In Gaza, setting fire to their own gas lines to fuel the flames of protest

The vandalism caused by protesters at Kerem Shalom site isn't just an expression of rage against Israel, but also against the Palestinian Authority

A Palestinian slings a shot by burning tires during clashes with Israeli forces across the border, east of Gaza City, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 20, 2018. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

The infiltration of Palestinian demonstrators into the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing on Friday evening caused damage estimated in the millions to infrastructure, mostly to pipes providing vital gas and fuel to the Strip.

Dozens of Palestinians broke into the Gaza side crossing on Friday evening, setting fire to the gas pipeline that supplies fuel to the Strip. They did not get through to the Israeli side.

These riled-up demonstrators first and foremost hurt themselves and the Gazan public. But despite Israeli army assessments that this was done with Hamas backing, from conversations with Palestinians in Gaza, a somewhat different picture emerges. One which suggests that the infiltration into the compound was initiated spontaneously by a mob that had no initial plans to do so.

The moment the incident began, Hamas officials in charge of security at the site realized that trying to stop it could cause deaths and injuries, and so pulled back and allowed the demonstrators to do as they pleased.

The Kerem Shalom crossing is the main entry point for merchandise entering Gaza. It’s difficult to think of a place more critical to the Strip’s own economy.

In the past, 900 truckloads of merchandise entered through the crossing every day. Today that number is down to about 300 a day, due to the economic crisis in Gaza which has led to less demand.

A truck loaded with supplies enters the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom Crossing on November 1, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

It is members of the Palestinian Authority that are in charge of operations at the crossing, not Hamas. And so the vandalism at the site wasn’t just an expression of rage against Israel but against the PA too.

In this case, the loathing and hatred for anything representing Israel and the PA overcame the consequences of destroying the infrastructure of the Strip.

The damage caused Friday will very likely cause delays and difficulties in the transfer of goods into Gaza, not to mention the supply of desperately needed fuel, and exacerbate the already difficult humanitarian situation.

This presents Hamas with something of a problem. On the one hand it does not want war with Israel. On the other it does not want a continuation of the economic status quo in the Strip. Or in other words, it is looking for a means to deescalate the current situation and stabilize the economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza. The Friday demonstrations are its way of signaling to Israel and warning it of how close a war could be without such economic improvement....

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