US envoy's visit could ease Gaza blockade
Forced to rebuild using mud and animal-drawn carts, Gazans are increasingly frustrated with Hamas's hard-line policies.
Gaza City, Gaza
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Nearly six months after Israel launched a blistering offensive to undermine the militant group, destroying thousands of homes and lives, Gazans are growing increasingly restless under Hamas rule.
Many privately complain that Hamas's hard-line approach with both Israel and the rival Palestinian party, Fatah, has intensified their suffering. Israel has blockaded the coastal strip, making it virtually impossible for Gazans to rebuild their lives.
Hamas also responded to the Obama administration's recent overtures. Top leader Khaled Meshaal, in Cairo for Egyptian-led talks on forming a unity government with Fatah, said Hamas would not obstruct any effort to establish a Palestinian state along Israel's 1967 border – a position that contradicts its charter, which claims all of historical Palestine for Palestinians.
But Gazans, impatient with stalled peace efforts, have taken matters into their own hands.
Jihad Saher rebuilt his home in the wake of Israel's January military offensive here entirely with mud. Because of an Israeli ban on the import of construction materials like cement and steel, a handful of others, including the Hamas-led government, are following suit.
But while Mr. Saher and many other Gazans boast of their symbols of perseverance – mud homes, subterranean tunnels ferrying in consumer goods, animal-drawn carts collecting rubbish – others are beginning to blame their deepening economic plight as much on the political wrangling of the two major Palestinian factions as on Israel's clenching of their borders.
According to recent polls, the majority of Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants believe they are worse off now than before the war and that the formation of a coalition between the Western-backed Fatah movement and Hamas Islamists is the best way to solve their crisis.
"We know Israel is the source of the blockade, but the problems between the Palestinian factions are the primary reason it has been able to continue," says Osman Shawa, a restaurant owner and mid-level leader of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Gaza. "In Gaza, we are the ones that suffer from the inability to overcome these differences."
Only 1 in 4 Gazans would vote for Hamas now
The West Bank and Gaza Strip have been politically divided since June 2007 when Hamas, after winning Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, violently seized control of the Gaza Strip and routed Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) forces loyal to current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.