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Vol. 76/No. 45      December 10, 2012

(front page)
Cease-fire ends 8-day Israeli assault,
nothing resolved for workers of Gaza
Damage in Rafah, Gaza, from recent Israeli assault. Israeli military launched twice as many airstrikes than during 2008-2009 conflict. Israeli embargo makes it harder to rebuild.

The cease-fire between Hamas and Tel Aviv, announced in Cairo Nov. 21 by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, halted the Israeli government’s eight-day assault on Gaza and rocket fire into Israel from Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza.

While both governments claim to have come out on top, one thing is clear: Despite a couple limited and tenuous concessions by the Israeli government, nothing whatsoever has been gained for Palestinian working people.

The Israeli government said it carried out its assault in response to stepped-up missile attacks by Hamas and other Islamist groups targeting civilian areas in southern Israel.

In more than 1,500 Israeli airstrikes, 160 Palestinians were killed, 105 of whom were civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Another 1,000 were wounded, including 971 civilians, the center reported. Some 10,000 Palestinians were displaced, according to the U.N.

Hundreds of rocket attacks by Hamas killed six Israelis, four of them civilians. Dozens were injured.

After the cease-fire took effect, thousands took to the streets across Gaza to celebrate after being cooped up for a week in their homes with limited access to food and other supplies. Now Palestinian working people, who bore the brunt of the assault, once again face the task of rebuilding destroyed homes and infrastructure.

Workers in Gaza “are thinking about how to live in dignity. They feel that they are victims of this war,” Wehbe Badarne, director of the Arab Workers Union in Israel, told the Militant in a phone interview Nov. 26. “The winner is the political parties and the government in Gaza and in Israel. The workers don’t get any kind of benefits.”

“Palestinians hope that Israel will allow construction materials to reach them. This is what they need,” he said, “as well as medical aid.”

Since 2007 Tel Aviv has maintained an economic embargo of Gaza, including a ban on the import of most construction materials. It prevents most of those living in Gaza from entering Israel. It’s also “very difficult for Palestinians living in Israel to visit Gaza,” Badarne said. “If you go to Gaza through Egypt and then return to Israel, you could be jailed.”

For factory workers “the situation here has been very difficult since the closing of the Erez industrial zone,” Sameer Mahal, 32, a carpenter in Gaza, said in a phone interview. “Today, many jobs are just temporary.” The zone, which employed about 5,000 Gazans, was shut down in 2005 after Tel Aviv withdrew its troops from Gaza.

The agreement states that opening crossings and the issue of residents in border areas “shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of [the] cease-fire.” But no steps have yet been taken to implement this. The Egyptian government is the guarantor of the deal, an unnamed Palestinian official told Ynetnews, the website of Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

To divert sympathy away from the Palestinian people under attack by Tel Aviv, U.S. and Israeli media prominently covered Hamas’ Nov. 20 execution of six men accused of being Israeli collaborators and then dragging the corpse of Ribhi Badawi, 37, through the streets of Gaza City. His wife Kholoud Badawi told the British Daily Mail he was a member of another Islamist group, Jaljalat, and would never give information to the Israelis. “His enemies used the war as an excuse to kill him,” she told the paper.

The incident showed how Hamas used the Israeli assault to clamp down on political space for working people and send warnings to any who might criticize their rule.

Since the cease-fire Tel Aviv has eased some restrictions, allowing Palestinian farmers to visit land near the border with Israel and letting fishermen go further out to sea, reported al-Jazeera.

At a news conference in Cairo Nov. 21, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal claimed the eight-day assault “is a point on the way to a great defeat for Israel,” which “failed in all its objectives.”

Israeli military gains

Yet Israel succeeded in assassinating Hamas’ top military commander along with dozens of other Hamas combatants, destroyed many of Hamas’ rocket launching sites and weaponry, including nearly wiping out the group’s capacity to launch longer-range rockets beyond southern Israel, and deployed the Iron Dome anti-missile system, which Israeli Defense Force officials say was 84 percent effective in knocking out rockets headed for populated areas.

Israeli officials say that “better intelligence” and new more precise bombs allowed them to hit Hamas with twice as many airstrikes and fewer civilian casualties than during its last assault on Gaza in 2008-2009.

Israel’s five Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, which came on line in early 2011 with funding from Washington, have cost a total of $250 million. The Barack Obama administration has promised to fund Tel Aviv’s plans to more than double its battery sites and other missile-defense programs, according to a Nov. 21 White House news release.

Meanwhile, as the cease-fire was taking effect, tens of thousands rallied against a decree by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi making his decisions above review by the judiciary. On the third day of street demonstrations, a 15-year-old boy was killed Nov. 25 and 40 people wounded when protesters tried to storm a Muslim Brotherhood office in the Nile Delta city of Damanhur.  
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