Jamal Mahjoub in Guernica:
On each occasion when I have travelled to Palestine, an element of uncertainty has hung over the whole venture. As we travel on towards Gaza City, night falls over a landscape that appears eerily normal. And why shouldn’t it? We had crossed a line in the sand. The scruffy mix of fields and gray block houses could be located anywhere in Egypt. The occasional row of date palms or narrow grove of olive trees hint at the rural idyll that foundered in the not-too-distant past. The first reminder that we are not in Egypt comes with the gas stations that are flagged early by queues of vehicles tailing back along the road, three cars wide. Since 2008 there has been an almost complete ban on fuel imports. Sporadic and unpredictable supplies explain the queues and the power cuts, some of which last up to twelve hours.
What is striking about the Gaza Strip is the lack of a visible military presence. In the West Bank at checkpoints and crossings, Israeli Defense Force soldiers in green fatigues strut about with their automatic rifles at the ready. They are young, some of them in their teens, and they sling their weapons over their shoulders like guitars as they demand papers and issue orders.