In War's Looming Shadow, Gazans Hope Peace Will Hold
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
What do these tense times mean for Palestinians, for the alliance of the two rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas, and for the prospects of peace or an intensified conflict? We're going to ask Mkhaimer Abu Sada who is a Palestinian political scientist at Al-Azhar University in Gaza. Professor Abu Sada, welcome to the program.
MKHAIMER ABU SADA: My pleasure to be with you.
SIEGEL: Gaza is controlled by Hamas. The Israelis hold Hamas accountable for the abduction and murders of the three teenagers as well as for rocket attacks which have led to Israeli airstrikes. Are Palestinians in Gaza now fearful of a new war?
ABU SADA: Definitely. As a result of the kidnapping and the killing of the three Israeli settlers we have been subjected to aerial Israeli bombing for the past two weeks, and to be honest with you, we are very exhausted. We don't want another war on Gaza. So we hope that someone will intervene and basically stop Israel from announcing a new war against the Palestinians in Gaza.
SIEGEL: I want to ask you about what you understand to be the attitude of Hamas toward these recent events. The Israelis say Hamas was behind the kidnappings. There are reports that one Palestinian clan based near Hebron on the West Bank, the Qawasmeh clan, were the ones who did it and that while they're linked to Hamas, they are notoriously independent of the leadership. What is Hamas's view of this? Is it an action they approved of - that they sympathize with? How would you describe it?
ABU SADA: Well, Khaled Mashal, the top Hamas leader, contacted the Turkish government and gave them assurances that Hamas has nothing to do with the kidnapping and the killing of the three Israeli settlers, and he asked the Turks to deliver this message to the Israeli government. But basically, there are some security sources speaking of the disappearance of Marwan Qawasmeh, who belonged to a Qawasmeh tribe in the Hebron area in West Bank, and that might be an indication that Marwan Qawasmeh is responsible for the kidnapping and, later, the killing of the three Israeli settlers. Now, al-Qawasmeh family is supposedly - many of its members belong to Hamas. But at the end of the day, it will not be justified to basically collectively make this family and this clan responsible for the kidnapping and the killing of the Israeli settlers.
SIEGEL: You mentioned. when I asked you about fears of war, that Palestinians in Gaza hope that somebody might do some thing to prevent that. Who's the most likely somebody? Who is the party that might actually defuse the situation in some way?
ABU SADA: Well, considering the (unintelligible) and geographical relationship between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, we expect Egypt to take a leading role. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry stated, yesterday, that they have been working to convince Israel not to launch another offensive against Gaza. Now, whether they'll succeed or not, it will be seen. But other countries like Turkey and Qatar might also try to play this role to basically restrain Israel from further measures against the Gaza Strip.
SIEGEL: How do all of these circumstances reflect themselves in the mood of people in Gaza - the people whom you see everyday?
ABU SADA: The Palestinians in Gaza have been subjected to a severe Israeli siege for almost seven years now, and levels of poverty and employment are very high among the Palestinians. And basically a month after the unity government has been in place, nothing has changed. something. And we hope that Israel will stop its bombing and stop its measures against the Gaza Strip to basically leave room for future quietness and ceasefire between Gaza and Israel.
SIEGEL: Of course, you know what the Israelis say - whatever Palestinian government Hamas is a part of, they'll have nothing to do with.
ABU SADA: Well, I'm aware of the fact that Israel has decided not to deal with the Palestinian unity government. But let me assure you that the unity government is made of Palestinian professionals who do not belong to Hamas, and as a result of that, the U.S. administration has decided to basically work with this Palestinian unity government, and the European Union. It's just only Israel who has decided not to deal with it at all.
SIEGEL: Professor Abu Sada, thank you very much for talking with us today.
ABU SADA: Thank you very much for calling. It's my pleasure to be with you all the time.
SIEGEL: That's political scientist Mkhaimer Abu Sada, who teaches at Al-Azhar University in Gaza.
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