Eight bearded policemen, in black fatigues and carrying AK-47s, leap on to an open-backed truck, which then hares off with much squealing of tyres. The policemen have gone to set up a road block in Gaza City, walkie-talkies spluttering with messages about suspicious vehicles. The message is clear: these are not militants firing rockets, or Islamists ordering women off motorbikes. Rather, on display are normal policemen on a normal beat, bringing order to the roads. Crime has indeed fallen in Gaza. But life is still hard. War and Israeli-imposed shortages have seen to that. The top men in Hamas, men such as Bassam Naim, the health minister, are sensitive to the contrast of a better life in the West Bank – where Hamas’s rivals, Fatah, are in power. The local Hamas leaders speak of absolute certainty in total victory. It is talk not shared on the street. While many blame Israel first for the shortages that result from the blockade, the latest opinion polls suggest that were a Palestinian election to be held, Hamas would lose out to Fatah – even in Gaza.
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