[funsec] Security and gun ownership
Richard M. Smith
rms at computerbytesman.com
Tue Jun 19 08:38:47 CDT 2007
As Guns Flood Gaza Strip, Palestinian Citizens Stock Up
Fears Rise, Prices Fall
And Dealers Proliferate;
The Tunnels of Rafah
By CAM SIMPSON
June 19, 2007
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- For the first time in his 44 years, almost everyone
Mustafa Ibrahim knows -- neighbors, shopkeepers, even family members -- owns
"Guns are like cellphones here now," says Mr. Ibrahim, a field worker for a
Gaza human-rights group. In January alone, his organization tallied 69 Gaza
gun deaths, more than double the total for all of 2004. "If you can afford a
mobile, you can probably afford a Kalashnikov," he says.
Cheap weapons have flooded the territory in the past two years, bought not
only by militia fighters but also by merchants, schoolteachers and other
civilians. Last week, some of this arsenal was put to deadly use as fighters
from the Islamist group Hamas wrested control of Gaza from forces loyal to
the largely secular Fatah movement. The clashes in densely populated
residential streets left an estimated 116 dead and more than 500 wounded.
A combustive mix of factors feeds the demand for firearms. Internecine
fighting and fear of a security vacuum have heightened anxiety among
ordinary Palestinians. In a territory where 80% of the population relies on
food aid, economic desperation has created a burgeoning group of arms
dealers. A porous border between Gaza and Egypt provides a conduit for more
weapons, fueling further insecurity and demand.
The recent arms flow dramatically outstrips anything seen here since the
1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israeli officials say. Shin Bet, Israel's state
security agency, says about 25,000 assault rifles poured into the strip
during 2005 and 2006 alone. The influx is equivalent, per capita, to 135,000
assault rifles entering New York City. Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians crowd
into an area about the size of Wichita, Kan.
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