In a masterpiece of succinctness, the New York Times today manages to distil into one opening paragraph the position of the four main players in the Gaza tragedy:
“Israel acccelerated its troop withdrawal from Gaza on Monday with the aim of finishing by the inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday, as Hamas reasserted control over the rubble-filled streets and tens of thousands of Palestinians sought to cope with destroyed homes and traumatized lives.”
The numbers tell a stark story.
UNWRA estimates that 100,000 have been made homeless. With the border blockades still in place, 143 trucks of aid supplies were allowed into Gaza on Monday. The ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths still stands at around 100 to 1, but 400,000 people in Gaza are reckoned to have no access to running water, and sewage flows in the streets (which is, regrettably, nothing new in the territory); dead bodies continue to be recovered from the rubble, and medical supplies and food remain critically scarce; to that must be added the ongoing risk from unexploded munitions. It is impossible to conclude that the civilian death toll in Gaza has reached its peak.
The indications are that the European Union continues to be unable to find an answer to the question of how to deal with the presence of Hamas: it promises humanitarian aid, but says that no funds will be contributed to the ‘rehabilitation’ of Gaza while Hamas is still in power. That is a political deadlock which requires more urgent and effective attention, if the reconstruction of Gaza’s civilian life is not to become a pawn in the political game.