Why the coming days in Gaza have the potential to be so dangerous

There’s a lack of many things in Gaza - but most of all there is a lack of hope. That is why the coming days have the potential to be so dangerous.

During our time here the phrase we have heard over and over again from Gazans is they live in an open air prison and Israel is their warder.

It is not hard to see why.

There’s a lack of jobs, electricity, clean water and the basic services needed for a well functioning society. A Palestinian colleague summed up the crisis in medical care telling me, “If you get a cancer diagnosis you may as well start digging your own grave. They can’t treat it properly here and there’s little chance of getting out to get care.”

This stretch of land is under almost complete blockade and has been for a decade. The Israelis control the north and eastern crossings, as well as the sea to the west and the skies. The Egyptians control the southern border crossing.

The opening of the US Embassy in contested Jerusalem is fiercely opposed by Palestinians. Credit: AP

As a result no one can enter or leave without permission, a long, unpredictable and often fruitless process. It’s the same for goods as it is for people.

The blockade of this place is so severe that UN said it would be “unliveable” by 2020 - on the ground it seems that situation may arise much sooner.

The plight of the Palestinians was once high on the world agenda but with other crises in the Middle East their situation is slipping down the priority list.

Hamas, the anti-Israel Islamist group which controls Gaza, knows that and knows the risk of a increasingly desperate population turning on them.

That is where the March of the Return protests come in. They have been called by Hamas to mark the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and will culminate on Tuesday on Nakba, the Day of Catastrophe, marking the time Palestinians were forced from their homes to make way for the newly formed Israel.

Hamas called the March of the Return protests in response to the embassy opening. Credit: AP

However there is a suspicion among some here that Hamas are using this day to once again raise the international temperature and take the heat off them.

By rallying civilian protestors they give parts of a discontented population something to focus on and a renewed anger towards Israel. But they also know that Israel will not ignore attacks on the border. The figures play perfectly into the narrative that Israel is killing innocent civillians.

So far, with no death or injury on the Israeli side, 49 Palestinians have been killed in six weeks of protest and thousands more injured.

Palestinian protesters carry an injured man during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel. Credit: AP

There’s no doubt they have died as a result of Israeli fire but what drives them has also contributed.

As one aid worker told me this week, “Instead of dying in Gaza doing nothing they might as well go to the fence and die there. They go to the fence just to show that they exist because they have the feeling that everyone has forgotten them. They are alone and no one cares. There is no future.”

The days ahead may yet mark another dark moment in Gaza’s already dark history.