Thursday, July 19, 2018

US votes to sanction Hamas, ignoring the humanitarian crisis in Gaza


By Martin Leeper - February 21, 2018
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Last week, in the wake of unilateral executive action by President Trump, the US House of Representatives (H.R.) unanimously passed the Hamas Humans Shields Prevention Act. 

 
This act will move on to the US Senate where it will likely pass with similarly unanimous numbers, at which point, Donald Trump will sign it into law. Sanctioning a “terrorist group” seems an easy choice for an American politician.
 
The act condemns Hamas’ use of what congress has called, human shields. Referring to Hamas’ practice of storing weapons in Gaza schools and launching rockets from city centers, knowingly putting civilians and children in harms way.
 
The act calls for the US President to prohibit property transactions and U.S. entry with respect to both, individual members of Hamas or foreign entities - organizations or states - supporting Hamas.
 
It also requires the US permanent representative to the UN to use American influence to “secure support for a resolution imposing multilateral sanctions against Hamas.
 
In a press release, Hamas rejects the bill in “the strongest possible terms.” However, the ultimate effect on Hamas is yet to be seen.
 
At a time when most news about Gaza is filled with foreboding signs of a humanitarian crisis, the US H.R. does not address the citizens of Gaza in any way.
 
 
Neil Sammonds is the Director of Advocacy and Campaigns for Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP), an organization that provides medical assistance on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank.
 
According to Sammonds, Gaza is facing an “imminent healthcare collapse.”
 
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 40% of all essential drugs were entirely depleted in January. There is also less than one month’s supply left of disposable syringes and wound dressings.
 
Funding, electricity and fuel shortages are already forcing some health facilities to close, forcing “people to turn more to the UNRWA services,” Sammonds told Palestine Monitor.
 
The UNRWA medical services which are “chronically underfunded anyway… are actually seeing more demand [right now].” That is on top of the recent “Trump cuts,” Sammonds said.
 
Tensions in the Gaza Strip, are particularly high right now. According to the UN Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov, the Gaza’s economy is nearing “total systems failure… [the] full collapse of the economy and social services.
 
Three days after the US H.R. passed the Human Shield Act an explosion injured four Israeli soldiers. No group has taken responsibility for this action, however, Israel has blamed Hamas, and carried out airstrikes over three days, killing two 17 year old Palestinian boys, and hitting agricultural lands east of Rafah City.
 
The recent closing of medical facilities, energy shortages, airstrikes and Trump’s UNRWA cuts lead experts and Gazans alike to predict imminent mass action. Some see war coming, others call for peaceful resistance, but what is clear is the current situation in Gaza is unsustainable.
 
The Human Shield Act is ultimately another example of the US government putting pressure on a region with nothing left to give. It is a dangerous position for everyone, because, according to Gunness, what’s at stake “is nothing short than the stability of the Middle East.”

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