ANALYSIS: How Hamas Brings Gaza to the Brink of the Abyss

With the help of Iran, and a blind-eye from Turkey, Hamas prepares for war. But will the people of Gaza overthrow it first?

By Yochanan Visser | | Topics: Gaza, Hamas
Hamas is expanding operations in preparation for another war against Israel. But its gross mismanagement of Gaza could lead to the group's downfall before that can happen.
Hamas is expanding operations in preparation for another war against Israel. But its gross mismanagement of Gaza could lead to the group's downfall before that can happen. Photo: Attia Muhammed/Flash90

Hamas made headlines again in the Israeli media after it released a video of Israeli captive Avera Mengistu, who has been held hostage in Gaza for almost eight years now. According to the reports, Hamas is planning a new abduction, this time of an Israeli soldier in the so-called Gaza belt.

There’s much more to report on Hamas, however.

Inside Gaza, the poverty-stricken population is increasingly dissatisfied with the way Hamas controls the coastal enclave, and for the first time since the Islamist terror group took over Gaza in 2006 the possibility of a popular uprising has become real.

However, Hamas does not seem to care about the growing discontent in Gaza, and apparently has enough resources to expand its terrorist activities against Israel to other countries, as we will see.

 

Deceptive quiet

It has been relatively quiet in the border area between Israel and Gaza lately, but this is not to say that Hamas and the other terror groups in the enclave in southern Israel are sitting on their hands.

Preparations for a new confrontation with the Israeli army (IDF) have not ceased since the two-day mini-war between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in August 2022.

The Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on Monday, January 16, that Hamas and other terror groups recently held a series of meetings to develop a common strategy against Israel’s new “fascist and racist” government.

During these meetings, the leaders of the terror movements agreed that preparations should be made for a “new explosion” and several new confrontations with the IDF in 2023.

 

Popular uprising?

Military parades and demonstrations are regularly held to give the outside world the impression that Hamas is still firmly in control in Gaza.

That picture seems correct at first sight, but if you look more closely at the situation in Gaza, you will soon come to the conclusion that a popular uprising against the Hamas regime can no longer be ruled out.

The mass rallies that Hamas regularly holds in Gaza can no longer disguise the fact that support for the Islamist movement there is eroding.

This was recently revealed in the first series of highly unusual interviews with residents of Gaza that the United States-based organization Center for Peace Communications (CPC) published in Israel and some other countries.

In the animated video clips of the interviews, the interviewees’ voices are distorted to avoid recognition, while CPC also chose the animation format for the interviews for the same reason.

After all, Palestinian Arabs who openly criticize Hamas must fear for their lives.

No less than 62 percent of the Arab population in Gaza believes that one cannot criticize Hamas without fear (for one’s own life) according to a recent poll.

Hamas’s repression

Nearly all of those interviewed in the CPC videos testified to the repression by Hamas, which threatens anyone who does not abide by the terror organization’s rules.

Those rules are based on Sharia, the Islamic law and code of conduct, says Hamas, but in reality, one could say that they are outright mafia tactics.

For example, a Palestinian woman who worked as a journalist in Gaza stopped publishing her reports after Hamas threatened her family.

Prior to her decision to stop publishing, the journalist’s Facebook page was hacked, after which she made another attempt to reveal the truth about what is happening in Gaza by opening a new page.

Hamas’s threat to arrest her relatives eventually made her decide to quit her job.

Another female resident of Gaza said that after long years of study, she opened a pharmacy, but closed it again within a short time.

Every week Hamas ‘inspectors’ would come to the pharmacy and confiscate large quantities of medicines that they said were expired.

This was a lie, the woman said, adding that Hamas is increasing its income in this way and sold the medicines at exorbitant prices.

Others testified to Hamas’ heavy tax regime, which taxes almost all necessities of life.

This has led to unprecedented poverty in the Gaza Strip where many struggle to purchase basic goods.

Hamas also intimidates and terrorizes the people of Gaza in other ways.

Those who own a shop must pay ‘protection money,’ and those who are critical of the regime can expect immediate retaliation.

One of the interviewees said that a team from the local electricity company came to a residential area and cut entire blocks off from the electrical grid.

This was done in retaliation over criticism of Hamas’ rule and was carried out on the orders of its leadership, which sent police in order to protect the workers.

Eventually, the neighborhood revolted and chased the armed police away with stones, while the cops used live fire in an attempt to quell the disturbances.

This all happened after the police severely beat a boy with Down syndrome after he wanted to resist the electricity cut.

Emigration dramas

The harrowing misery in Gaza, where half of the working population is unemployed, has led to the flight of hundreds of residents who seek asylum abroad.

In 2018, an opinion poll showed that about half of the people in Gaza wanted to emigrate, but only a small part of the population managed to achieve this dream and fled to countries such as Tunisia and Turkey.

In October 2022, eight young Arabs drowned off the coast of Tunisia, while during the last quarter of last year alone, an estimated 24 young Palestinian Arabs drowned in the Mediterranean.

According to the Swiss-based human rights organization Euro-med, about 360 Gazans who tried to flee abroad have drowned in the sea since the 2014 war.

The funeral of the eight drowned youths was attended by thousands of Arabs in Gaza in December 2022.

Many of them there expressed anger at Hamas’ policies and pointed to the fact that the children of Hamas leaders live in luxury, while their children die as a result of the dire situation in the Gaza Strip.

 

Hamas corruption

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the population in Gaza say Hamas is thoroughly corrupt and steals what little money they have.

The opulence of the Hamas leadership is a well-known fact, as is the fact that the majority of the organization’s leaders live abroad, mainly in Qatar and Turkey, where they have a luxurious life and dwell in 5-star hotels or mansions.

The US Treasury Department released a report last year showing that top Hamas officials have invested more than $500 million abroad.

The wealth of the Hamas leadership is in stark contrast to the poverty of the population in Gaza, with the group’s leader Khaled Mashaal having amassed a staggering $2.6 billion fortune.

The Gaza residents who were lucky enough to flee to Qatar, Turkey or Tunisia, and from there to other countries, try to support their families left behind financially.

This is done, among other things, by selling their organs to donor banks in Turkey.

 

Hamas in Turkey and southern Lebanon

Turkey plays a double role when it comes to relations with Israel and Hamas.

On the one hand, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime is trying to improve relations with Israel, while at the same time the Turkish leader allows Hamas to use his country as a base for its terrorist activities.

One of the Turkish conditions for normalizing relations with Israel was reportedly that Mossad stop hunting Hamas members operating from Turkey.

This has now become an acute problem after it became known this week that Iran has recruited Hamas members in Turkey for espionage activities.

Hamas has an office in Istanbul where a spy team collects intelligence about Israel for Iran’s secret service.

Iran has reportedly provided large sums of money to operate the team, and the Turkish secret service MIT is fully aware of the activities of the Hamas espionage team, but takes no action.

The Hamas team consists of terrorists released from Israeli prisons who speak fluent Hebrew. A cyber team is also present.

The cyber team monitors communication within the IDF and is active on social media in Israel, where they try to get in touch with Israelis who immigrated from Iran.

The intelligence gathered in this way is then passed on to the Iranians, who plan to use it in the long-anticipated multi-front war against Israel.

Hamas is also active in southern Lebanon, where the organization is trying to prepare for attacks on northern Israel from near the port city of Sidon.

Given Iran’s role in Hamas’ activities, Hezbollah, which completely dominates southern Lebanon, is not expected to take any action against the Palestinian terror movement when it decides to open a new front against Israel.