- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

GAZA CITY Residents of this Palestinian territory awoke Friday to find key east-west streets blocked with towering berms of sand.
The sand piles, a low-tech but surprisingly effective anti-tank measure, are one indication of how seriously the Palestinian leadership here is anticipating an Israeli incursion like those in the West Bank.
"We just woke up, and the sand was here," taxi driver Mohammed Dawwas said as he wove expertly between the piles. "They will slow a tank down while you shoot at it from behind, or you can hide I don't know what inside them."
Explosive-spiked berms have destroyed two supposedly impervious Israeli Merkava tanks in separate incidents, incinerating the soldiers inside. The feats stunned Israeli military planners and energized the resistance.
"When the Israelis come here it will be like Jenin, only much, much worse," said one man who asked not to be named. Palestinians in that West Bank city have mounted a particularly bloody resistance to Israeli troops.
The man noted that the mile-square Jebaliya refugee camp, which abuts Gaza City, is home to 90,000 people twice the population of Jenin.
The Israelis on Saturday refused to rule out a Jenin-style incursion into the Gaza Strip, saying they would follow terrorists wherever they were hiding.
Some observers say it is unlikely that the Israeli military soon will get to Gaza, considering soldiers are still actively engaged in a half-dozen West Bank cities and an unexpected front is opening on the northern border with Lebanon.
But Israeli soldiers killed 17 Palestinians during battles here in early March, and many Gazans have begun stockpiling food in expectation of new fighting.
Gazans are convinced that Israeli soldiers are massing near the autonomous Palestinian area and even using heavily fortified settlements as a staging ground.
Even Hamas, the armed resistance group that has only recently embraced Yasser Arafat as the Palestinian leader, says there will be more incursions perhaps after the upcoming visit of U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
"We see what is happening to our brothers in the West Bank," said Hamas political adviser Ismail Abu Shanab. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "will push his madness to massacres," he said.
Israel settlements in the area continue to arouse suspicion.
"There are supposed to be 4,000 to 5,000 settlers in Netzarim, but they all have homes inside Israel," said one resident, relaying a persistent belief. "There is no one there now but the soldiers."
More than a dozen Israeli settlements are scattered throughout the Gaza Strip, and their presence is a source of unending irritation to the 4 million Palestinians who live here and in the West Bank.
Since the start of the intifada, Israeli checkpoints have effectively cut the 35-mile strip into three separate areas, making it difficult for Gazans to commute for work or to shop. Human rights groups, as well as the U.N. agency that provides service to Palestinian refugees, have angrily denounced the closures.
More seriously, Israel for more than a year has revoked Palestinian work permits and closed border crossings into Israel in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks.
The security measures have triggered a 9-month-old recession that grows ever deeper and more devastating to people with little savings.
Nigel Roberts, who heads the World Bank program for Gaza and the West Bank, said the closures are "a humiliation that must stop."
The impact is clear on Al Shojoyia Street, in the center of Gaza City. An illegal marketplace has sprung up where merchants offer socks, plastic shoes and children's dresses, but no one is buying. Others have become unlicensed taxi drivers, or have sent their children into traffic to sell candy to drivers.
The hatred toward Israelis has grown harder over the last two years, and manifests itself in "patriot" pop songs, television news and daily conversation. Children as young as 6 say they will happily defend their homes against the Israelis.

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