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Trump's peace envoy: Palestinian Authority must control the Gaza Strip

Aug. 31, 2017 10:27 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 2, 2017 3:42 P.M.)
(File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoy said on Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority (PA) must resume its control over the government in the besieged Gaza Strip during a tour of the Gaza-Israel border.

Jason Greenblatt voiced vehement opposition to Hamas’ rule in the small Palestinian territory, and his support of the PA to take back control of the besieged enclave.

"It is clear that the Palestinian Authority needs to resume its role in the administration of Gaza, as Hamas has substantially harmed the people of Gaza and has failed to meet their most basic needs," Greenblatt said following the tour, which also included Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai.

Greenblatt said he had “learned a great deal” from the border tour, particularly concerning the “challenges” facing the Israeli army, Israeli civilians living near the border, and Palestinians living in Gaza, which he then singularly attributed to “Hamas’ mismanagement of humanitarian aid and its commitment to terrorist violence."

Hamas and the Fatah-ruled PA have been embroiled in a more than a decade-long conflict since 2006, when Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections and a bloody conflict between the two groups broke out.

Hamas, the de facto leaders in Gaza, is often criticized by the international community and among Palestinians themselves, most notably owing to the group’s attempted rocket attacks on Israel, which rarely result in casualties, and what is seen as their mismanagement of the government in Gaza.

However, Palestinian frustrations have also continued to mount against the PA, as the semi-governmental body in the occupied West Bank has passed devastating policies in recent months aiming to plunge the Gaza Strip deeper into a humanitarian crisis in an attempt to force Hamas to relinquish their authority.

These policies have included halting medical referrals so patients can receive treatment abroad while simultaneously cutting funding to the local medical sector, cutting salaries to its Gaza-based employees, discontinuing payments to former prisoners of Israel, and dramatically reducing funding for Israeli fuel.

Greenblatt’s trip to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel is part of Trump’s attempts at relaunching peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders that have remained stagnant for decades.

However, leaders and analysts have expressed doubt that Trump’s initiatives will lead to a peace plan, as Trump himself has remained elusive concerning his stance on the conflict, while a number of high-profile US officials, including Trump’s son-in-law and Chief Adviser Jared Kushner, are known to be staunch supporters of Israel.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also visited the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. The UN head demanded that Israel’s decade-long blockade on the territory be lifted, describing life in the besieged coastal enclave as "one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises" he had seen.

In 2012, the UN warned that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current trends were not altered. However, a new report released last month by the UN said that “life for the average Palestinian in Gaza is getting more and more wretched,” and that for the majority of Gaza's residents, the territory may already be unlivable.
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