by Susan Katz Keating
Emboldened by desperation, Palestinians inside Gaza have begun to lash out openly against Hamas, risking their lives in order to challenge the draconian regime that has ruled the enclave since 2006.
The dissent has occurred throughout the Gaza Strip, according to witnesses. In one instance, thirsty crowds threw stones at a Hamas officer who cut to the front of a water line. In another, a man in a bread line beat a Hamas official over the head with a chair. Elsewhere, a man disrupted a press conference, and shook his fist while denouncing Hamas.
“People have been afraid to criticize Hamas,” a Gaza-focused social media webmaster told Soldier of Fortune. “Now, they’re being confrontational.”
The change comes from dire circumstances.
“Gaza is the Apocalypse,” the webmaster said. “The streets are filled with rubble. People have no food, no water. They’re struggling to survive. More and more, they blame Hamas for creating this problem.”
Some vilify other Arabs, while looking favorably on local Jews.
“Arab traitors are conspiring against us,” one 75 year-old Palestinian told Al Jazeera. “Arabs, and only Arabs are betraying us. The Jews are kind with us.”
Palestinian Arabs violently broke with one another inside Gaza in 2007, during a bloody civil war when Hamas clashed with its rival, Fatah. After the five-day Battle of Gaza, both sides were accused of violating international humanitarian law.
Among other things, Fatah and Hamas targeted non-belligerents; staged public executions; and threw people from high-rise rooftops, according to Human Rights Watch. The warring factions fought inside hospitals, and disguised themselves as journalists, the group charged.
The battle ended with Hamas firmly in control. Within days, the group began killing its former opponents, the Israel Defense Forces said. Some fled for their lives to Israel. Those who remained inside Gaza were subjected to a totalitarian regime.
READ MORE: Top Hamas Weapons Czar Killed in IDF Strike
Seven years later, people quietly began voicing dissent.
A group of men in 2014 told a reporter they were exhausted from constant war with Israel.
“We do not want to be bombarded every two or three years,” said Ziad Rizk, a 37-year-old father of two. “We want to lead a good life: Sleep well, drink well and eat well.”
A taxi driver, Loay Kafarnah, told the reporter he wanted a decent life.
“How can we have a war every two or three years?” he said to the Associated Press. “Is that a life?”
Now, in the aftermath of the Hamas terror group’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, life is worse than ever before, one exile told Soldier of Fortune.
“The leaders in Hamas don’t help their own people,” said former Gaza resident Faraj Naji, now living in Qatar. “They only make things worse.”
The situation is dire, Naji said. Inside Gaza, people break into fistfights while standing in line for bread. They get sick from drinking foul water. Others are suffering from chicken pox, respiratory infections, dysentery, scabies, and more.
The ground is filthy from being used as an open air latrine, Naji said. “People wait in line to use one toilet, and they can’t hold it.”
Food is a serious problem, one aid worker said.
“My kids are crying because they are hungry and tired and can’t use the bathroom,” Suzan Wahidi told the Associated Press. “I have nothing for them.”
The rage is building against Hamas for bringing such destruction to Gaza, the webmaster said.
People in one camp shouted insults at Hamas under cover of darkness, the webmaster said. Elsewhere, people are bolder.
One man with a bandaged wrist pushed his way through the crowd last week to disrupt a televised press conference by a Hamas spokesman.
The man shouted: “May God hold you to account, Hamas!”
What does this mean for the power structure within Gaza?
“Hamas controls what Gazan civilians say, what their children learn, and spreads propaganda and hatred through TV, especially on children’s programs,” the IDF said.
But the power is being challenged, in small but significant ways.
“Will this descend into another civil war?” the webmaster asked. “It’s impossible to predict.” On social media messaging channels, Fatah has resurfaced, calling for revenge, he said. But in the press conference incident, he noted, the man who disrupted the spokesman was followed by what appeared to be Hamas security guards.
For now, the questions posed in 2014 by a young teacher remain unresolved.
“Does anyone in the government know what happened to us?” the man asked the Associated Press. “Shouldn’t they come offer us help? Or a few comforting words?”
Representatives from Hamas did not immediately respond to Soldier of Fortune.
Susan Katz Keating is the publisher and editor in chief of Soldier of Fortune.