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Voices against Hamas growing louder as war in Gaza continues

While much of the anger in Gaza is directed at Israel, many residents of the Strip are also not fooled by Hamas’ propaganda and are starting to hold the group responsible for provoking the war

Perhaps it was the recent chaotic images of Hamas terrorists using sticks to beat back desperate civilians at a Gaza hospital, or the short clips circulating of armed terrorists trying to make off with vital aid meant for starving children that first prompted some residents of Gaza to speak out against their leaders. 

And maybe it was the videos from the past week posted on social media of stripped and blindfolded Hamas terrorists throwing down their arms, or the massive Israeli flag flapping over a flattened central square in Gaza City that emboldened those voices.

Whatever the reasons, after 68 days of a war that has changed – and even destroyed – the lives of many of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, a growing number of ordinary civilians in the Palestinian enclave, analysts suggest, are beginning to show their anger against Hamas – the brutal regime that has dominated their world for the past 16 years and which on Oct. 7 unleashed an unforgiving war in their territory.

“It’s a silent and gradual revolution that is spreading and brewing among displaced and suffering civilians in Gaza who hold Hamas, the nihilistic criminal enterprise that has governed Gaza since 2007, responsible for their annihilation, suffering, misery and displacement,” Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, an American political analyst originally from Gaza, told Jewish Insider in a recent interview.  

Alkhatib, who has been posting daily video clips on X,  formerly Twitter, added: “I see dozens of videos, messages, comments, outbursts and outcries daily by Gazans who are detesting Hamas, challenging its propaganda, condemning the consequences of its actions.”

He said many are accusing the militant Islamist group “of hiding themselves underground while civilians are being obliterated above ground.”

While the dissenting voices are coming from various sectors of Gazan society, many are ordinary civilians struggling to stay alive as Hamas refuses to release 135 hostages, including women, children and the elderly, and continues to fight back against the unwavering advancement of Israeli troops.

In one clip from Dec. 6, an elderly Palestinian woman angrily tells a journalist from the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera network that the people in Gaza are starving. When the reporter answers that it’s because no aid is coming in, the woman responds boldly that it is “all going to the tunnels underground…. Hamas takes everything to their homes.”

In another video shared on X, a woman, who says her husband was killed in the war, cries saying she can’t find food for her children. She blames Hamas for dragging Gaza’s people into this war with Israel.

“The people of Gaza are dying of hunger and on the brink of a genuine humanitarian catastrophe,” she says in desperation.

But the criticism of Hamas is not only coming from ordinary people. This week, the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, released 14-minute video of Yousef Mahmoud Hamad Al-Mansi, a former Hamas minister, telling interrogators, “They destroyed us – we must get rid of them.” Al-Mansi, who was arrested by Israel on Dec. 5, was referring to Hamas and its current leader, Yahya Sinwar, the man who is believed to have masterminded the Oct. 7 attack.

GAZA – 2023/04/14: Yahya Sinwar, chief of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza, delivers a speech during a rally marking “Jerusalem Day,” or Al-Quds Day.

“These anti-Hamas voices have always been there,” Alkhatib said, describing how people tried to speak up against the Iranian-backed group since it violently took control over the coastal enclave in 2007. “These voices were visible on social media, in local newspapers, and, at times, on the streets in the form of large protests against miserable living conditions and no promising prospects.”

Alkhatib, who now lives on the West Coast, said that over the years there have been attempts to protest against Hamas and its prohibiting policies, with unprecedented demonstrations taking place over the dire economic situation just last summer.

Hamas’ response to the protests last July and August was similar to previous times, he added. “They quickly cracked down on the protesters, beating and jailing many and unleashing its members and thugs to stage counterprotests.”

Due to such tactics, Alkhatib explained, many of those who oppose Hamas and its policies, “have stayed silent out of fear for their safety or concerns for their social, professional and humanitarian prospects.”

“Given Hamas’ dominance over society, resources, politics and other aspects of life in Gaza, it can be challenging to be an outspoken critic of the group,” he said.

The situation is different now, however.

“The current war has brought unprecedented levels of suffering, death, destruction, hardships and horrors upon the people of Gaza,” said Alkhatib. “While they direct much of their anger at the IDF and the excessively violent counterattack, most are not fooled by Hamas’ propaganda and directly hold the group responsible for provoking a war with Israel.”

He predicted that the anti-Hamas voices would continue to grow “especially as people are reaching previously unimaginable levels of desperation, such that many are no longer fearful of Hamas.”

Indeed, alongside the videos coming out of Gaza condemning Hamas and blaming it for their ultimate misery have also been clips of civilians fighting back against the armed militants, particularly at places where aid and essential items are being distributed.

In Israel, the pushback on the streets of Gaza is being seen as a sign that Hamas’ hold over society in the enclave is cracking.

Speaking at a Hanukkah candle lighting in the south with Nahal Brigade troops, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said this week that the military was beginning to see the collapse of Hamas’ governing system in the Strip.

“I see the achievements every day,” he said. “We are seeing every day more and more terror operatives killed, more and more terror operatives wounded, and in recent days we’re seeing terrorists surrendering —  a sign of the disintegration of the system.”

Israeli soldiers, tanks, howitzers and armored vehicles are seen as Israeli military mobility continues on the Gaza border, in Nahal Oz, Israel on December 13, 2023. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Khaled Abu Toameh, a Palestinian Affairs analyst, told JI, “The deeper the Israeli army pushes into the Gaza Strip, the more we are likely to see people speaking out against Hamas.

“We’ve seen it increase in the last few days, especially on social media,” he said. “There’s a feeling that the barrier of fear has been shattered and that Hamas has been weakened as a result of the military offensive.”

Abu Toameh also noted “that many Palestinians in Gaza have always been unhappy with Hamas,” particularly those who are members of rival Palestinian political factions such as Fatah and who were afraid to speak out for fear of being punished by Hamas.  

“I don’t believe that Hamas is in a position to crack down on those critics right now while it is still fighting Israel,” he said.  

Another reason critics of Hamas stayed quiet, said Abu Toameh, was “because there are no foreign journalists in Gaza – Al Jazeera and other Arab media outlets have not allowed Palestinians to voice their anger with Hamas or with Qatar,” one of Hamas financial backers. 

He said he also felt this might be changing.

“I’ve been hearing a growing number of Palestinians who are now holding Hamas responsible for the destruction of the Gaza Strip,” Abu Toameh said, adding, “some are questioning whether the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 was worthwhile.”

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