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In Gaza, Young Palestinians Want Their Revolution

Disillusioned Palestinians have three targets: Hamas, Fatah, Israel.

Gaza City (Gloucester)
Gaza City (Gloucester)
Francesca Paci

RAFAH - "How do I see the revolution in Cairo? Like this: a blocked road," says Youssuf, 50, pointing to the barrier behind some stalled construction projects that separates the Palestinian city of Rafah and Egypt proper.

Since January 25, the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has been sealed. The only way to cross is through the underground tunnels that were built in 2007, in violation of an international embargo that followed the takeover of Gaza by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Through this route, many Hamas militants -- who escaped Egypt's prisons when the revolution began three weeks ago -- have been able to return home to Gaza. The corpse of Youssuf's cousin, Ali Yousni, came back to Gaza this way, too. He died of a heart attack last week, while he was in El Arish on business.

The voices from Cairo's Tahir Square that arrive in Gaza are strong, but there's a price. The current instability has made it more difficult to travel through the Sinai. For this reason, the value of smuggled goods is on the rise. "I have to pay 300 (Israeli) shekels (around $80) extra for every cargo, because I have to hire an armed escort," says Abu Khalis, who owns one of the illegal tunnels.

The price of gas has doubled and the cost of cement has risen from 430 to 900 shekels per ton. At first sight, life in Gaza has not changed. There are the same disappointments and daily problems.

For the first time, Palestinians are spectators of an ‘intifada," or uprising, rather than participants. But the number of police cars at the corners of the dirt roads tells another story. Everyone is waiting to see what will happen -- if a wider Arab revolution will be sparked – as is happening with the Facebook group Karama. From the name, it is impossible to understand who the real organizers are, though many think they are linked to the Palestinian political party Fatah.

"I am not going, because if people will rally in the streets, the security will shoot to kill," says Asmaa Alghoul, a 29-year old journalist. She wears a 1970s-style leather jacket, has purple varnish on her nails, and black eyeliner. She does not seem scared at all. Over the past five years, Alghoul has argued openly with Hamas and, regularly denouncing "Islam that kills freedom, while faking a struggle against Israel's occupation." In 2009, she was fired by a Ramallah newspaper, al Ayyam, because she denounced abuses and torture perpetrated by Fatah in the West Bank.

Now that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions are giving wings to millions of young Arabs' dreams, her blog has became a key target for Hamas, and she has been arrested along with her brother and father.

Alghoul stretches over the balcony and points to a dark car on the street, which she says has been following her for days. "They hit me, they threatened me with death. They say I am an enemy of the government, and that I have organized the rally for the revolution. But it is not true. I am not going to the rally because I am not affiliated with any party. When the revolution will start, it will be a popular revolution."

Alghoul is not alone. Since Hamas took power in Gaza five years ago, its popularity has greatly diminished. The mothers at the market, the fishermen fathers who sit on boats that do not sail, Mahamoud -- who has a client every hour and a half in his hardware shop -- all say the same thing. "We did not gain anything moving from Fatah to Hamas," they say.

Still, the older generation does not want to expose themselves to risks. Their children, however, are ready. In the last two months, before the beginning of the Tunisian revolution, eight university students, between 20 and 25, launched Facebook the "Gaza Young People Manifesto" on Facebook. In short, it says, "F-you, Hamas. F-you, Israel. F-you, Fatah. F-you, UN. F-you, USA."

They refuse to be victims, and also demand that Hamas and Fatah reconcile their differences for the sake of the Palestinian people. "Change starts from facing up to each one's responsibility," they say. At the beginning, Wael Ghonim – the blogger and Google employee who has became a symbol of the Egyptian revolution – was with them. Now they have almost 20,000 supporters. To meet them in a cafe in Arimal, Gaza City, it is necessary to have a mediator and to agree to not mention their real names, along with any details that could make them identifiable to the authorities.

I cannot mention their studies, or where they live. Three of them arrive. They wear jeans, sweaters, and sneakers. They could be students in London, Paris, or New York. They listen to the Beatles and Fairouz, the Lebanese singer. They know by heart quotes from The Godfather. We agree to use pseudonyms: "Everything has started as a game. Among friends, we were wondering what we wanted to be when we grew up. It started out as a game about the fact we could do nothing. We could not take advantage of our studies, get married without a job, nor run away," says Abu Yaz. "So, we wrote the Manifesto, but just because we were among friends. We grew up knowing that you cannot trust anyone," adds Abu Oun.

A policeman enters in the cafe to buy some sweets. The guys change topic. They speak about football, Inter, Milan, and Real Madrid. Then they start again when the officer leaves. "We do not want to sit by anymore. Our struggle is different from the Tunisian and Egyptian ones. We have three enemies: Hamas and Fatah – each of which fights against the other and have bled our cause to death – and Israel," they say.

Their network is growing. Since Alghoul began her blog, almost 20 other bloggers have spoken up. Among them is Afun, just a boy. By word-of-mouth, the Manifesto has been quietly spread.

The Hamas security has shut down the young people's center Sharik. "Like other young people our age in the other Middle East countries, we do not want to be exploited," says a veiled girl, while she drinks a tea on the terrace of the Hotel Beach. Religion is important, she says, but not in politics. "Until now, we were useful for everyone. For Iran that pays Hamas, for the US that pays Israel and Fatah. We want to chase away government leaders who do not represent us," she says.

"Degage," (Go away) people shouted in the streets of Tunis. "Mubarak out," the cheer echoed in Cairo. And, as the children here begin to voice the long-held frustrations of their parents, Gaza is starting to grumble.

Read the original article in Italian

photo - (Gloucester)

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Photograph of Police and emergency services working at the site of a shooting in Jerusalem that saw two gunmen kill three people at a bus station in the Israeli capital.

Police and emergency services are working at the site of a shooting in Jerusalem that saw two gunmen kill three people at a bus station in the Israeli capital.

Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 ନମସ୍କାର*

Welcome to Thursday, where Hamas claims responsibility for a shooting that killed three people in Jerusalem just hours after Israel extended a ceasefire in Gaza, Henry Kissinger dies at age 100, and Singapore gets some company at the top of the world’s most expensive cities. Meanwhile, Turin-based daily La Stampa’s correspondent at the Israel-Gaza border describes conditions amid the fragile ceasefire.

[*Namaskār - Odia, India]

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