Fawzi Barhoum on Shajaiyah, resistance and ceasefire

by Julie Webb-Pullman

The scene in many Shajaiyah homes today- entire families wiped out

The scene in many Shajaiyah homes today- entire families wiped out

Gaza is today reeling from the brutal massacre of scores of people in the Shajaiyah neighbourhood east of Gaza City. Israeli tanks relentlessly shelled the area overnight, cutting off electricity and water supplies. Families huddled together, unable to flee because of the danger.

As day broke 40,000 people fled, carrying whatever they could. Bodies began arriving at Shifa Hospital from dawn – some 70 bodies were brought in but scores more dead and wounded still lay in the streets.
The Israel military shelled Red Crescent ambulances as they attempted to retrieve the dead and injured.

Several hours later a two-hour cease-fire was announced to enable the injured and dead to be evacuated from the area. It was not observed – a Gazan man trying to locate his family, accompanied by municipal workers and human rights defenders, was shot dead in front of their eyes during the so-called ceasefire.

“They shot him, and then continued to fire as he was on the ground. We had no choice but to retreat. We couldn’t reach him due to the artillery fire, and then he stopped moving,” said Joe Catron, a U.S. International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist in Gaza.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum today condemned the massacre.

“This is a war crime, why is there such a deafening silence from the world, from Egypt, from Mr Abbas, from the Arab countries? This encourages the occupation to continue such massacres,” he said in Gaza City.

“The occupation leaders historically have total impunity, they have never been punished for their crimes in the international court. This encouraged and enabled the occupation to kill the children and civilians today in Shajaiya.”

He added that there is no option for Palestinians but to continue their resistance until the killing stops and they are respected as human beings.

Rejecting any ceasefire agreement that does not meet the resistance conditions, Barhoum said the Palestinian resistance in Gaza refused the Egyptian initiative because it called only for stopping resistance actions, but delayed any negotiations until after the ceasefire.

“In 2009 and 2012 the occupation breached all of the terms of the truce agreements and there is no assurance in the Egyptian proposal that would make the peace conditions stick,” he said. “Yesterday Hamas produced new conditions that clearly serve Palestinian interests, for Qatar and Turkey and the Arab league and Abu Mazen to put into the ceasefire agreement.”

Emphasising that the conditions are resistance conditions agreed on by all factions, not just those of Hamas, he said they will serve the interests of the resistance and the Palestinian people, not just those of the occupation.

Despite the heavy toll on civilians, or because of it, the mood in the Gazan street is overwhelmingly pro-resistance. Saying that the choice is between a slow death by the siege or a quick death from Israeli attacks, the people are determined that they will not give up now unless the siege is lifted.

International journalists seeking interviews with people who want a ceasefire have been left with no story, such as a French agency today.

As Fawzi Barhoum says, if you took a poll in Gaza now you would find that all Palestinians support the resistance.

“When the occupation failed to overcome the Al Qassam Brigades and the other resistance organisations in Gaza, and after they failed to enter Gaza with their land invasion, they began the mass killing of Palestinian civilians, and destruction of their houses,” Barhoum said. “This has always been the mentality of the occupation – when they fail to defeat the resistance they commit a massacre against the civilians, and because of this the civilians now all support Hamas, they all support the resistance.”

Calling on their full right under international law to fight the illegal occupation, Barhoum said they will continue to resist, firstly because they are Palestinians under occupation and have the right to, but secondly because the occupation has forced them to resist by waging a war in Gaza.

“We must continue our resistance in order to defend the civilians, to defend the children and the people here in Gaza and to put an end to our tragedy, to impose a deal on the occupation to respect us as human beings. Our conditions now are to stop the war, and to put an end to the injustice of the siege in Gaza that we have been suffering for eight years,” he said.

Many Gazans are also completely disillusioned with the temporary unity government, and even more with President Abbas (Abu Mazen) who they feel have abandoned Palestinian interests to collaborate with the Israeli occupation, and whose silence on the brutal assaults on Gaza invoke both anger and derision.

The unity government’s Minister of Health was chased from Gaza last week by angry crowds of health workers when he failed to deliver anything more than a few bags of blood and some packets of pills – but no salaries for workers who have not only worked for several months without pay, but are now working without break to provide care for the thousands injured in the Israeli attacks.

“Why until now have Abu Mazen and [Palestinian Prime Minister] Dr Rami Hamdallah stayed silent? Why do they only support the Israeli occupation’s interests, with no support for our interests to live as human beings? Until now they have provided nothing, no medical teams, no medical aid. They are Palestinian, we are Palestinians, we cannot understand how they can behave in this way after the reconciliation,” they complained.

Barhoum’s take on it is that the government’s silence encourages the occupation to commit massacres such as today’s in Shajaiya – and that there is a reason for this.

“The occupation has targeted Hamas because until now Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian resistance have consistently supported Palestinian rights and interests, while Abu Mazen has been negotiating with the occupation. The occupation has focused on Hamas and Islamic Jihad to get rid of them, to leave the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen and Rami Hamdallah, to spread their wings in Palestine, and it depends on security collaboration with them to cut down Hamas.”

In his view, the Israeli occupation is doing the dirty work, beating the Gaza population into submission and getting rid of Hamas, so Abu Mazen can regain control over Gaza and run it with his Israeli-friendly security apparatuses.

“Now the world is cracking down on Hamas and cracking down on Gaza, and the occupation now uses massive destruction to kill civilians to force Hamas to accept any deal imposed on it by the occupation, that favours the occupation while giving no support to Palestinian interests. The situation may continue, these massacres will continue, if the world and Abu Mazen keep silent, and the Egyptians do the same,” he said.

“Abu Mazen has been playing at being a mediator, but he should be a partner with the Palestinian people against the occupation. If he fails to support Gaza and stays with the occupation it will encourage the occupation to destroy Gaza with more of these massacres.”

Barhoum said the resistance will continue to defend Palestinians’ right to live in dignity and peace.

“Gaza can refuse to recognise this fight, and the Palestinian resistance can refuse to recognise the security co-operation with the occupation, and refuse to acknowledge Israel in our land,” he said.

“All of the people now support the resistance because there is no other option that will fight and defend them and protect them from the occupation. So the occupation is now punishing the civilians for supporting the resistance.”

Despite the very cruel punishment being meted out to them for that support, the Gazan population remains steadfast. As increasing numbers have said over the past two weeks, they no longer have anything to lose.

“There is nowhere else for the Palestinians in Gaza to go now except to the resistance in all its shapes and forms. We must force the occupation to stop this mass killing, and respect the Palestinians rights and interests here in Gaza,” concluded Barhoum.

All that remains is for the world – and Abu Mazen – to break their silence and broker a legitimate and enforceable agreement in accordance with the resistance conditions – conditions that an Israeli commentator today described as both understandable and just.

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