Israel’s prime minister has admitted that the isolation of Gaza – under land, air and sea blockade since 2007 – is intended to undermine the establishment of a Palestinian state.
During a meeting of his Likud faction on Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu said that the transfer of Qatari funds to Gaza is “part of a broader strategy to keep Hamas and the Palestinian Authority separate,” as The Jerusalem Post stated.
Quoting a source paraphrasing Netanyahu, the Post added, “ ‘whoever is against a Palestinian state should be for’ transferring the funds to Gaza, because maintaining a separation between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza helps prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Around 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during mass demonstrations against the siege on Gaza since the launch of the Great March of Return on 30 March last year.
Protesters are also demanding that Palestinian refugees – two-thirds of Gaza’s population of two million are registered refugees – be allowed to exercise their right to return to lands on the other side of the boundary with Israel.
Palestinians die from Gaza protest injuries
Since last Friday’s weekly Great March of Return protests, two Palestinians died from injuries sustained during demonstrations.
Bassam Sami Uthman Safi, 22, died on Sunday after being hit in the head with a tear gas canister on 22 February.
Safi is the fourth Palestinian in Gaza to be killed after being struck by a tear gas canister so far this year.
Musa Muhammad Musa, 23, died on Monday from injuries sustained during protests on 1 March.
“If someone thinks this blood was spilled in vain, then he is seriously mistaken,” an unnamed Hamas official recently told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The paper added that Israeli officials said that measures to ease the dire situation in Gaza “would be interpreted as a capitulation, which could hurt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prospects in the upcoming election.”
Meanwhile, Israeli intelligence and military officials reportedly believe the Palestinian Authority could collapse in as few as two months after Israel withheld some $138 million in Palestinian tax revenue.
The Palestinian Authority has refused to accept the reduced tax transfer in protest, delaying payment of civil servants’ salaries.
An Israeli law passed last year allows the state to deduct payments made to Palestinian prisoners and their families from Palestinian Authority tax revenue, which Israel controls.
The timing of the sanctions, along with other increased repressive measures, is seen as motivated by elections in the country in early April.
Withholding tax revenue “is tantamount to collective punishment prohibited under international law,” according to the Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan.
The tax revenue sanctions come after the US cut half a billion dollars in aid to Palestinians last year, and Congress enacted a law suspending funding to the PA until it terminates payments to the families of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and those of slain alleged attackers.
“The US government has played a major role in developing the capacity of our hospitals,” Walid Nammour, director of the Augusta Victoria hospital in Jerusalem, where women living in Gaza are treated for cancer, told media.
“This was the case until our great man Trump came. They’re using sick children’s lives, human lives to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority, and this is inhumane, illegal and unacceptable,” he added.
Palestinians killed in West Bank
Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank this week, bringing to 25 the total number of Palestinians killed by the army and settlers so far this year.
A Palestinian man identified as Yasir al-Shweiki was shot dead by soldiers in the Old City of Hebron on Tuesday.
The military claimed he had approached soldiers with a knife; no Israelis were injured.
A Israeli settler recorded video of al-Shweiki lying on the floor:
Israeli settlers in the city celebrated al-Shweiki’s killing:
The slain man’s father told Palestinian media that his son was distributing court notices when he was killed.
On Wednesday, Palestinians in Hebron protested al-Shweiki’s killing in front of the courthouse where he worked as a clerk and demanded that Israel hand over his body.
That same day, Palestinians buried Muhammad Abd al-Fattah Shahin, 23, shot in the chest and killed during confrontations with soldiers in the northern West Bank town of Salfit on Tuesday.
Another 40 Palestinians were reported injured during the confrontations.
A reporter with Ma’an, a Palestinian news outlet, “said that large numbers of Israeli forces raided Salfit City and confiscated camera recordings from streets and commercial shops, causing violent clashes to erupt.”