioned whether rockets had been fired from Gaza and reaffirmed commitment to the “mutual calm agreement brokered by Cairo”.
Reducing Gaza’s fishing waters spelled losses for some 3,000 Palestinians whose livelihood depends on the sea.
“There is nothing to catch within three miles from shore,” said fisherman Talal Shweikh, 62. “All the fish that you see in the market today came from Egypt.”
The Brutal Naval Blockade on Gaza
Editorial- Arab News | June 15, 2011Gaza reels under five years of Israeli siege as the world community stands and stares
It has been five years since Israel imposed its oppressive and inhuman blockade on the Gaza Strip. Without doubt it has been easily one of the toughest and most trying periods in the eventful history of the Palestinian people. The proud and fiercely independent people, however, have refused to give in to Israeli diktats or allow their fighting spirit to waver under the totally asphyxiating blockade of Gaza by land, air and sea.
However, the Palestinians have had a monumental price to pay for their defiance. The United Nations report on Gaza, issued to mark the five nightmarish years of Israeli siege on Tuesday, makes for disturbing reading and must come as a wake-up call to the world’s sleeping conscience. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) has slammed Israel for the acute humanitarian crisis in Gaza, warning of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Nearly half of Gaza’s population is unemployed. Wages have fallen 34.5 percent since 2006 when Israel inflicted its “sanctions” on Gaza imprisoning its entire population for the sin of electing Hamas in Palestinian legislative elections. Most of Gaza’s population is not just desperately impoverished, it craves and has to fight for basics such as food, medicines to fuel. Nothing can get in — or get out. Many put their lives on line to smuggle in these “valuables” using those tunnels under Gaza’s Rafah border with Egypt. Not surprisingly, the Palestinian refugees, the poorest of the poor who make up two-thirds of the Strip’s population, are the worst hit.
An anguished UNWRA says it’s “hard to understand the logic” of deliberately impoverishing so many and condemning hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution. But then whoever said there was any logic or reason behind any of Israel’s actions? If Israel had ever been inspired by reason or common sense, we wouldn’t have this crisis created by the world’s longest occupation in the first place.
Ironically, the UN claims, the punitive Israeli blockade has failed to affect or weaken Hamas or made it any less popular. Indeed, the UN findings suggest the Hamas government in Gaza has been able to actually increase public employment by one fifth even as private sector jobs have vanished in the same period.
The question is, how long will this shameful state of affairs continue? How much more an already persecuted people have to suffer before the world community — if there’s such a things as the world community— decides to confront Israel and its powerful patrons?
What is the Palestinian crime? The audacity to choose who they want as their representatives and leaders? Isn’t this the very freedom that people in Western democracies routinely exercise? Why does it become a problem when the same right is exercised by the Palestinians and Arabs? Why are international champions of democracy and freedom, howling over the atrocities of Libyan and Syrian regimes, silent on Israeli crimes? It is precisely because of this hypocrisy and double standards that no one today takes Western lectures on democracy and freedom seriously.