Gaza isolated

Sounds of battle like from this Israeli ground incursion on Tuesday have become a common backdrop to life in Gaza. Equally common around the city of Gaza this week was the sound of funeral services. About 100 men sit on plastic chairs under a tent listening to the prayers of the day. Visitors walk down a line of bereaved family members shaking hands. At the end of the receiving line is the political leader of Hamas in Gaza and the man Israel considers the architect of much of the violence. His son was killed in clashes on Tuesday, �They targeted my house, they killed my son, they injured my wife, my daughter and me.� Israel says its air strikes are aimed at stopping the daily barrage of rockets from Gaza. The crude Kasam rockets cause hysteria but few injuries in nearby Israeli towns. By contrast, Israeli strikes kill at least one Palestinian per day on average. Despite the lopsided results, the political leader of Hamas insists that Hamas is winning, �There is a big, big anger inside the Palestinian and Arabic and Islamic countries. This is not in favor of Israel.� Despite attempts by Israel and Washington and even the rival Fatah party to isolate Hamas and the Gaza Strip, hardliners claim their popular support is rising. Hamas perhaps felt sidelined after the Annapolis peace conference in November, but the recent incursions in Gaza rally people around them, says this man of a university in Gaza, �Israel wants to shorten the days of Hamas and the Gaza Strip, but this policy is backfiring, because the Palestinians cannot just stand by and watch the killing of their fellow brothers.� President Bush's just concluded trip to the region was meant to shore up the peace talks between Fatah and the Israeli government and further isolate Hamas, but this effort has also failed according to one of the few prominent members of Fatah still in Gaza, �Israel is strengthening the way of Hamas, their behavior, their actions, pushing the Palestinian people. Why you are negotiating?� He says he was very optimistic after Annapolis but he says the Bush visit was a disaster. Palestinians think Mr. Bush shows sympathy only to the Israeli side and they noticed that as violence flared in Gaza, he said nothing about it says the Fatah member, �they always make a decision to implement a peace process but as they're killing Palestinian people. I made an appeal for President Bush, you are still in the area, he didn't say one word. He was here for this or for war.� The continuing violence may even end up bringing Hamas and Fatah closer together. After the Hamas leader's son was killed on Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a condolence call, the first contact between the two men in recent months. Some elements in both groups want to reconcile but despite the pressure on Gaza, Hamas shows no signs of making concessions.