In pummeled Gaza, Hamas recoups
Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Cairo Sunday in a bid to bolster the current cease-fire.
(Page 3 of 3)
"As a result of this war, Hamas has become much more famous in the eyes of the international community, and it has brought the question of access to Gaza to the attention of the world," says Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at Al-Azhar University in Gaza.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"If there is to be a continuation of the cease-fire, the borders will have to be opened, and one way or another, someone has to deal with Hamas," he says, pointing to countries that are considered US allies which already do – such as Egypt and Turkey – as well as countries in the European Union, which are moving in that direction.
"When President Barack Obama said that the crossings here should be reopened, I think that was a positive signal toward Hamas," Professor Abusada says.
But the prospect of Western nations softening their position toward Hamas isn't necessarily matched among Palestinians. The sheer scale of devastation here, and the sluggishness of the arrival of meaningful aid, has some Gazans questioning whether Hamas has brought real gains for its people.
One family in the Zaitoun neighborhood south of Gaza City, an area particularly hard hit by the Israeli campaign, was picking through the debris of their half-crushed house over the weekend. Israeli tanks rolled through and destroyed several walls of their home. Now, they're using their shattered, old furniture for firewood.
They primarily blame Israel. But does Hamas share any responsibility? Zuhair Fatoum, the father of the family, frowns instead of answering directly. "We're not as strong as Israel," he says. "So the only way to get anything is through negotiations, not through missiles."
Battered but not beat, Hamas remains in control of Gaza. Its top local figures, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Dr. Mahmoud Zahhar, continue to keep their locations a secret, and have not come out in public because they believe they're still at risk of being targeted by Israel for assassination.
But other Hamas officials are in the spotlight again, and have been making the rounds of the most afflicted neighborhoods, promising to start distributing emergency aid. Hamas will not, said one senior Hamas figure as he toured an area of Zaitoun littered with squashed houses and hundreds of dead chickens, accept money that comes with strings attached.
"Our government will not accept the money to be a source of blackmailing," says Mohammed Awwad, a senior Hamas official. With a barb at the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, he rejected the possibility of forces loyal to President Mahmous Abbas playing a key role. "We will not accept that anyone who failed to enter Gaza on the backs of tanks will come on the backs of building machines," he said.