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Blockade can't divide some Israeli, Palestinian friends

Despite conflict, Israelis try to help Gazans to whom they have longstanding ties.

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But gradually, the economic links have been reduced. After Israel dismantled settlements and army bases in Gaza, it stopped giving entry permits, save for Gazans in need of medical treatment. When Hamas took control of Gaza, Israel reduced the operations of commercial crossings, allowing in only humanitarian aid.

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"Now they're living off of flour and olives," says Dudi Doron, a Kfar Azza resident who keeps in regular contact with Mohammed, a laborer from the Gaza city of Khan Younis who worked on the kibbutz for 20 years but now is unemployed.

Though Mohammed calls from an Israeli cellphone given to him by Mr. Doron, the Khan Younis resident is hard to reach because of patchy networks.

About three months ago, Doron wired 4,000 shekels ($1,080) to a Gaza bank to help Mohammed's family make ends meet. But Doron still supports Israel's policy of stopping fuel supplies.

"Better to pressure this way than with tanks," he says, referring to comments by Israeli officials warning of a broad offensive in Gaza. "I prefer this to sending soldiers in there.... [W]e'll lose 200 people and they'll lose thousands."

Efrat, though, criticizes the expectation of some Israelis that pressure will prompt Gazans to turn on Hamas. "They know if they speak out, they'll get shot," he says.

The thuds of Palestinian Qassam rockets can be heard from Moshav Tekuma, an agricultural cooperative just east of Kfar Azza. In an office lined with Koranic and Talmudic texts, Avner Cohen, the retired religious affairs commissioner in Israel's civil administration for Gaza, often receives calls from former Palestinian staff and Islamic dignitaries.

"Avner sympathizes with me because he has children. He asks me, 'What do you need? What do you want?' I tell him I only want peace. I only want to coexist," says Fawaz el-Beitar, who worked as Mr. Cohen's driver and resides in Gaza City. "The last time I called him, I told him about the siege, I told him about the closure, I told him about our difficult life."

Back at the edge of Kibbutz Kfar Azza, Efrat peers westward toward a panoramic Gaza horizon that offers a map of the recent political tension.

In the distance to the north were the orchards of Beit Hanoun, used by militants to lob explosives into Israel. Closer to the kibbutz, to the south, is the empty cargo terminal of the Karni Crossing, the Gaza Strip's economic lifeline to the world. Straight ahead, at the outskirts of Gaza City, a line of trees and houses marks the village of his former colleague.

"There's his house," he gestures. But this week, Efrat got a call from the friend, who said he had moved in with his mother-in-law in Gaza City to get away from the fighting. "He doesn't have any interest in this war," he says. "Of course I'm worried."

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