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Gaza: Breaking out
As ordinary Palestinians force their way into Egypt from besieged Gaza, the Israeli-instigated humanitarian and political crisis is carried with them
Qualified as a "war crime" by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and illegal "collective punishment" by the European Union and international agencies, the humanitarian and political crisis created by Israel's five-day hermetic seal on Gaza is taking a toll not only on the 1.5 million inhabitants of the impoverished coastal strip. Damaged "beyond repair", according to several Palestinians speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly from Rafah, is the image of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is being widely blamed for "turning a blind eye to the misery of his own people in Gaza" while continuing to engage in talks with Israel on peace.
Speaking to the Weekly in Gaza earlier this week, Selim Hazzaa lashed out at Abbas for keeping channels of communication open with Israel while his nine-year-old daughter Yasmine cannot enter Egypt for cancer treatment because of the Israeli blockade. "What will Abbas tell me and my wife when Yasmine dies as he courts the embrace of [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert, the man who passed a death sentence on my daughter by denying her treatment?"
In Damascus Wednesday, a wide assembly of Palestinian political factions called on Abbas to end the "ridiculous" negotiations he has insisted must continue with the Israelis. The impressive gathering, including popular Palestinian resistance leaders Khaled Meshaal of Hamas and Ramadan Shallah of Islamic Jihad, sent a clear message of alarm to Abbas. "I want to ask our brothers in Ramallah [Abbas's headquarters], what exactly are you waiting for?" said Shallah. According to Meshaal, while the Palestinian Authority (PA) is talking to the Israelis, Palestinians in Gaza, which he qualified as "the biggest prison in history", are "being massacred".
Even supporters of Abbas say they are uncomfortable. Palestinian writer Hani Al-Masri says the president needs to halt negotiations immediately. "It doesn't make sense for negotiations to continue while Israel is changing facts on the ground and undermining the chances for a just and acceptable solution," he told the Weekly.