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'No protection in Gaza'

Interview: Anne Allmeling / nh
July 10, 2014

Air raids by Israel's army are seriously affecting people in the Gaza Strip. This is why many to support Hamas – at least morally, says political scientist Usama Antar, who lives in Gaza City.

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DW: Mr Antar, Israel's air force is conducting air strikes in the Gaza Strip and the army is preparing ground operations. What is happening there?

Usama Antar: The Gaza Strip has seen massive bombardment over the last few days. There have been more air raids over the past two days alone than during the entire Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip in November 2012. This shows just how intense the current bombardment is.

The Gaza Strip has been subjected to a tight blockade for seven years now. Gaza is in a very bad economic, social and political situation anyway, and now it's a warzone. The population here can't take any more.

How did you experience last night yourself?

Last night was very intense. The number of casualties has risen to 78. More than 680 people are injured. The interior ministry was bombarded. It's just 200 meters from my house. The explosions were so intense that the entire building was shaking. The children were sitting bolt upright in their beds. A lot of windows in neighboring buildings shattered because of the intensity of the bombardment. Of course we're scared. There are no bunkers and no sirens in Gaza. This means we're abandoned to our fate.

How are you protecting yourselves?

There is no protection. Even modern houses don't have bunkers. I live in quite a modern house, but there's no protection. That's just the way it is in Gaza. You can be killed from one minute to the next.

Israel's air raids are continuing, but missiles are also still being fired from the Gaza Strip. How do Palestinians see this situation?

It's different this time than in the past. Living conditions are extremely bad for Palestinians. Morally, they support the resistance in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. The Palestinians see current events as their way of defending themselves. I am not trying to defend Hamas here. But in the eyes of the population, Hamas has managed to attack Tel Aviv. There won't be any casualties or injuries there. But many here believe it's important that Hamas dares to send a message to the population in Tel Aviv. To tell them that we in Gaza are people, too, and that we want to live without constant bombardment. Now the people in Tel Aviv know what it feels like when you're under constant bombardment. That's the message of Hamas.

So how much support is Hamas getting?

It's moral support. To Palestinians, the enemy on the ground is not Hamas. It's Israel and its bombardment – day and night.

Israel is saying it will end the bombardment provided the missile strikes come to an end.

The entire population is hoping that calm will return as quickly as possible. But people are also demanding that the blockade of the Gaza Strip be eased. It's like living in a prison for the people here in the Gaza Strip.

Are there people in the Gaza Strip who are calling on Hamas to end the missile attacks?

No, nobody is doing that – at least, not openly. There are no such calls by the media, for example. The people here have seen first-hand that the Israelis will not stop their bombardment of Gaza even if Hamas stops the missile attacks. Israel planned this war from the very start and brought it to this phase of escalation. Everybody in the Gaza Strip is a victim of it. Not even half the population support Hamas here. But the entire population is the victim of Israel's attacks.

How could the conflict be resolved?

Without a tangible, fair, political solution this conflict will never be resolved. Israel's activities of further land confiscation and new settlement building have to stop. Israel has to recognize the Palestinians' national right, and they have to accept that the Palestinians can found their own sovereign state. The Israelis shouldn't stand in the way of reconciliation between the different Palestinian groups. That was one of the reasons why the Israelis first started the war, by the way: because the Palestinians made peace with each other six weeks ago and formed a new government.

And, according to you, what should the international community do?

The international community has to finally start behaving fairly and objectively. We only ask one thing of Europe: Be fair. Nothing more. If the Europeans or the Americans put forward a fair suggestion of how to solve the conflict, the Palestinians will accept it. But so far, the Europeans have also not acted objectively.

Interview: Anne Allmeling

Usama Antar is a political scientist in Gaza City.

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