Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gaza: "Our isolation is complete, confining us in a ghetto (worse than the Jewish ghettos of Warsaw)..."

"Hamas asks US to free Gaza 'ghetto' "

by Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent


December 11, 2007

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THE Hamas rulers of Gaza have implored the US to bring an end to the crippling boycott of the Gaza Strip, which they have likened to the World War II siege of Warsaw's Jewish Ghetto.

In the militant group's first public appeal to the US since it won democratic elections in the Palestinian Territories in January last year Hamas said yesterday it did not have "any ideological arguments with the West".

Hamas spokesman, Ahmed Yousef, said the group had tried unsuccessfully many times to directly contact US and European Union officials. Israeli Government sources also claim that deposed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya attempted to contact officials in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office in the weeks following his poll win.

However, in an open letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice released yesterday, Hamas made public its bid for dialogue, underscoring the increasingly desperate predicament of the leadership and of Gaza's 1.4 million residents.

Mr Yousef, who has recently urged Hamas to seek a dialogue with arch-enemy Israel, accused the US of hypocrisy for urging the Palestinian Authority to hold democratic elections for the first time in 10 years, then refusing to accept the result.

At the time of the poll result, the US expressed surprise that the Fatah party of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had been defeated after almost four decades of often ineffective rule.

After its emphatic electoral win, Hamas embarked on a law-and-order program, vowing to end corruption and turn the attention of the administration towards domestic affairs. But the US, the UN, the EU and Russia then launched a boycott of the new government that has intensified ever since.

In the letter to Dr Rice, Mr Yousef said: "It is hard to get across the appalling level of (hardship) that the Palestinian people, and in particular the 1.3million Palestinians who live in Gaza, currently suffer from.

"Our isolation is complete, confining us in a ghetto (worse than the Jewish ghettos of Warsaw) where our sewage, power and water systems have been destroyed, all normal supplies constrained and even humanitarian aid withheld. Many people have not been paid for nearly two years, over 75 per cent are unemployed and now the Israelis are threatening to cut off fuel and power and invade us once again..."