Palestinian Affairs

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IDF Tells Gaza Residents to Leave; Hamas Intimidates Them Into Staying

Ron Ben Yishai, a military correspondent for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot, reported today that despite warnings delivered to residents of northern Gaza to leave their homes this morning, only about one-sixth of the population left. “The key problem is that Gazans are more afraid of disobeying Hamas than they are of disregarding IDF warnings,” Ben Yishai observed.

Israeli defense chiefs were also surprised at the lackluster response to IDF leaflets and electronic messages warning residents of neighborhoods in northern Gaza to evacuate. The IDF informed the more than 100,000 people in these areas that it was preparing to attack and they should leave to avoid harm. Of the 120,000 or so people in those neighborhoods, just 20,000 took shelter in UNRWA facilities. The majority remained in their homes following Hamas threats. If they did leave, Hamas announced, it would settle the score with them after the war.

Hamas also instructed UN refugee agency UNRWA not to open its facilities as shelters for those fleeing the neighborhoods that received IDF warnings. UNRWA officials refused, and it is likely that Hamas will seek to settle accounts with them as well after the operation.

This is an example of the exploitation of Gaza’s residents that was excoriated by a Washington Post editorial this morning. Ben Yishai reports that the callous attitude of Hamas towards Gazans has stirred up resentment against the terrorist organization.

The civilians of Gaza, including Hamas supporters, have begun to express resentment towards the militant organizations that have made their lives hell. Such expressions of dissatisfaction, both to foreign reporters and in private conversations, have become more and more common, and could well signal the beginning of unrest against Hamas.

Referring to a poll he reported on a month ago, David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote yesterday that dissatisfaction with Hamas has been brewing for awhile.

As tensions mounted and Hamas and other Gazan factions began to step up rocket fire last month, the people of that territory were heavily in favor of a ceasefire — 70 percent of the poll respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Hamas should maintain a ceasefire with Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank.”

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