Gaza Strip Faces ‘Collapse’, Young Generation Seeks Future beyond the Siege

Palestinian fishermen on a boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip, February 9, 2016. (AP)
Palestinian fishermen on a boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip, February 9, 2016. (AP)

Gaza Strip Faces ‘Collapse’, Young Generation Seeks Future beyond the Siege

Palestinian fishermen on a boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip, February 9, 2016. (AP)
Palestinian fishermen on a boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip, February 9, 2016. (AP)

Palestinians in Gaza Strip bid the year 2017 farewell, bringing with them to the new year never-ending crises that continue to be aggravated with the Israeli blockade entering its eleventh year.

Over the past six months, living conditions severely deteriorated in the coastal strip, especially after the Palestinian Authority (PA) imposed a series of sanctions on Gaza to pressure the Hamas movement to accept a national reconciliation.

Figures indicate a decrease in the number of commercial trucks entering Gaza during the last three months to less than 500, instead of over 880 truckloads that were supposed to enter the strip daily. The decrease is due to traders' inability to purchase the people's daily needs as a result of a decline in purchasing power caused by the difficult economic and living conditions, making 2017 the worst in the eleven years of the Israeli siege.

Over the past few days, a number of traders closed their shops in several areas of the strip for a few hours in protest against the deteriorating economic and living conditions.

They called for rescuing the sector and saving it from the harsh living conditions. Most citizens are no longer able to buy the most basic needs.

Mohammed al-Astal, 56, a resident of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, indicated that merchants are losing huge sums of money and cannot benefit from goods that are allowed inside the strip through the Karam Abu Salim crossing, the only commercial crossing.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, al-Astal pointed out that there is a decline in sales met by an increase in taxes imposed by the Customs Department of government of national accord, which further burdens the merchants.

He stressed that Gaza is on the brink of economic, social and social collapse. He pointed out that 2017 was the most distressing year for traders and citizens, most of whom do not receive their salaries, while some receive their wages with major cuts that affect their purchasing power.

Another resident, Hassan al-Halabi, 43, described life in Gaza as "no longer tolerable," especially since the electricity crisis continues to worsen without any signs of a radical solution or at least an improvement.

Halabi revealed that the percentage of poverty in Gaza is increasing, adding that some institutions that supervise temporary work projects, the "unemployment system", also began to reduce their services in Gaza for unknown reasons.

This indicates that the situation is general heading towards even more decline in the new year, he warned.

Another citizen, Oum Mohammed al-Absi, who is in her sixties, described the tragic circumstances of thousands of families living on the "social affairs" allowance that is issued every three months.

She hoped, like all families, to receive the allowance of $500 on time and before the end of the year, but the PA did not issue it amid rumors that it could be postponed until after January 20.

Al-Absi explained that her only source of capital is the allowance she receives every three months, noting that the majority of families receiving the money are living in similar difficult circumstances.

According to the Popular Committee Against Siege (PCAS), 2017 was the most difficult year in terms of humanitarian and economic conditions in light of the ongoing Israeli siege and the consequences of internal division.

PCAS pointed out that 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, unemployment reached 50 percent and that unemployment among young people and graduates was 60 percent.

A quarter of a million workers are still unemployed and 80 percent of Gaza factories are fully or partially closed because of the blockade and attacks, with direct and indirect annual losses estimated at $250 million.

University graduate, Mohammed Abu Nasr, said that his greatest desire is for the crossings to open, allowing him and tens of thousands of young people to immigrate in search for a better future away from the siege and wars.

Despite all these complex conditions in life, people of Gaza hope that the new year will be better.

Biden's Withdrawal Injects Uncertainty Into Wars, Trade Disputes and Other Foreign Policy Challenges

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Biden's Withdrawal Injects Uncertainty Into Wars, Trade Disputes and Other Foreign Policy Challenges

