Efforts to end the Gaza blockade must go hand in hand with the wider Palestinian right to self-determination.
Gaza City – Despite the sweltering July heat, Fatima Arief has been camping out in Gaza City for two weeks in an effort to press the Palestinian government for financial compensation after the death of her husband and son during the 2014 Gaza war.
Israeli fighter jets shelled the family’s home in Shujayea, in eastern Gaza, two years ago, killing Arief’s husband and one of their sons. Since then, she has struggled to put food on the table for her five grandchildren.
“Their loss has placed my family in deeper financial peril,” Arief, 61, told Al Jazeera. “How dare [PA officials] say that the martyrs and injured are the most honourable, while they abandon their vulnerable families?”
She is just one among hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza who have taken to the streets this month – some even setting up tents to sleep in the protest camp overnight – to demand payment from the Palestinian Authority (PA). Amid a dire economic crisis in the Gaza Strip, thousands of residents have not received their monthly allowances from the PA, making it increasingly difficult for them to survive.
Protesters say they will remain on the streets until their demands to receive aid are met – although the long days in the gruelling heat have already taken a toll.
“We are treated as if we are beggars, though we are demanding our genuine rights,” Arief’s daughter-in-law, Salwa, told Al Jazeera.
Many of the protesters expressed anger at the perceived disconnect between the PA’s statements of support for the families of those who lost relatives in the Gaza war, and its failure to provide for these families.
In the two years since the war, residents of the besieged Gaza Strip have arranged numerous protests to highlight their struggle.
Mohammed el-Nahhal, who heads a foundation for victims’ families that is affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), noted that the names of affected families have been sent to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
I cannot work to feed my children, and instead of being seriously helped, I am forced to take part in long, tiring protests to ask for my rights so that I can rescue my family.
“We are waiting for the Palestinian leadership’s order to recognise these families’ files so that they can get their allowances,” Nahhal said, noting that the territory’s ongoing financial crisis, along with political divisions, have both played a role in the delays.
Back in Gaza, Amal Abdelelall explained how her son died after an Israeli jet bombed a neighbour’s house in the southern city of Rafah.
“We have been protesting for two years now, and it seems that this is not long enough to urge the PA to put an end to our ordeal,” Abdelelall told Al Jazeera, with her seven-month-old daughter nestled in her lap.
“They are pushing us towards the edge,” added Alaa el-Barawi, the spokesperson for a committee representing victims’ families in Gaza. This is why the protests have escalated to the point where families are camping out overnight and participating in hunger strikes to raise awareness of their plight, he said.
According to Barawi, the PLO had promised to end the crisis before Ramadan, but the holiday came and went without any progress. Many protesters hold Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas personally responsible, noting that he has the power to order the immediate disbursement of funds.
Families of those killed in the Gaza war are concerned that their political leanings may be a factor in the delay of aid. Despite a recent unity deal between Abbas’s Fatah party and Gaza’s Hamas, persistent divisions remain.
A PA spokesperson did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on the matter.
In addition to financial aid, the protesting families are requesting medical and educational assistance from the PA, Barawi said.
Othman el-Othmani, who has been rendered unable to continue his work in the construction field after sustaining severe leg injuries in the 2014 war, says it has become extremely difficult for him to care for his family.
“I cannot work to feed my children, and instead of being seriously helped, I am forced to take part in long, tiring protests to ask for my rights so that I can rescue my family,” Othman, 36, told Al Jazeera, while leaning against a crutch.