Support for Hamas replaced by quiet resentment from Gaza businessmen, property owners

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GAZA CITY — Hamas has met resistance in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian sources said Gazan businessmen were reducing cooperation with Hamas and its Palestinian militia allies in wake of the 50-day war with Israel in July and August 2014.

A Palestinian man looks out over destruction in part of Gaza City's al-Tufah neighborhood.
A Palestinian man looks out over destruction in part of Gaza City’s al-Tufah neighborhood.

The sources said Gazan merchants and property owners were avoiding engagement with the forces out of fear that they would become targets of Israel’s military and intelligence agencies.

“Nobody wants to take a chance any more of becoming a future target of Israel,” a source said. “Everybody knows that Hamas will not save or compensate them.”

The sources said many merchants have refused to sell to the militias or their fighters on credit. At the same time, landlords were turning away known or suspected Hamas fighters who seek to rent homes or offices.

“Some of them [businessmen] are prominent members of the community, including those with ties to Hamas,” the source said. “But unless the pressure is physical, they won’t deal with them.”

Some 20,000 Gazan buildings were said to have been damaged or destroyed in Israeli air and artillery strikes on the Gaza Strip. Hamas agreed to a ceasefire after the Israel Air Force bombed three luxury towers in Gaza City.

“The anger among the residents as well as the general business community was explosive and threatened to erode all support for Hamas and the resistance,” another source said. “Some of these people had a direct line to the Hamas leadership abroad.”

The Hamas war against Israel sparked protests during and after the conflict. Hamas killed at least 50 people, many of them involved in street protests in Gaza City and Beit Hanoun.

But the protests continued after a ceasefire went into effect on Aug. 28. They included a Sept. 26 protest by residents of the luxury Daoud Tower in Gaza City, who demanded the eviction of Hamas and militia members.

“All residents on all floors should know their neighbors,” signs placed along the entrance of the building read. “We want to know who the civilian residents are.”

The sources said Hamas, unable to pay many of its fighters, has been reluctant to crack down on the rising dissent from the business community.

They said many of them were linked to senior Hamas officials either in the Gaza Strip or abroad.

Hamas has acknowledged dissent in wake of the war with Israel. But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the movement still commands the loyalty of some two million Gazans.

“This is a natural state of anxiety due to Israel’s brutal crimes, but it does not reflect the general situation,” Abu Zuhri told the London-based Al Monitor website.

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