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Joe Biden's withdrawal from the US presidential race injects greater uncertainty into the world at a time when Western leaders are grappling with wars in Ukraine and Gaza, a more assertive China in Asia and the rise of the far-right in Europe.
During a five-decade career in politics, Biden developed extensive personal relationships with multiple foreign leaders that none of the potential replacements on the Democratic ticket can match. After his announcement, messages of support and gratitude for his years of service poured in from near and far, said The Associated Press.
The scope of foreign policy challenges facing the next US president makes clear how consequential what happens in Washington is for the rest of the planet. Here's a look at some of them.
ISRAEL With Vice President Kamala Harris being eyed as a potential replacement for Biden, Israelis on Sunday scrambled to understand what her candidacy would mean for their country as it confronts increasing global isolation over its military campaign against Hamas.
Israel’s left-wing Haaretz daily newspaper ran a story scrutinizing Harris’ record of support for Israel, pointing to her reputation as Biden’s “bad cop" who has vocally admonished Israel for its offensive in Gaza. In recent months, she has gone further than Biden in calling for a cease-fire, denouncing Israel's invasion of Rafah and expressing horror over the civilian death toll in Gaza.
“With Biden leaving, Israel has lost perhaps the last Zionist president,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. “A new Democratic candidate will upend the dynamic.”
Biden's staunch defense of Israel since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack has its roots in his half-century of support for the country as a senator, vice president, then president. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant thanked Biden for his “unwavering support of Israel over the years.”
“Your steadfast backing, especially during the war, has been invaluable,” Gallant wrote on X.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog praised Biden as a “symbol of the unbreakable bond between our two peoples" and a “true ally of the Jewish people.” There was no immediate reaction from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an ally of former President Donald Trump whose history of cordial relations with Biden has come under strain during the Israel-Hamas war.
UKRAINE Any Democratic candidate would likely continue Biden’s legacy of staunch military support for Ukraine. But frustration with the Biden administration has grown in Ukraine and Europe over the slow pace of US aid and restrictions on the use of Western weapons.
“Most Europeans realize that Ukraine is increasingly going to be their burden,” said Sudha David-Wilp, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund, a research institute. “Everyone is trying to get ready for all the possible outcomes.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on X that he respected the “tough but strong decision” by Biden to drop out of the campaign, and he thanked Biden for his help “in preventing (Russian President Vladimir) Putin from occupying our country.”
Trump has promised to end Russia's war on Ukraine in one day if he is elected — a prospect that has raised fears in Ukraine that Russia might be allowed to keep the territory it occupies.
Trump's vice presidential pick, Ohio Sen. JD Vance, is among Congress’ most vocal opponents of US aid for Ukraine and has further raised the stakes for Kyiv.
Russia, meanwhile, dismissed the importance of the race, insisting that no matter what happened, Moscow would press on in Ukraine.
“We need to pay attention,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by a pro-Russian tabloid. “We need to watch what will happen and do our own thing."
CHINA In recent months, both Biden and Trump have tried to show voters who can best stand up to Beijing’s growing military strength and belligerence and protect US businesses and workers from low-priced Chinese imports. Biden has hiked tariffs on electric vehicles from China, and Trump has promised to implement tariffs of 60% on all Chinese products.
Trump’s “America First” doctrine exacerbated tensions with Beijing. But disputes with the geopolitical rival and economic colossus over wars, trade, technology and security continued into Biden's term.
China's official reaction to the US presidential race has been careful. The official Xinhua news agency treated the story of Biden’s decision as relatively minor. The editor of the party-run Global Times newspaper, Hu Xijin, downplayed the impact of Biden's withdrawal.
“Whoever becomes the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party may be the same," he wrote on X. “Voters are divided into two groups, Trump voters and Trump haters.”
IRAN With Iran's proxies across the Middle East increasingly entangled in the Israel-Hamas war, the US confronts a region in disarray.
Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis struck Tel Aviv for the first time last week, prompting retaliatory Israeli strikes inside war-torn Yemen. Simmering tensions and cross-border attacks between Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group and the Israeli military have raised fears of an all-out regional conflagration.
Hamas, which also receives support from Iran, continues to fight Israel even nine months into a war that has killed 38,000 Palestinians and displaced over 80% of Gaza's population.
The US and its allies have accused Iran of expanding its nuclear program and enriching uranium to an unprecedented 60% level, near-weapons-grade levels.
After then-President Trump in 2018 withdrew from Tehran’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers, Biden said he wanted to reverse his predecessor's hawkish anti-Iran stance. But the Biden administration has maintained severe economic sanctions against Iran and overseen failed attempts to renegotiate the agreement.
The sudden death of Ebrahim Raisi — the supreme leader's hard-line protege — in a helicopter crash vaulted a new reformist to the presidency in Iran, generating new opportunities and risks. Masoud Pezeshkian has said he wants to help Iran open up to the world but has maintained a defiant tone against the US.
EUROPE AND NATO Many Europeans were happy to see Trump go after his years of disparaging the European Union and undermining NATO. Trump's seemingly dismissive attitude toward European allies in last month's presidential debate did nothing to assuage those concerns.
Biden, on the other hand, has supported close American relations with bloc leaders.
That closeness was on stark display after Biden's decision to bow out of the race. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called his choice “probably the most difficult one in your life.” The newly installed British prime minister, Keir Starmer, said he respected Biden’s “decision based on what he believes is in the best interests of the American people.”
There was also an outpouring of affection from Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris, who called Biden a “proud American with an Irish soul."
The question of whether NATO can maintain its momentum in supporting Ukraine and checking the ambitions of other authoritarian states hangs in the balance of this presidential election, analysts say.
“They don't want to see Donald Trump as president. So there's quite a bit of relief but also quite a bit of nervousness" about Biden's decision to drop out, said Jeremy Shapiro, research director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Like many in the United States, but perhaps more so, they are really quite confused.”
MEXICO The close relationship between Mexico and the US has been marked in recent years by disagreements over trade, energy and climate change. Since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took power in 2018, both countries have found common ground on the issue of migration – with Mexico making it more difficult for migrants to cross its country to the US border and the US not pressing on other issues.
The López Obrador administration kept that policy while Trump was president and continued it into Biden's term.
On Friday, Mexico’s president called Trump “a friend” and said he would write to him to warn him against pledging to close the border or blaming migrants for bringing drugs into the United States.
“I am going to prove to him that migrants don’t carry drugs to the United States,” he said, adding that “closing the border won’t solve anything, and anyway, it can’t be done.”