Everyone waits in anticipation
Shireen al-Akkah

GAZA CITY — As negotiations continue to prevent the collapse of reconciliation talks between internal rivals Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, the lives of those living under siege in Gaza play out in very different ways. Israel's blockade coupled with the sanctions the Palestinian Authority has imposed to extract political compliance from Hamas have left many Gazans watching politics unfold from below as they are left waiting for medical treatment, stranded with no means to resume studies, looking for ways to renew expired documents and residency permits, or working toward immigration.

A visit to the central Gaza City neighborhood of Rimal begins to paint a picture of this other reality. Financial aid applicants are taking up the better part of the most lively street in the entire strip. The poverty rate in Gaza sits at 65%, and unemployment is up to 47% from 41.7% two years ago, according to figures produced by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics cited in a July 2017 Palestinian Center for Human Rights report.

The economic conditions have also touched Gaza's healthcare system. The Health Ministry moved to shut down Beit Hanoun Hospital in the northern part of the strip in order to conserve fuel and prevent long power outages, according to the ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra. The spokesperson tells Mada Masr that the ministry cannot afford to buy additional supplies of fuel, and that patients would be referred to hospitals that have adopted rationing procedures. Other health centers have stopped performing surgeries due to medicine shortfalls.

As of early February, generators at three of Gaza's 13 hospitals and 14 of its 54 medical centers have stopped, the Health Ministry told Reuters news agency.

The conditions are related to the sanctions that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas imposed on Gaza in April 2017, which included slashing 30% from employee salaries and limiting the transfer of electricity from Israel. Hamas also claims that the Palestinian Authority has prevented patients from seeking healthcare outside of Gaza. The authority has stated that the lifting of sanctions is contingent on the full dissolution of the Gaza administrative committee, which Hamas set up in March 2017.

The administrative committee took on the task of managing the governance of Gaza's security, education, health, social development, financial development and economy in March 2017. It was formed as an alternative to the 2014 national unity government which was unable to take over due to disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority over the details of the reconciliation.

Palestinians waiting for travel permits to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border — Photo: Wissam Nassar/DPA/ZUMA

Hamas conceded to the Palestinian Authority's demands to dissolve the administrative committee in September, following mediation efforts by Egypt. The sanctions, however, remain in effect.

The referral of patients to facilities outside Gaza is not any less difficult than providing them with treatment inside the strip. On the one hand, Israel denies most Gazans passage to the West Bank or Jordan through the Erez Crossing, claiming that they pose a security threat. On the other hand, the Rafah Border Crossing – the only crossing which is not controlled by Israel, but is co-managed by Egypt and Hamas – is usually closed for long stretches of time.

Death does not seem like the most tragic fate.

Magda Ahmed, 40, is burdened twice over by the blockade: once for being a Gazan resident and again for being a cancer patient. She tells Mada Masr that she tried to cross into Egypt via the Rafah Border Crossing several times, but each time she found it closed. And when she turned to the Erez Crossing to try to cross into Jordan, Israeli authorities refused to grant her passage to the West Bank or Jordan "for being a danger to Israeli security."

"I have appealed the travel ban, through rights organizations, to be able to seek treatment abroad. But I have not been answered," Ahmed says.

Hamas had been co-managing the Beit Hanoun and Karm Abu Salem border crossings with Israel and the Rafah Border Crossing with Egypt for over 10 years, since winning the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006. In November 2017, Hamas handed the three crossings over to the Palestinian Authority as one of the conditions of reconciliation.

Security sources speaking on condition of anonymity report that this month, for the first time, Egyptian authorities granted passage to over 250 trucks carrying materials needed for industrial work. Israel has banned such materials from entering Gaza in an effort to hinder the progress of the Palestinian industrial sector.

In October 2017, the World Food Programme announced it would cut back its provision of food vouchers after the United States withheld US$65 million in funding for the United Nations Relief and Work Agency. But the fact remains that 80% of Gaza's population relies on external aid to secure the bare minimum of daily needs.

Palestinian media projections and daily references in the Israeli media frame Israel as preparing to wage war in Gaza.

This comes as Israeli land, air and naval combat units have been conducting military exercises. The headquarters of most Palestinian factions have been notably evacuated, and police and security checkpoints have been deployed throughout the Gaza strip, all in preparation for any security emergencies. The state of the military alert is evident on the streets.

Here in Gaza, death does not seem like the most tragic fate — sections of the population have been fading away on a daily basis due to the dire living conditions, not to mention the psychological distress as war has become the foremost topic of discussion among the public. Everyone waits in anticipation. Perhaps the coming days will usher in events that will change the situation drastically.

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€150

An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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