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New blockade squeezes Gaza residents

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Whether the blockade will have the effect desired by Israel – of dislodging the Islamist Hamas government that has controlled the strip since last June – is unclear. But what is certain is that Gaza's already low living standards will deteriorate as long as the current course is pursued.

The current logic also turns conventional wisdom about fighting terrorism on its head, according to critics of Israel's collective punishment tactics.

While it's often said that economic desperation can fuel violence, Israel's current course is one in which creating such desperation is hoped to end violence, argues Hatem Oweida, a Hamas official in the economy ministry.

"All of our industries are collapsing because of shortages – 90 percent of our factories are shut and we blame Israel," he says. "Is this going to lead to peace?"

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday that Israel will continue to hold peace talks with Fatah, the Palestinian faction that governs the West Bank and that, unlike Hamas, recognizes Israel's right to exist.

"Israel is the only place in the world that supplies electricity to terrorist organizations that launch rockets at it in return," she said. "Life for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is not easy because there is terrorism there, and this should be crystal clear: Hamas can change the lives of the people in Gaza in an instant, if it ceases terrorism."

Almost all of Gaza's bakeries were shut on Monday, and the United Nations – which distributes the food relief that 90 percent of Gaza's 1.5 million residents rely on – says it may have to halt food distribution by Friday, because they're running out of plastic bags and fuel.

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