Magazine article The Spectator

Waiting for War in Gaza

Magazine article The Spectator

Waiting for War in Gaza

Article excerpt



The main entrance to Al-Shifa Hospital was crowded with what seemed to be journalists. This wasn't unusual. They wait here most days for ambulances ferrying in the dead and wounded from Israeli air strikes; but this time there seemed to be more of them. Getting nearer, I saw that what I had taken to be microphones in their hands were in fact slippers. These weren't hacks, they were angry Gazans, come to fling shoes (the ultimate insult in the Middle East) at Jawad Awad, the minister of health of the Palestinian Authority, paying a visit from Ramallah.

This was an important day in the current round of bloodletting between Israel and Hamas. The Egyptian government had proposed a ceasefire (this, the first real international effort to end the conflict, fell apart after six hours) but the crowd was far less interested in peace than in expressing their rage. In their eyes, the government has done almost nothing while they faced the Israeli military onslaught and suffered from the Israeli and Egyptian blockades.

Did they think the minister had come over to persuade them to sign the Egyptian deal? I asked one man, Mohammed Fayez. He said: 'I doubt if he even knows anything about that, he has been enjoying himself in New York. We have had so many martyrs, so many injured, and this is the first time he has bothered to turn up.' Fayez was not a Hamas supporter, he insisted, but had begun to loathe Fatah: 'Other Arabs have also betrayed us, but this man is actually a Palestinian, Fatah are Palestinians.' Others around him nodded agreement.

Internecine strife is nothing new in Gaza. I remember, during the last Israeli mission in 2012, the execution of half a dozen 'collaborators' whose bodies were then dragged through the streets, roped to motorbikes. But this feeling of being forgotten, even by their own politicians, permeates Gaza to an extent I have not seen here in recent times.

In 2012, when Israel launched 'Operation Pillar of Defence', a delegation of Arab League foreign ministers rushed to Gaza to visit the wounded at Shifa, and their Turkish counterpart insisted on joining them. This time around, there was only the hapless Mr Awad, belatedly.

'You won't be seeing the Arab League or any other ministers here this time. You'll hear some talk, but nothing much else,' said Dr Ashraf al-Qadri, one of the directors at Shifa. …

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