NEWS: Israel expands collective punishment of Gaza

Israel moves to further isolate Gazans

Ratcheting up pressure on Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Israel prepared to cut electricity supplies to Gazans in retaliation for an escalation in cross-border rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian militants.

After declaring Gaza an “enemy entity” in September, Israel has kept Gaza’s borders sealed save for humanitarian foodstuffs and medicines. The policy has triggered dramatic inflation, shuttered businesses, and spurred demand for black-market goods smuggled through tunnels that were once used by gun runners and drug dealers.

“The market now takes all food that you smuggle, also spare parts and medication,” says Hashem, a tunnel-owner from the border town of Rafah who spoke on the condition that his last name not be used.

Analysts say the goal of Israel’s policy of isolating Gaza seems to be to pressure Gazans to turn against Hamas, which has led the area since it wrested control from the Palestinian Authority in June. Other observers warn that the pressure is likely to backfire, creating more volunteers for militant groups and stirring sympathy for Hamas. [complete article]

An economic tailspin in Gaza

Life in Gaza has entered a state of suspended animation.

The usually busy streets are free of traffic. Stores and factories are closed. Unemployment is on the rise as tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs in the last four months.

Israel stages regular air strikes on suspected militants and keeps warning that it might launch a military invasion if the daily rocket and mortar attacks continue.

And residents say they are waiting for the other shoe to drop. [complete article]

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