Masked Vigilantes Patrol Gaza's Rafah Amidst Rising Prices and Displacement

Masked Vigilantes Patrol Gaza's Rafah Amidst Rising Prices and Displacement

CAIRO - Armed, masked individuals in Gaza, operating under the banner of a vigilante group known as "The Committee of Public Protection," have taken to patrolling the streets of Rafah. This action is purportedly aimed at curbing profiteering among traders in the area, where more than a million displaced Palestinians have sought shelter from Israel's sustained air and ground campaign.

Since the conflict commenced on October 7th, commercial imports into Gaza have been severely restricted, causing prices to soar. With only limited amounts of humanitarian aid trickling in, the vast majority of Gaza's 2.3 million inhabitants now find themselves in Rafah, close to the Egyptian border, residing primarily in tents and temporary shelters after fleeing the devastation in other parts of the enclave.

Photographs circulating on social media depict these masked individuals standing next to market stalls, some armed with assault rifles while others brandish sticks. The group's self-proclaimed objective, as stated by a member reached by Reuters, is to enforce law and order in the absence of regular police patrols, which have been rendered scarce due to Israeli strikes.

Their purported aim is to monitor prices and penalize those who exploit the desperate circumstances of the people. However, due to fear of reprisals from Israeli forces, the member chooses to remain anonymous.

The conflict that sparked this situation began with Hamas fighters infiltrating Israel, resulting in casualties and hostage-taking. Israel's subsequent air and ground campaign, according to health authorities in Gaza, has claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinians.

The emergence of these masked patrols has left some residents uneasy. Mohammad Abuemad, a 24-year-old university graduate who fled his home in Gaza City at the onset of the war, now resides in Rafah. He recalls the presence of regular police patrols before recent strikes targeted them, noting their role in organizing essential services during times of crisis. While he hopes these masked individuals act fairly, he expresses a preference for the return of a formal police force.

In essence, the situation in Rafah underscores the complexities and challenges faced by Gazans amidst ongoing conflict, with concerns arising about the emergence of alternative forms of authority and the need for a sustainable resolution to the conflict.

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