Israel and its Egyptian ally are continuing to hamper the entry of desperately needed humanitarian goods into the Gaza Strip after Israel’s assault on the Palestinians there.
Israel blocked education materials from the United Nations (UN) and water purification equipment donated by the French government from reaching the Palestinian people last week.
Despite French pleas the vital equipment never made it across the border. To add to the insult, Israeli troops then fired on a French diplomatic convoy returning from Gaza.
The continuing siege and border closures are intensifying shortages of food and water.
In its latest report, the UN warns that, “Gaza’s 1.5 million people are facing a food crisis as a result of the destruction of great areas of farmland during the Israeli invasion.”
Egypt and the West are now demanding that the democratically-elected Hamas government accepts the authority of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.
Abbas, who is seen by many as complicit in the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, is being promoted as the acceptable face of Palestine.
Yet his Palestinian Authority, which is wracked by corruption and nepotism, has little credibility among ordinary people.
During the Israeli offensive Abbas used his security forces to crush all solidarity demonstrations in Palestinian areas under his control. He even attempted to blame Hamas’s resistance to Israeli aggression for the conflict.
Talks in Egypt, and plans to hold a reconstruction summit, have the purpose of cutting Hamas out of any future plans for Gaza.
This is despite Hamas reiterating its offer for a more permanent truce if Israel and Egypt lift the siege and open the borders.
Israel hoped that its three week offensive would dislodge Hamas and other resistance organisations and destroy their credibility among Palestinians.
Despite Israel’s boast of its “military prowess”, the assault failed in its objectives. The fallout from the war has left Israel isolated internationally.
This has been shown by the cooling of relations between Israel and Turkey, a country once considered a close friend and ally.
The Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed off a platform at the Davos summit in Switzerland last week after receiving a “lecture” from Israeli president Shimon Peres.
Erdogan flew home to a hero’s welcome, and despite attacks on him by the pro-Western media, 94 percent of Turks approved of his move. Palestinians hailed the Turkish leader and held up pictures of him.
The Israeli government is bitterly divided over the outcome of the war, and it faces defeat in general elections on 10 February.
Opinion polls widely predict that the far right Likud party of Benjamin Netayahu will win.
Netayahu is in favour of speeding up illegal settlement building in the occupied West Bank, and has vowed to ignore any previous promises to dismantle some of them.
Meanwhile, a Spanish court has said that it will investigate an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas leader in 2002 that killed 14 people.
Israeli authorities now fear that a number of war crimes cases will emerge out of its latest attacks, and are attempting to keep the names of military commanders involved in the assault secret.
More evidence is emerging of Israel’s use of banned weapons.
Amnesty International reports that Israel fired “flechette rounds” into populated areas. When these shells explode in the air between 5,000 to 8,000 metal darts are scattered over an area of about 300 metres.
The human rights group has also turned up new evidence over the use of deadly white phosphorus shells in Gaza. The shells were made in the US and supplied to Israel in 2007.
White phosphorus ignites when exposed to oxygen and, as it cannot be extinguished, it burns through the flesh of its victims.
The US military used white phosphorus in its assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004. Israel has used it repeatedly against Palestinians.
Firing shells into built up areas was banned by a 1980 convention, but neither the US nor Israel have ratified the treaty.