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Caught between Hamas rockets and an Israeli blockade, Palestinian refugees in Gaza are bearing the brunt of a tense geopolitical standoff. For the second time in a week, the UN has been forced to halt its provision of food aid to 1.5 million Gazans due to a shortage of fuel caused by the blockade.

Unlike the situation in Eritrea, where the Eritrean government withheld fuel out of animosity for UN peacekeepers, Israel is not deliberately trying to starve the UN of fuel. Nor, of course, is it expressly targeting Gaza’s refugee population. Rather, the motivation of the blockade is to deter Hamas — which an Israeli official accuses of “deliberately holding up supplies for its own political reasons” — from launching rocket attacks into southern Israel. Yet the UN special envoy to Gaza, while condemning Hamas’ attacks, also identified Israel’s blockade as effectively “collective punishment.”

Apportioning blame in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is inevitably a politically contentious endeavor. While both sides surely deserve censure, in this case it is ultimately unproductive. The ultimate losers in this battle are the million-plus innocent Gazans who rely on humanitarian relief, and both Hamas and Israel should recognize that these civilians will require some degree of cooperation to ensure that their dire needs can be met.

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