While the world's attention has been turned towards Lebanon, Israel has also been continuing its economic and military war on the Palestinians. Some 200 Palestinians have been killed in Ghazzah since Israel launched military operations there in early July, ostensibly in response to the capture of one of its soldiers, shortly before the start of the Lebanese war. At the same time, Israel has also maintained its political pressure on the Hamas government in the West Bank, harrying its members and officials and preventing its normal operation, to the extent that some Palestinian intellectuals and political figures, from all parts of the political spectrum, including Fatah and Hamas, have proposed that the Palestinian Authority be dissolved on the basis that it is no longer able to contribute anything useful to the Palestinian struggle.
In Ghazzah, the situation is so bad that Riyad Awad, director of the Health Information Centre in Ghazzah City, said last month that "not a day passes without the Israeli army killing an average of five or six Palestinians, mostly children and women and other innocent civilians. Israel feels the world is giving it a mandate to kill and maim at will." Air attacks by fighter jets and helicopter gunships on residential areas have become a nightly routine, while the economic blockade remains in place.
At the same time, there is a growing fear of an all-out attack on Ghazzah similar to the one suffered by Lebanon, either to punish the Palestinians for supporting the Hizbullah during the Lebanon war (posters of Shaikh Nasrallah and posters showing the Palestinian and Hamas flags together are now commonplace throughout the Palestinian region), or simply to reassert Israel's military power after the humiliation they suffered at Hizbullah's hands. Some Palestinians even suggest that such a war would be good for the Palestinians, as it would be impossible for the international community to ignore it, the way that it is now ignoring the slow strangulation of Ghazzah. Others say that the current situation is so bad that any further escalation would be unbearable.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, talks opened last week between Hamas and Fatah, the two largest political factions, aimed at possibly creating a "national unity governmnt" in order to break the deadlock and factionalism that have dominated Palestinian politics since Fatah refusd to work with the Hamas government following Hamas's victory in January's elections. The talks are regarded by some as a last resort before the Palestinian Authority is rendered absolutely ineffective and its dismantling is the only option. With Israel and the West continuing to withold millions of dollars of funds due to the Palestinians every month, imposing economic hardship on all Palestinians, and with almost half of all Hamas MPs and ministers in Israeli custody, the Hamas government remains defiant but barely able to function.
The crises in Ghazzah and the West Bank have been deliberately created to impose unbearable suffering on the Palestinians to punish them for their refusal to accept Israeli rule; in particular for forcing the Israelis out of Ghazzah last year and electing Hamas to represent them this year. Without any meaningful outside assistance, the Palestinians may be on the verge of an unprecedented crisis that may radically change the Palestinian situation. Israel knows, however, that whatever happens, they can never win; the Palestinians will never surrender.