Earlier this month, the hotelâ€™s developer, Palestinian investment company Padico decided to finally open it. The company, controlled by politically independent billionaire Munib al-Masri, hopes to recover at least some of its costs and hopes that Gazaâ€™s knotty problems may finally be solved in the coming years.
â€œIts risky â€” but we need to have a change in Gaza,â€ said public relations manager Shadi Agha.
For now, the risk is not paying off. There are no foreign tourists in Gaza, just a handful of Western aid officials who pass through.
Only 80 rooms are even available. Management doesnâ€™t want to spend on maintenance for the remaining rooms, Agha said. Early this month, there were just 10 guests in the entire hotel, though the royal suite, at $880 a night, was occupied.
The guests ranged from international aid officials to a honeymooning Gaza couple who wanted to go somewhere nice, Agha said. He wouldnâ€™t identify them further or say who was in the royal suite.
The Syrian accounts also said at least 20 soldiers had been killed in the fighting, but said nothing about civilian casualties. Activist groups reporting from Hama â€” the source of most information about the mayhem there since Syrian forces first besieged the city last weekend â€” have said at least 200 civilians have been killed by military shelling and snipers. They reported a new round of shelling on Friday.
The resident reached by telephone said that 200 tanks had entered the city before dawn, and that security forces were blocking residents from gathering in the cityâ€™s mosques.
â€œThe government has given up its responsibilities and handed everything over to the security forces,â€ said Louay Hussein, a prominent opposition figure in Damascus. â€œThey have lost their mind. They are acting without any strategic or political goal. The governmentâ€™s armed gangs are roaming the streets, simply looking for vengeance.â€
As the government pressed its crackdown on Hama, military and security forces appeared to prepare for another assault on Deir al-Zour, a city in eastern Syria knitted by the loyalties of extended clans where protests had gathered force for the past month. Those forces shelled the city on Thursday night into Friday morning, residents said.
During the Israeli attack on Hamas, I was sent a variety of links, Facebook groups, e-mails, and people to write so I could show my solidarity with the people of Gaza.Â For some very complicated reasons, I decided to ignore all of them, even though they came from close friends.Â The main reason is that I support Israel in their current war against Hamas.
I donâ€™t support everything Israel has done over the decades.Â I have talked to several Jewish and Israeliâ€™s over the years and housing settlements in occupied territories have never made sense to me.Â Israel would never tolerate those inside their borders and surely they much have foreseen the reaction them doing it to the Palestinians would create.Â Israel has made a lot of foreign policy mistakes over their life time as a country.Â Even a casual reader of the Jerusalem Post, the New York Times, or any publication that covers Israeli politics know that Israel can debate and second guess themselves as well as any country in the world.
Yet this isnâ€™t a war about past policies.Â Hamas started the fighting by choosing to fire 60 rockets a day into Israel with the hope of hitting Israeli cities and killing Israeli civilians.Â If Canada was firing rockets with the hope of taking out Minot, North Dakota or Flint, Michigan, no one would question a United States military response.Â If France started to shell Germany, no one would question a military response.Â As Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said, “Israel has been attacked from Gaza, not just last year, but for almost 10 years.â€Â His stance is consistent with both Conservative and Liberal governments of the past.
Hamas shelled Israel hoping to make them back down and do nothing and therefore look weak to their neighbors or to provoke a reaction from Israel and then hide behind civilians and create a sympathetic global reaction which would lead to Hamas gaining international recognition (beyond the rather meager recognition they get now from Syria and Iran).Â Finally Israel had enough and decided to act and stop the rockets and weaken Hamas.Â To do that was going to cause civilian deaths, it almost always does, especially when Hamas decided to use mortars and rockets schools, hospitals, and mosques.Â At a certain time armies used to do battle out in the battlefield but now we live in a different age where terrorists hide in civilians encampments to try to cause civilians deaths and gain the sympathy of the world, a world that didnâ€™t care that much when it was Israeli citizens dying.Â To do nothing was to allow Iran equip Hamas with more and more powerful rockets, mortars, and other weapons.Â Will it work?Â I have read enough military history to know that time will tell if it worked.Â There have been many military actions deemed a tactical success but strategic failure while other tactical failures have achieved strategic success.Â In other words, time will tell what happens in Gaza.Â For the record, there are those that disagree that Israel is doing the right thing strategically, Andrew Sullivan suggests that Israel’s actions are disproporportionate to what Hamas is doing to it and will lead to only greater bloodshed.
When Israel finally had enough and decided to strike Hamas, Hamas did what everyone predicted.Â They hid behind civilians (their own people) with the hope of enough of them dying would help them politically.Â The weird thing is in some parts of the world, it worked.Â Much was made of the United Nations Human Rights Commission vote to condemn Israel.Â Many media sources and bloggers noted that the adopted motion calls for investigation of “grave” human rights violations by the Israeli forces. That’s is the press release version. In fact, the motion is four pages long that blames Israel entirely for the crisis, thus unilaterally responsible for the consequences. Thirty-three countries voted in favor, including several countries that are experts at human rights, Cuba, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. 13 European nations abstained from the vote on the resolution while Canada was alone in voting against it.
Israel was put in a horrible situation as a country.Â It is confronted by a foe that is comfortable firing thousands of rockets at it’s military and civilians day in and day out.Â A foe that isn’t interested in peace but rather feels it’s purpose on earth is to destroy Israel.Â To attack Hamas means civilian casualties but to ignore it means more and more civilian casualties within it’s own borders.
Is there an end to this?Â Just as people felt Jimmy Carter was the answer, Ronald Reagan was the answer, George H. Bush was the answer, Bill Clinton was the answer, George W. Bush was the answer, and starting tomorrow, people hope Barack Obama has the answer (I suspect that the war in Gaza has stopped because both sides want to hear from the new American president).Â I don’t see this being solved by an American president, a Canadian prime minister, Tony Blair as a peace envoy, or even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie adopting the entire Gaza Strip.Â It gets solved by doing what Saudi Arabia’s leaders have done, the King of Jordan has done, what Egypt has done, and what other Arab nations have done and that is give up the desire to destroy Israel and recognize their right to peaceful co-existence. Then the hard work of peacemaking can start.
I am not saying that Israel has not made mistakes but it’s an awfully tough neighborhood they live in and until countries like Iran and Syria stop using Hezbollah and Hamas to wage proxy wars for them, Israel is going to find themselves making tough decisions that aren’t black and white, right or wrong.Â I do know that decisions made under the fall of rockets and mortars are far different then decisions made during peace times.Â Hopefully in the future we will see more decisions made in the quiet of peace than under the roar of rockets and the sounds of suicide bombers.