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Hamas faces economic stranglehold

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Atul Aneja

A collective punishment on the Palestinians: Islamic group "The world should realise that more pressure on the Palestinian people will create more tension and everyone is going to be a loser, including Israel."

DUBAI: Israel is set to target the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas with an economic stranglehold as it prepares to attend the inaugural session of Parliament, following its recent victory in elections.

The group's senior leader Ismail Haniya is likely to be appointed as Palestinian Prime Minister. However, Mr. Haniya, who is based in Gaza, is not expected to attend the inaugural session in the West Bank city of the Ramallah, as the Israelis have said they would ban Palestinian leaders from travelling between the two territories. The Palestinian Prime Minister would have five weeks to form a government.

Israeli officials have stated their intent to adopt a string of measures aimed at enforcing Gaza's economic isolation and its physical separation from the West Bank.

Israel has pulled out of the Gaza Strip last year, but it continues to occupy the Palestinian territories of West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel would bar Palestinian labourers in Gaza from leaving the area, affecting around 4,000 families who derive their incomes from work inside Israeli territory. Israeli officials said they were considering tighter economic sanctions later, including restricting Palestinian exports. The move would deeply affect Palestinians who route a sizeable amount of their foreign trade through Israeli ports. Israel is also set to halt sending monthly transfers of around $50 million in taxes and customs duties that it collects on behalf of the Palestinians. The money is essential for the payment of salaries to around 140,000 Palestinian workers employed in the government sector.

Senior Hamas leaders have reacted strongly to the Israeli move. Mushir Al Masri, a Hamas lawmaker, was quoted as saying Israel is imposing "collective punishment" on the Palestinians. "The world should realise that more pressure on the Palestinian people will create more tension and everyone is going to be a loser, including Israel."

Israel has said it would not deal with Hamas as it does not recognise the existence of the state of Israel and has refused to disarm its activists.


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