Gazans in rare criticism of Hamas over truce delay


Some Gazans have criticised the Islamist group Hamas, which rules the besieged and conflict-ravaged Palestinian territory, for failing to end the war with Israel that has devastated their lives.

Hamas has “led the Palestinian people into a war of annihilation”, said Umm Ala, 67, who has been displaced twice during more than eight months of war between Hamas-led Palestinian militants and Israel.

“If the Hamas leaders were interested in ending this war and ending the suffering of the Palestinian people, they would have agreed (to a deal),” added Umm Ala, who has now sought refuge in Khan Yunis, the main city in the southern Gaza Strip.

Gazans who spoke to AFP were asked if they thought that Hamas was also responsible for delays in reaching a new truce.

The war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized 251 hostages on that day. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.

In response to the October 7 attack, Israel’s military launched a blistering land, air and sea offensive against Hamas in Gaza that has left at least 37,232 people dead, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.

Apart from a one-week truce in November, which saw the release of more than 100 hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, several attempts at forging a new ceasefire have failed.

Mediators the United States, Egypt and Qatar are once again engaged in negotiations with Israel and Hamas to try to finalise a deal to end the war.

But some Gazans, who have lived in a climate of fear and restrictions since Hamas seized power in the territory in 2007, blame the Islamists for the vast destruction caused by the war.

Hamas has made a “mockery of us, our pain and the destruction of our lives”, said Abu Eyad, 55, who lives in north Gaza.

Abu Eyad, whose three children live with different relatives at separate locations, took aim at Hamas’s political leadership hosted by Qatar, saying they were “sleeping comfortably, eating and drinking”.

“Have you ever tried to actually live our lives today?” Eyad asked. “Did you know that many times we don’t find any food at all?”

– ‘Destruction, extermination’ –

Washington is currently engaged in a new push for a deal, outlined by President Joe Biden himself on May 31, but has yet to secure an agreement from the warring sides.

Israel and Hamas are once again trading blame, just as they accused each other of derailing previous attempts at ending the war.

“We are tired, we are dead, we are destroyed and our tragedies are countless,” said Abu Shaker, 35.

“What are you waiting for?” he asked, addressing the militant group. “What do you want? The war must end at any cost. We cannot bear it any longer.”

Despite such criticism, a survey in both Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank has shown Hamas to be the most popular political force in the territories with 40 percent preference, followed by 20 percent for Fatah which dominates the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

The poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research released on Wednesday also said that “overall support for the October 7 Hamas offensive remains high”, albeit with a slight decline, driven by a fall in support in Gaza.

At the beginning of May, Hamas announced it had accepted a ceasefire agreement, prompting spontaneous celebrations in Gaza.

The survey showed that two-thirds of those asked supported Hamas’s decision at the time and expected a halt in fighting within days — only to be disappointed.

Now the Gazans AFP spoke to are desperate, and all they want is an end to the conflict.

Umm Shadi, 50, called for Hamas to “end the war immediately without seeking to control and rule Gaza”.

“What have we gained from this war except killing, destruction, extermination and starvation?” she asked.

“Every day the war on Gaza increases, our pain and the pain of the people increases. What is Hamas waiting for?”

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