Palestinian Suffering in Gaza at the Hands of Hamas: 5 Reasons
Quality of life for Palestinians in Gaza has deteriorated considerably since Iran-backed Hamas took over the area in a bloody coup against the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in June 2007.
 Hamas – designated a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States, Israel, Canada, and Australia – has deprived its people of basic rights and created a regime that endangers its own citizens. Meanwhile, for four years Hamas has held kidnapped Israeli soldier Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit and has refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit him, in violation of the Geneva Convention. Following are five reasons people in Gaza are suffering under Hamas rule.
1. Loss of Palestinian lives and property due to Hamas’s continued rocket attacks against Israel. Hamas’s years-long campaign of rocket, missile and mortar attacks against Israel led Israel to launch Operation Cast Lead, a defensive operation in Gaza from December 2008-January 2009 during which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed. Additionally, more than 2,600 buildings, as well as roads and other infrastructure, were destroyed or severely damaged. Despite efforts by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to minimize civilian casualties, Hamas made the operation more dangerous for Palestinians through its widespread use of civilians as human shields. Video evidence, eyewitness testimonies and Israeli intelligence reports demonstrate that Hamas routinely stored weapons in mosques, used hospitals as command headquarters and overall endangered the civilian Palestinian population of Gaza. In contrast, the IDF dropped leaflets and left Arabic-language messages on the cell phones of Gaza civilians urging them to leave homes in combat zones. The defensive operation has reduced by 90 percent the number of rocket, missile and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza.
Hamas’s continued attempts to smuggle arms into the territory and refusal to release Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit have also led Israel to maintain a blockade on Gaza while still allowing in humanitarian aid. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced June 20 that he was easing the restrictions on Gaza and that all civilian goods will be allowed in, although restrictions would remain on dual-use items that could be used for military purposes.
2. Hamas’s violent takeover of Gaza and persecution of political opponents. During Hamas’s June 2007 overthrow of Fatah – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ political party – more than 150 Palestinians were killed and at least 700 wounded. Atrocities committed by Hamas included throwing opponents from rooftops, disabling them for life by shooting them in the knees and attacking hospitals. In the months following Hamas’s victory, its forces continued to use violence to suppress Fatah. Hamas stepped up its brutality against Fatah during and after Operation Cast Lead, executing and torturing Fatah activists it accused of collaborating with Israel.
Hamas recently rejected an offer by Abbas to discuss a plan to end the ongoing violence between the two groups. The Hamas-Fatah rivalry also led to a power outage in Gaza, because neither group would pay electricity bills. “Were it not for Israel’s presence between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Fatah and Hamas would most likely be dispatching suicide bombers and rockets at each other,” Jerusalem Post correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh said. 
3. Hamas’s indoctrination of children in violent ideology through its network of summer camps. Each summer, Hamas organizes children’s camps that instill hatred towards Israel and Jews. In 2009, Hamas operated 700 camps for 120,000 Palestinian children. The military-like camps teach children weaponry, marching drills, anti-Zionist and anti-American songs, and to idolize martyrdom. Most casualties among young Palestinians occur because of their direct participation in violence against Israel.
Hamas and other extremist groups have accused the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – the UN’s aid organization for Palestinians – of corrupting Palestinian youth by operating secular summer camps, which incorporate sports and human rights lessons. A Hamas spokesman said the UNRWA camps were a “barbaric attack on our children…whose objective is to corrupt their morals with drugs and other things.” In May and June 2010, armed jihadist groups vandalized two UNRWA summer camps in Hamas-run Gaza. A Fatah spokesman blamed Hamas for one of the attacks. Click here and here to read more about the recent attacks on UNRWA summer camps.
4. Hamas’s enforcement of strict Islamic morality and repression of women. In line with its roots as a fundamentalist religious movement based on the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas has gradually imposed Sharia (Islamic religious law) on Gazans, despite past statements by the group’s leaders that it would not do so. As part of its “virtue” campaign, Hamas in recent months arrested a female Palestinian journalist for laughing while at a public beach and for not wearing a head covering. Hamas forbids women from riding motorcycles with men and has banned men from working at women’s hair salons. Hamas dispatches “modesty patrols” to check cars for men riding with single women to whom they’re not related. Hamas has closed a number of Internet cafes, movie theaters and bars frequented by young people in Gaza. In contrast, the PA-ruled West Bank city of Ramallah has a burgeoning nightlife.
5. Hamas’s repeated attempts to block humanitarian aid from reaching its citizens. Although Israel has delivered more than a million tons of food and other supplies into Gaza since January 2009, Hamas has attacked Israel-Gaza border crossings, including the Kerem Shalom crossing through which about 200 truckloads of aid enter Gaza per week. In 2009, UNRWA suspended all aid to Gaza because armed Hamas police stole blankets and food meant for the Palestinian people. More recently, Israel offered to deliver aid from an illegal Gaza-bound flotilla it intercepted on May 31, but Hamas turned away the shipment, stalling its delivery for a full month. The aid included 20 truckloads of medical equipment, clothing, blankets and toys.
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