Unlike the West Bank, where Israel works directly with the Palestinian Authority, Israel has no direct ties to Hamas, who rules the Gaza Strip. Yet, the pandemic has forced the two sworn enemies to coordinate efforts to prevent a serious outbreak which would not only devastate the poverty-stricken citizens of Gaza, but would also endanger Israeli citizens living just across the border.
Though they fight a common enemy (C-19), usual tensions remain. Rocket fire into Israel last weekend resulted in retaliatory strikes by the IDF, who must ensure Hamas does not exploit the humanitarian situation to gain a military edge.
Each has much at stake. A severe outbreak could threaten the rule of Hamas in Gaza, who could in turn further threaten Israel. Because the international community seems to hold Israel responsible for the fate of Gaza citizens, that could turn into a public relations nightmare on a global scale.
Meanwhile, Israelis see potential leverage in the COVID-19 situation to pressure Gaza to release civilian captives and the remains of two IDF soldiers believed to have been killed in Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Returning captives and providing assistance in the midst of C-19 are both humanitarian issues legitimately up for discussion.
Despite no working relationship with Hamas, Israel has, throughout the years, used third-party means to bless the people of Gaza. For example, in normal times, Israel ships untold truckloads of humanitarian supplies, as well as building materials, to Gaza. Though some deliveries of non-essentials have stopped in order to abide by shelter-in-place orders in Israel, the Jewish state continues to truck in essential humanitarian aid to Gaza. They have also helped factories in Gaza to manufacture protective gear, helping to meet the local need while providing a means of international commerce, helping to keep Gaza’s economy afloat.
Col Iyad Sarhan, the Israeli Commander of the Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, said:
“Those who still rule in the Gaza Strip are terrorist organizations which do not love Israel. Where we can make it easier with regard to civilian issues without creating a security risk, we have approved requests. We are making it easier where we can. We have done this in the past, and we are doing it now. There are things that for years we have not allowed to enter, but which have now been authorized to go in. This includes certain raw materials, medical equipment and products for the fishing industry. But it is impossible to forget the security situation.”
Indeed, things in that part of the world are very complicated.