A number of reports from the Strip paint a picture of very difficult humanitarian conditions, not least because of Hamas itself. The suspicion is that the group's operatives have seized control of any supplies passing through the crossings – including those sent by Israel and international organizations.
Reports say Hamas takes a cut out of all aid that arrives, including flour and medicine. Supplies intended to be distributed without gain among the population is seized by the group and sold to the residents, at a profit to the Hamas government.
One such incident was recorded Monday, when a convoy of trucks carrying supplies through the Kerem Shalom crossing was opened fire upon and seized by Hamas gunmen. Similar incidents occurred with trucks carrying fuel.
Forced to flee. Residents of Gaza (Photo: AP)
In other cases, civilians are simply used as cannon fodder or human shields. Reports out of Gaza say residents who attempted to flee their homes in the northern area of the Strip were forced to go back at gunpoint, by Hamas men.
The organization is presumably interested in increasing civilian casualties in order to give rise to international pressure against Israel. Arab media reported that in an IDF strike on a UN school 30 civilians were killed, but there is no legitimate way to prove gunmen were among those killed as Hamas tends to bury these bodies quickly, thus eliminating evidence in Israel's favor.
Other civilian complaints state that Hamas gunmen pull children along with them "by the ears" from place to place, fearing that if they don't have a child with them they will be fair game to the IDF. Others hide in civilian homes and stairwells, UNRWA ambulances, and mosques.
In other reported cases Hamas gunmen hold civilians hostage in alleyways in order to provide themselves with a living barricade to ward off IDF forces. Reports somewhat more difficult to verify say the group's men shot Fatah operatives in the feet to make sure the latter would not attempt a coup.
No one to turn to
These reports lead to the assumption that Hamas is attempting to exacerbate the atmosphere of a humanitarian crisis in the Strip, as this may promote an international ceasefire initiative. In any case the reports clearly show that the residents of Gaza have fallen prey to Hamas as well as the IDF.
Reports of alarming shortages are also forthcoming, as residents appear to lack water, flour, electricity, and any sign of a capable government. Chaos reigns as no one appears to know when electricity will be available, how to obtain water or food, or whom to address in order to evacuate the injured.
The "emergency numbers" given to residents have ceased to function, and citizens in need of assistance have only international organizations, the Red Crescent, and the hospitals themselves to turn to.
The Hamas leaders, aside from two addresses, have not been heard from. Their speeches were broadcast a number of times, but in any case many in the Strip can no longer access televisions, radios, or internet without electricity.
Despite this, no authoritative anti-Hamas sentiments have been heard from the Gazans. However Palestinian sources claim that grievances against the group are voiced in secret. The animosity towards Israel has not disappeared, say the sources, but it is now accompanied by bitterness towards the organization many are dubbing Iranian in its extremism.