Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS on 10 March, 2024

Tug of War in Gaza: Global Players Battle for Dominance Amid Post-War Rebuilding Efforts

Public By Baruch Yedid/TPS • 10 March, 2024

Jerusalem, 10 March, 2024 (TPS) -- Gaza is at the center of a new geopolitical tug of war as humanitarian aid initiatives by the US, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Israel compete to reshape the post-war Strip.

US President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address on Thursday that he would build an offshore pier from which humanitarian aid could be shipped from Cyprus. On Sunday morning, the first American ship departed for the shores of Gaza to commence the construction of the pier, which is expected to take approximately two months. Biden stressed that no American forces would set foot in Gaza.

In the coming days, the first ship will also depart from Cyprus to assess the sailing routes between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip in preparation for the pier’s operation.

Hamas generally welcomed the initiative, but emphasized that “this plan requires further clarification.” Concerns exist among Hamas and its allies that the American initiative may serve as a cover for the continuation of the conflict and provide the Israeli Defense Forces with breathing space.

Other Hamas allies warned that the US plan may facilitate the displacement of Palestinians. A Houthi spokesperson called Biden’s initiative, an “American attempt to deceive and create an illusion of American compassion” while Washington continues arming Israeli forces.

Criticism of the initiative is also emerging within the Gaza Strip, with some Palestinians calling on Egypt to open the Rafah crossing and avoid the two-month wait for the pier’s building.

The Emirati Port

Several weeks ago, Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar daily, a Hezbollah mouthpiece, reported an initiative by the United Arab Emirates to fund the construction of a seaport and establish encampments along the Gaza coast.

A senior Fatah official told the Tazpit Press Service that Muhammad Dahlan, a rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, currently residing in the UAE, is a key figure in the establishment of the pier and that he will return to Gaza.

Dahlan, once a high-level figure within Fatah, was the Palestinian Authority’s strongman in Gaza when Hamas violently seized control of the Strip in 2007. As Dahlan regained influence within Fatah, he had a falling out with Abbas and was expelled from the party in 2011. He was later tried in absentia in Ramallah on charges of corruption, charges which Dahlan denies.

“This is part of the political maneuvers of Muhammad Dahlan, who is considered by some as one of the potential leaders in the post-war period,” the Fatah official told TPS.

The UAE has significantly increased its involvement in aiding the Gaza Strip in recent times. The UAE Air Force working with the Egyptian Air Force has dropped 293 tons of humanitarian and relief aid since February 29.

The Emiratis also established two field hospitals and six water desalination stations while a 200-bed hospital ship is treating Palestinians.

Iranian In-Roads

Iran also appears to have ambitions in the Gaza Strip. A few days ago, the spokesperson for the Iranian Red Crescent announced that Iran had sent 10,000 tons of aid and equipment to the Gaza Strip. However, only 25% of the total aid reached Gaza due to Israel’s refusal to allow the remaining aid to enter.

Reports indicate that Israel requested Egypt to prevent the transfer of Iranian aid, but street kitchens and food distribution stations operated by the Iranian Red Crescent can now be seen in the Gaza Strip.

The senior Fatah source told TPS, “Iran aims to demonstrate its involvement in the northern part of the Strip, including the post-conflict period. Its civil initiatives may reach a level similar to those in Lebanon, where a significant portion of the population in the south benefits from Iranian aid channeled through Hezbollah.”

He was referring to Iran’s funding of cultural, educational and religious activities in Lebanon, as well as soup kitchens and other welfare programs. Such soft power expands Iranian influence.

Israeli’s Clan Diplomacy

As TPS recently reported, Israel is trying to shape post-war Gaza by empowering Palestinian clans to distribute humanitarian aid.

Clans — a social unit of extended families — hold significant importance in Palestinian society, serving as networks of support in social, economic, and political spheres and mediating disputes between families. They are especially active in Gaza’s main urban centers.

Several clans in northern Gaza were approached by Israeli officials who offered them to take on the responsibility of securing aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip.

The heavily armed Durmush clan, which supports Fatah, agreed, while a second is negotiating with Israel. All the other clans refused to work with Israel. According to Asharq al-Awsat, Israel offered clan leaders the opportunity to form an alternative government to Hamas.

Both Fatah and Hamas oppose this, as Mahmoud Abbas seeks to rule Gaza in a unity government with “soft-core” Hamas figures.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 134 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead.