According to Samara, who lives nearby one of the Fatah strongholds taken over by Hamas in recent days, fear reigns in Gaza’s streets, and apart from gunmen and military officials, no one leaves their homes.
“The children are afraid all the time,” Samara says. “My nephews ask, ‘Why are the Israelis shooting at us?’, and we tell them it’s Palestinians. Then they ask, ‘Why are Palestinians shooting at us?’, and I have no answer for them.
Hamas gunmen line Gaza's streets (Photo: AFP)
“We have no food at home. We’ve been living on soups and canned food for days. There is no electricity or continuous water supply, let alone medicine or essential hygiene products,” she explained.
The gun battles taking place in the streets keep all of Gaza’s residents in a state of constant fear.
“I hide in the house all day long, but even that might not be enough. Our neighbor was shot while he was inside. Men with black masks, weapons, and bags are walking around on the streets and I’m afraid to leave. They could shoot me – even if I’m not what they are looking for,” Samara said.
She blames both sides for the escalating violence. According to her, both Hamas and Fatah need to understand that they are one people. “They promised us a better life, and the situation is only getting worse. I’m afraid that by next week we’ll become a Taliban state.
“The minute Hamas takes over, it will become an Islamic state. It must be understood – they were elected out of a sense of desperation. The people here are poor and desperate, and when they chose Hamas they had nothing to lose, but now it turns out they had a lot to lose.”
Israel is not free of blame in Samara’s eyes either. According to her, despite the Israeli government’s desire to wash its hands of Gaza, it should have done so the “right way”, and left it with economic infrastructures.
“When people have money, they don’t turn to violence,” she said.
Samara explained that the economic boycott on the Palestinian Authority punished residents of Gaza, and not Hamas. She called on Israel to open the Rafah crossing and allow those who could to leave Gaza. “The Strip is like a jail, and we could die,” she said.
Samara also had harsh claims against Arab states, saying they do nothing to improve the situation. “Everywhere we go, even Arab states, the consider us to be terrorists,” she claimed.
Gisha, an Israeli non-profit organization whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, mainly in Gaza, said that Samara’s words reflect the unbearable existence of many Gaza residents, who fall victim to the factional violence.
“As a human rights organization, we condemn the horrible violence between the Palestinian factions, which hurts innocent people, and we call for its immediate end,” the organization declared.
“At the same time, Israel - which is in control of Gaza’s borders and financial means - is also responsible for the current situation, until this very day. Israel and the international community have imposed an economic and physical siege on Gaza.
“The harsh limitations on transporting goods and people from the Gaza Strip and into it, and preventing the transfer of public funds, have severely injured the population in Gaza, strengthened extremist sources, and sped up the creating of the current chaos.”