Gaza siege ‘creates an atmosphere of escalation and explosion’ says Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum

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Demonstration in London demanding an end to the siege on Gaza

THE PALESTINIAN resistance movement Hamas says the Israeli regime must be held fully accountable for any consequences of tightening the years-long all-out siege on the Gaza Strip that has aggravated the humanitarian crisis of its Palestinian inhabitants.

In a statement on Sunday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum warned that Israel’s extremist practices against the some two million inhabitants of the impoverished enclave will result in explosive repercussions and Israel will only have itself to blame.

‘The Zionist occupation bears all the repercussions and consequences of tightening the siege on the Gaza Strip that escalates the humanitarian crisis among its residents and creates an atmosphere of escalation and explosion,’ he said.

‘In praising the steadfastness of our revolutionary Palestinian people against the occupation and siege in Gaza, Nablus, Jenin, Jerusalem, and Hebron, we affirm that our Palestinian people will never accept the occupation’s policies, nor compromise their national rights,’ the Hamas official added.

Barhoum also called on the international community to accept their responsibilities and put pressure on the occupying regime to end its unjust siege of the blockaded coastal Strip.

He further affirmed that Palestinians will never accept the Israeli policies and will continue their struggle to obtain their national rights.

Gaza, home to some two million Palestinians, has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, when Hamas took control of the enclave.

The siege has inflicted severe hardship on residents. The poverty rate among Gaza’s population has reached 53 per cent, while ‘extreme poverty’ stands at 33.8 per cent, according to statistics by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).

A new report jointly compiled by the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the World Bank says the socioeconomic situation in the Gaza Strip has been weakened further since May.

About 68 per cent of families do not have enough to eat, while 80 per cent of Gazans are dependent on aid. The area’s unemployment rate also stands at 45.1 per cent, according to PCBS.

Israel has also launched three major wars on Gaza since 2008.

In the latest bombardment campaign, at least 260 Palestinians, including over 60 children, were killed in a time span of 11 days that began on May 10. The Gaza-based resistance movements retaliated heavily and took the Tel Aviv regime by surprise.

Meanwhile in Iran, the leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei says the current United States administration under Joe Biden is no different from the former government of president Donald Trump who abandoned the international Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal and unleashed the most draconian sanctions on Iran.

‘The current US administration is no different from the previous administration. Its demand is the same as Trump’s demand and it has not changed at all.

‘Behind the scenes of foreign policy, smile and self-righteous talk, America is a predatory wolf that sometimes turns into a cunning fox,’ Khamenei said on Saturday in a meeting with the new Iranian administration.

US President Biden has said that rejoining the nuclear agreement is one of his top foreign policy priorities, but he has been refusing to take any step to bring Washington back to compliance with the accord.

After six rounds of negotiations between Iran and the remaining signatories of the nuclear deal in Vienna, the Biden administration has shown an unusual urge to maintain the key elements of the sanctions imposed by his predecessor as leverage to pressure the Islamic Republic.

‘The Americans breached negotiations for a long time and did not fulfil’ their obligations, Ayatollah Khamenei said, adding the role of the European countries in sabotaging the efforts is no less than the Americans.

The Leader made the remarks in a meeting with President Ebrahim Raeisi and his newly-formed cabinet.

Raeisi has said his government will support talks that ‘guarantee national interests’, but will not allow negotiations for the sake of negotiations, with the Biden administration demanding that Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its role in the Middle East be also included in the JCPOA deal.

‘In the nuclear issue, the Americans have exceeded all limits of shame, and even though they left the JCPOA before everyone’s eyes, they are talking in a demanding tone as if the Islamic Republic had abandoned the JCPOA and its obligations, while long after the American withdrawal, nothing was done by Iran, and some of the obligations – and not all of them – were set aside with prior notice and declaration,’ Khamenei said.

He also touched on the current situation in Afghanistan, saying it is of the US’ own making.

‘The tragedies of Afghanistan are deeply painful. These hardships Afghans are going through, the incident on Thursday, the killings – all are the work of the United States which occupied the country for 20 years and imposed all kinds of oppression on its people.’

The Leader also touched on the future of Iran’s relationship with Afghanistan, following the Taliban’s takeover of the country and the ‘disgraceful’ withdrawal of US-led forces.

‘We are on the side of the Afghan nation because governments come and go as in the past, but it is the Afghan nation that remains, and the nature of Iran’s relationship with governments also depends on the nature of their relationship with Iran …’

He also called on the new Iranian administration to use its time in office to serve the people to the best of its ability.

‘I had a recommendation to all the officials in different periods, I also offer you this recommendation; time passes quickly. These four years will end soon, so use every hour, every opportunity. Do not let time be wasted when it belongs to the people and to Islam,’ he said.

The new administration, Ayatollah Khamenei said, should focus its efforts on initiating a ‘revolutionary but rational and thoughtful reconstruction in all managerial fields.

‘Being revolutionary must certainly be accompanied by rationality. This has been the correct way of the Islamic Republic from the very beginning until today, where the revolutionary movement should be accompanied by an intellectual and rational movement.’

And he stressed the most important priority of the country is primarily the economy and then culture, media and science.

‘Of course, there is an urgent issue, which is the coronavirus and the health of the people,’ he said.

One of the essentials, Khamenei added, is smart quarantine and serious care at borders in order to prevent the entry of new strains of the disease.

As for the economy, the main problems of the country are high inflation, budget deficit, people’s livelihoods, devaluation of the national currency, reduction of people’s purchasing power, and issues related to the business and banking system.

‘Economic experts believe that money creation should be done in proportion to production, and if this ratio does not exist, money creation should be stopped, which, if done correctly, will result in preventing inflation, boosting production and employment, and strengthening the national currency,’ he said.’

President Raeisi says he has chosen a cabinet to improve Iran’s economy and fight corruption. One of his key slogans on the campaign stump was to form a ‘popular government’.

Marking his first provincial trip two days after the formation of his cabinet, he paid an unannounced visit to Iran’s key province of Khuzestan last Friday.

‘One of the manifestations of being popular is going among the people and hearing directly from the people. This very good and commendable move that Mr Raeisi made yesterday, when he went to Khuzestan among the people, heard from them, talked to them, is a manifestation of being popular, which is a very good thing,’ Ayatollah Khamenei said.

Another manifestation, he went on, is the lifestyle state officials choose, and he urged the new administration to practice ‘modesty in manner and character and avoid aristocratic styles and looking down at people from a high position.’

Last month, when protests hit Khuzestan over water shortages, Ayatollah Khamenei said the protesters could not be blamed because the water problem is ‘not a trivial issue’.

‘It is very important to restore the people’s trust and hope, because people’s trust is the biggest asset of the government,’ he said.

‘People will help you and walk the walk with you when they trust you and have hope in you. This is the biggest asset for a government if it can gain the trust of the people, which, of course, is unfortunately a bit damaged. You have to repair it, and the solution is for the words and actions of the officials to be the same.’