It has been more than two years since the militant Palestinian group Hamas took over the Gaza Strip after a short but bloody war with the rival Fatah movement, which rules the West Bank.
Since then, Hamas has been consolidating its political power. But the recent conflict with Israel and Gaza’s continuing isolation are taking a toll on the group’s popularity on the streets.
Last week in Gaza, Hamas police were training on the beaches during the day. At night, Hamas’ military wing, al-Qassam Brigades, was drilling its members on how to move through Gaza City’s crowded neighborhoods in case of another confrontation with Israel.
Offices are bustling inside the building where Hamas houses its government ministries. It is clear that the group is in control of the Gaza Strip. But when asked whether Hamas still has the support of the people, Hamas’ Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Youssef sounds defensive.
“If we have six months, we will be able to convince our people. The people know why we are suffering here,” Youssef says. “The people are suffering because of sanctions, because Gaza [is] under siege, but this they understand at the same time why they are suffering. So the blame is not for Hamas.”
Gaza-based analyst Mokhaimar Abu Seada says that is not true. “Hamas’ popularity here in the Gaza Strip has declined,” he says.