Some Gazans appear to be less than thrilled with Hamas. While Hamas polled well after the war, not everyone liked being used as a human shield and shot at if they tried to opt out.
K, another graduate student at an Egyptian university who had gone to Gaza to see his family but was unable to leave after the war started, said on July 22:
“When people stopped listening to Hamas orders not to evacuate and began leaving their homes anyway, Hamas imposed a curfew: anyone walking out in the street was shot without being asked any questions. That way Hamas made sure people had to stay in their homes even if they were about to get bombed. God will ask Hamas on judgment day for those killers’ blood.”
S. a medical worker, said:
“The Israeli army sends warnings to people [Gazans] to evacuate buildings before an attack. The Israelis either call or send a text message. Sometimes they call several times to make sure everyone has been evacuated. Hamas’s strict policy, though, was not to allow us to evacuate. Many people got killed, locked inside their homes by Hamas militants. Hamas’s official Al-Quds TV regularly issued warnings to Gazans not to evacuate their homes. Hamas militants would block the exits to the places residents were asked to evacuate. In the Shijaiya area, people received warnings from the Israelis and tried to evacuate the area, but Hamas militants blocked the exits and ordered people to return to their homes. Some of the people had no choice but to run towards the Israelis and ask for protection for their families. Hamas shot some of those people as they were running; the rest were forced to return to their homes and get bombed.”
Another Gazan journalist, D., said:
“Hamas fired rockets from next to homes. Hamas was running from one home to another. Hamas lied when it claimed it was shooting from non-populated areas. To make things even worse for us, Hamas would fire from the balconies of homes and try to drag the Israelis into door-to-door battles and street-to-street fights — a death sentence for all the civilians here. They would fire rockets and then run away quickly, leaving us to face Israeli bombs for what they did. They are cowards. If Hamas militants are not afraid of dying, why do they run after they fire rockets from our homes? Why don’t they stay and die with us? Are they afraid to die and go to heaven? Isn’t that what they claim they wish?”
There’s a lot more in Mudar Zahran’s full Gatestone piece including an assessment from a Hamas member that the civilian population was prevented from evacuating as part of a strategic plan.
This shoots down the official media narrative that Gaza was too small and that there was nowhere to go. As one Gazan says, the entire population was viewed as a human shield.
It should however be remembered that there were those who chose to be human shields, voluntarily climbing onto the roofs of Hamas buildings, and that Hamas did win an election. Not everyone is on board with it, but it does have plenty of local support.
But it has also racked up some grudges.
H., who did not want his profession to be mentioned, lost one of his legs in an Israeli raid. I asked him who he thought was responsible for his injury. He stated:
“Hamas was. My father received a text-message from the Israeli army warning him that our area was going to be bombed, and Hamas prevented us from leaving. They said there was a curfew. A curfew, can you believe that? I swear to God, we will take revenge on Hamas.”