The families of eight Gazans, who fled the Gaza Strip in search of employment opportunities in Europe, drowned on Oct. 24 after their boat sank off the Tunisian coast, while sailing from Tunisia to Europe

Naheel Shaath, who lost her 21-year-old son, Adam, in the accident, blamed “all the officials here who do not take care of young people or provide them with employment opportunities.”

The funeral for the eight drowning victims took place on Sunday in Rafaj in southern Gaza. It was attended by thousands. 

“The government that controls us here is the reason. It is to blame,” repeated Shaath, adding that while her son had studied hairdressing, he was not able to find a good-paying job and worked in a job in a hair salon that paid him 10 shekels a day (a little less than $3 USD).

“If there were jobs here for those young people, would they leave?” the grieving mother asked. 

A second family lost a 21-year-old son, and his 20-year-old brother is still missing. Both brothers were on the ship that sank. Their mother complained that only “oppression” exists in Gaza. 

“They suffocate the young and the young run away because of their suffocation,” she said.

Suhaib al-Shaer, a Rafah resident and cousin to four of the victims, told The New Arab news site: “If the youths find their future in Gaza, they will never leave it. They will prefer to build their country and live their normal life among their families.” 

“My cousins dreamed of finding work elsewhere as they failed to achieve any of their goals in their country,” al-Shaer said. “Most of the young people in Gaza are looking forward to leaving it as soon as possible.”

A total of 24 Palestinians have drowned over the last three months while attempting to reach Europe.

Palestinian Authority official Ahmad al-Deek told Reuters that “human-trafficking gangs are behind these illegal migration trips and they exploit these youths, charging up to $10,000 per person. … These are death trips.” 

Israel’s Ynet news noted that blockades on Gaza have weakened the economy, increasing the unemployment rate to nearly 50%. Blockades are a common complaint of Gazan residents who blame their economic situation on Israel. 

At the same time, locals are aware these days that Israel has opened its gates to thousands of Gazan day workers, despite the hostile policies of Hamas, which includes its refusal to release the bodies of two Israeli soldiers and two living Israeli citizens. 

More and more Gazans are expressing their displeasure with the Hamas government, citing the high taxes they are forced to pay. By contrast, Hamas leaders, most notably Ismail Haniyeh, the senior political leader of Hamas, live abroad in luxury with their families.

Supporters of rival terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) criticized Hamas for not launching rockets toward Israel in last August’s exchange of fire, with some saying that the terrorist organization may have even benefited from the 2021 conflict between PIJ and Israel.  

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