As the blame game continues over Friday’s events that left 17 Palestinians dead, 11 of whom reportedly belong to Hamas or jihadi organisations , it is important to step back and consider the context within which the so-called ‘Great March of Return’ occurred.
Gaza’s humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, with water, energy, and sewage problems remaining unresolved. Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, which was due to alleviate some of the crisis, has been an abject failure, beset by arguments over Hamas’ military wing and the absence of sanctions relief by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Coupled with this is greater Iranian involvement in the Gaza, and Israel’s technological success in foiling Hamas’ tunnels, which has left the terror group facing the dilemma of what to do next.
Add to this the recent “successful” infiltration attempts by Gazans into Israel and one can begin to better understand why both Hamas and Israel acted in the way they did.
That Gaza has returned to the international agenda will be considered by Hamas as a victory, although the numbers of protestors were significantly below their expectations. Having run out of other options, Hamas will continue its weekly marches with the aim to increase international diplomatic pressure on Israel.
An important future component will be the number of marchers, as well as casualties. As May 15th approaches – when Nakba Day, the beginning of Ramadan and the relocation of the American Embassy all coincide, both will likely increase. This, in turn, may limit Israel’s ability to respond.
Lost in the debate over the ‘March’ is the pressing need to resolve the Strip’s failing infrastructure. Yet while international donors recently discussed ideas, implementation is made significantly harder by continued Hamas control over Gaza, the failure of Palestinian reconciliation and the continued PA boycott of the US Administration.