WORLD MUST END ISRAELI OCCUPATION – Hamdallah tells Gaza Conference

London demonstration against the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and in support of a Palestinian state
London demonstration against the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and in support of a Palestinian state

PALESTINIAN Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah has expressed the hope that the world’s countries will feel responsibility towards the Gaza Strip, and asked them to work for ending the Israeli occupation and not just solving the problem of Gaza.

They should also intensify the efforts to establish a Palestinian state whose capital is East Jerusalem.

In a major statement before the opening of the Gaza reconstruction conference yesterday, Al-Hamdallah said that ‘Egypt is the supporter of the Palestinian people.

‘I salute Egypt which I have hailed from the Gaza Strip for hosting this important conference, and this effort which Egypt is making has not started just today, but has been supporting the Palestinian people for a long time; therefore, the least we can offer is to salute the people of Egypt and President Abd-al-Fattah al-Sisi.’

The Palestinian prime minister described the international, Arab, and regional participation as good, pointing out that he expects much in the effort to reconstruct the Strip and to offer assistance for the establishments, particularly the educational and health ones, and all living needs such as electricity and water because all the living requirements in Gaza are almost out of action.

He added that the Palestinian government will carry out its tasks by supervising the reconstruction in its capacity as a national responsibility.

He also considered it an international responsibility that is shouldered by all world countries in the light of the dear losses in lives, establishments, and the infrastructure.

Al-Hamdallah added that ‘from now onward, this is our goal, and we do not want the recurrence of a crisis, war, and devastation and then reconstruction every two years, but we want to implement the international yardsticks on the Palestinian people, and there are international resolutions that had been issued since 1949 and until now, and these legitimate resolutions had not been implemented, while we see that these resolutions are implemented in all world countries; therefore, we demand the implementation of the international resolutions which had been issued regarding the two-state solution.’

On Washington’s rejection of what President Mahmud Abbas has said in his speech on ending the occupation and establishing the Palestinian state, Al-Hamdallah said: ‘We are still hoping that the US Administration would play the role assigned to it since it can play a great role and employ pressure on Israel so that it would abide by the international legitimacy and the resolutions issued by it, and the Palestinian administration should move to realise this Palestinian right.’

Answering a question on the US Administration’s preoccupation with the war on terrorism and ISIL without paying attention to the terrorism which is practised against the Palestinian people, the Palestinian prime minister said: ‘I have said that the world is employing double standards, and we are against terrorism everywhere, but we also suffer from the woes of the Israeli occupation, which is the oldest occupation in the world, and the time has come for it to stop.

‘I think that all world countries which call for liberties and human rights should seek to realise this right for the Palestinian people and to establish their state.’

On whether the just solution of the Palestine question is considered part of the solutions proposed for confronting terrorism, he said that the Palestine question is the core of the conflict in the Middle East region, and without reaching a settlement for the Palestine question the region will continue to suffer from problems, conflicts, and serious repercussions.

On the costs needed for the reconstruction of Gaza, Al-Hamdallah explained that they are estimated at more than $4 billions, including $414 millions which are needed for immediate relief aid, $1.8 billions for the early recovery, and $2.4bn for the reconstruction of Gaza.

The Palestinian plan says that the programme on the direct cost for the recovery and reconstruction represents a separate cost from the standing commitments related to supporting the government’s budget, stressing that the continuation of the support for the current government’s budget is a main element for preserving the government’s jobs in both Gaza and the West Bank and for meeting the responsibilities of the government towards its employees and the citizens.

In addition to this, providing support for the budget will lead to the continuation of the services of health education, electricity, fuel and water, as well as keeping the social support.

• It seems that the smuggling tunnels near the border with Egypt have entered their dying stage, after the Egyptian authorities have shut down many of them and taken strict measures that succeeded in limiting the smuggling operations, which had been carried out across the border with the Gaza Strip.

These measures, which escalated markedly during the past eight weeks, have resulted in a shortage of most of the smuggled goods, especially cigarettes of all kinds, whose prices have risen unprecedentedly and reached record levels not seen since 2007.

The prices of certain kinds of cigarettes have risen within a few weeks by more than 150 per cent, while other kinds disappeared from the markets.

This compelled thousands of smokers to either stop smoking entirely, or to reduce the quantities they smoke. The rest of the goods that continued to arrive to the Gaza Strip through the tunnels, most of which were small and compact, were also affected, and the quantities displayed in the markets have dwindled as their prices continued to rise constantly, especially certain kinds of cheeses, detergents and other goods.

The reason is the shutting down of the tunnels.

The crisis of the cigarettes, in addition to other kinds of smuggled Egyptian goods, came about at the peak of the constant and escalating Egyptian attacks on the other side of the border, which caused the shutting down and destruction of most tunnels, as well as the regression and decline of the smuggling operations.

According to multiple sources, specialised units of the Egyptian army and Border Guard forces have performed intensive combing and searching operations along the border, and succeeded in discovering, shutting down and destroying many tunnels, as well as levelling areas on the other side of the border, creating bare areas.

The citizen Ahmad Abdallah, who used to work in a tunnel near the Egyptian border, says that the quantities of goods that arrive at the Gaza Strip through the tunnels have declined to less than half in comparison to the first half of this year, after the destruction and shutting down of most tunnels, which escaped the grip of the Egyptian campaign that began more than a year ago.

Abdallah has anticipated a further decline in the quantities of smuggled goods in the near future, and a further rise in their prices, explaining that smuggling has entered its worst state ever.

He indicated that with regard to certain tunnels that were not discovered, their owners chose to shut them down voluntarily and temporarily, fearing they would be discovered and destroyed.

Egyptian security forces have announced that soldiers of the Border Guard, who belong to the Second Field Army, have managed to discover and destroy 11 tunnels on the border of the Gaza Strip.

In doing so, the soldiers cooperated with the Engineering Authority of the Egyptian Armed Forces, thus raising the total number of tunnels destroyed to date in Rafah to 1,813 tunnels.

The markets of Egyptian goods in the Gaza Strip have recently faced a real crisis, due to the decline in the quantities of smuggled goods that reached them, and the considerable rise in their prices.

The citizen Kamal Eid, who came to the market to buy cigarettes for trading, says that the prices started rising during the last days of the aggression by Israel’s Operation ‘Defensive Edge’.

Some people thought that this had to do with the attacks of the Occupation’s aircraft on the tunnels, but the prices kept climbing until they reached an unprecedented level.

Eid explained that some merchants wanted to invest their money and bought large quantities of cigarettes and other Egyptian goods from the market. They stored them, hoping to make some profit after their prices would rise. This contributed to the deepening of the crisis and the rising of prices.

He said that he started feeling that tunnels are on the verge of extinction, and that in several weeks or maybe months there will not be smuggled goods left in the markets, save for limited quantities that arrive from the crossing, thus indicating the return of what was formerly known as ‘suitcase commerce’.