Gaza's impossible question

An endless cycle of mourning, rebuilding and wondering when the violence will end carries on

The Gaza strip during fighting last week that killed at least 44 people. AP
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On Monday, Gazan hip-hop artist MC Abdul released a new track titled What is it Worth?. It came out the same day that Israel and Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad (PIJ) agreed a ceasefire to end a four-day spate of violence that killed at least 44 Palestinians, 15 of them children.

MC Abdul is only 13, but the political themes in his music are anything but adolescent – hardly surprising for someone who has grown up in one of the most dangerous areas on the planet.

His lyrics are desperate, too: "What is it worth? Living my life under siege, I pray for the day I am free."

While he and his compatriots are still not free, Saturday's ceasefire is an important step in protecting lives. But it is far from stable. Tor Wennesland, the UN's top Middle East envoy, has warned the Security Council that Monday’s agreement is "fragile”. Both sides have said they reserve the right to respond if it is breached. Shortly after the ceasefire was announced, a Palestinian security official connected to President Mahmoud Abbas was shot dead in a refugee camp in Lebanon. A motive has not been established, but the timing is peculiar. Hours later, the Israeli military conducted a raid in Nablus, killing three.

However bleak the situation, the ceasefire has shown that international diplomacy can still help even in Palestine and Israel’s darkest moments. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi was instrumental in mediating the agreement and UN Security Council member states, including the UAE, quickly called for an urgent meeting into the violence.

Gazans are taking advantage of this tentative respite to try to pick up the pieces and get back to normal. They are used to rebuilding their lives, though they should not have to do it so often. The last significant period of violence happened only a year ago, when Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war. This time around, casualties included Gaza's only power plant, which was forced to shut down temporarily due to a lack of fuel. That led to a cut in electricity supply to just eight hours a day. It has now restarted, after Israel reopened border crossings, allowing fuel trucks to enter.

The damage to private property is also significant. MC Abdul's music video shows a number of incinerated vehicles and buildings reduced to rubble. “Our lungs are full of dust, we're struggling to breathe," he says. “We Gaza kids want to see the future, not rubble in the streets.”

These lines reveal the significant mental burden of the violence, particularly on young people. So does footage of children startled and running from missile strikes that hit a street on which they were gathered. Save the Children, a charity, reported in June that 15 years of life under blockade has left 80 per cent of children in Gaza with feelings of depression, fear and grief.

PIJ, a violent group that has destabilised and threatened both Palestine and Israel, is now greatly weakened. But without any semblance of a political solution to the decades-long occupation of Palestine on the horizon and without a two-state solution, it is certain that violence of this kind and worse will be repeated, with or without PIJ.

“What is it worth? Seeing my nation in mourning, seeing innocent lives destroyed?" Gazans will be mulling this question as they pick up the pieces. The world should, too.

Published: August 10, 2022, 3:00 AM