Since the Islamist Hamas group seized control of the Gaza Strip 15 years ago, residents have been reminded on a daily basis of the failure of the Iranian-backed group to provide them with decent living conditions. Pictured: A man shops for second-hand clothes at a market in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 29, 2022. (Photo by Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)
It has been 15 years since the Islamist Hamas group seized control of the Gaza Strip, home to some two million Palestinians. Since then, the residents of the Gaza Strip have been reminded on a daily basis of the failure of the Iranian-backed group to provide them with decent living conditions.
Instead, the repressive governance of the Hamas leaders only brings the Palestinians in Gaza more misery.
The situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has become so bad that an increasing number of young people have been committing suicide by self-immolation, throwing themselves from rooftops, swallowing large amounts of medicine and hanging.
Many residents of the Gaza Strip undoubtedly regret the day they voted for Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election.
Many residents also undoubtedly regret the day they supported the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, a process during which the Islamist group killed dozens of members of their rivals in the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
To express their discontent with Hamas and its failed governance, Palestinians have in the past launched protests, both on the streets and through social media, demanding an end to the economic and humanitarian crisis that has plagued them since the Islamist group seized control of the Gaza Strip.
The last protest, which took place in 2017 under the slogan "We Want to Live!", was brutally crushed by Hamas's security forces and militias.
Recently, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip decided to resume their protests against Hamas. The decision came after a spate of violent crime and suicide cases.
In one instance, a Hamas security officer, Jibril Karmout, shot dead his father-in-law and sister-in-law, and wounded 15 others, because of a "family feud."
Human rights organizations have documented 49 cases of homicide and suicides since the beginning of this year.
Just last week, an unemployed 25-year-old man from Shati Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip died days after pouring gasoline on himself and setting himself on fire. The man, who was later identified as Husni Abu Arabiya, was unable to provide for his pregnant wife and his parents, who all lived in the same house, according to Palestinian sources. His mother was injured when she tried to put out the fire.
"My son set himself on fire because of debts," Abu Arabiya's father said. "He did not have a home or a job. He set himself on fire because of poverty and hunger."
Abu Arabiya's sister said that the family lived in a rented house and was unable to pay the rent for the past seven months. "I appeal to the Palestinian governments of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to save the rest of the family," his sister said .
Earlier, Mohammed Abu Al-Rish, a blind man from the Gaza Strip, also committed suicide the same way.
Abu Al-Rish, 36, set himself on fire in front of a bank in the neighborhood of Al-Nasr in Gaza City to protest against the refusal of the Hamas government to provide him with social welfare assistance. Sources in the Gaza Strip said that he lost his sight after Hamas leaders encouraged him and other Palestinians to head toward the border with Israel a few years ago and engage in violent attacks against Israeli soldiers.
On the same day, 22-year-old Ahmed Siam also killed himself by pouring gasoline on himself and setting himself on fire.
Days earlier, another 30-year-old man committed suicide by hanging at his home.
"In all countries of the world, you pay taxes for the services that the state provides you, except for us," complained Khalil Talmas, a resident of the Gaza Strip. "In return, there are no hospitals, no education, no electricity, no water, no public utilities, not even rodent control."
Another Palestinian, Anas Al-Jazzar, wrote that the term "We Want to Live!" really means that Palestinians do not want to die. "It is a cry of pain from the depths of a crushed and exhausted Palestinian people," Al-Jazzar explained. "It is a cry against taxes, extortion, repression and corruption."
Other Palestinians said that the current protest was directed not only against Hamas, but also against the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank that has been imposing sanctions on the Gaza Strip in the past few years as part of an effort to undermine the Hamas regime there.
These Palestinians pointed out the corrupt leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and their family members are leading comfortable lives in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in five-star hotels and big villas in Qatar and Turkey, while most people under their rule are living in poverty and unemployment and misery.
Recently, residents of the Gaza Strip were surprised to hear that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and his family have moved to Turkey. Haniyeh had been living in Qatar for the past few years after he left the Gaza Strip.
Now, it seems he decided to move to Turkey because he apparently feels more safe and relaxed under the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
What surprised many Palestinians was that Haniyeh managed to get all his family members out of the Gaza Strip while most Palestinians still cannot leave: Egypt, which has a shared border with the Gaza Strip, will not allow them to cross the border. Several senior Hamas leaders, however, have in recent years left the Gaza Strip together with their families in search of better lives in Arab and Muslim countries.
Mohammed Nashwan, a Gaza Strip resident, expressed outrage over the move by the Haniyeh family to relocate to Turkey.
"So the [Hamas] leaders' families, their children, grandchildren do not believe in their own [political and military] project, and although they can live in Gaza in the utmost luxury, they choose to leave it for the hotels and villas of Doha and Istanbul... They left the hungry people of Gaza to live in poverty, deprivation and hunger."
Addressing the Hamas leaders, Nashwan added:
"If your children do not believe in your project, do you want people to believe in it? Do you want them to believe in it while they see you living the life of kings outside the country? Do you want them to believe in your project while their children are dying in the sea by drowning and in the forests in search of a decent life while your children have their own investments and real estate?"
The latest campaign against Hamas is unlikely to remove the ruthless and oppressive Islamists from power, at least not in the foreseeable future. Hamas will most probably again use brutal force to suppress the voices demanding dignity and an end to corruption.
Yet these voices offer a glimmer of hope that the Palestinians are finally beginning to realize that their corrupt and incompetent leaders -- whether in the Palestinian Authority or Hamas -- are continuing to lead them from one disaster to another, while depriving them of the international aid that is rightly theirs and denying them a decent life.
It remains to be seen whether the renewed Palestinian unrest in Gaza against the rapacious Palestinian leaders will attract any notice from the international community -- or if more young Gazans need to set themselves on fire before the Hamas-created desperation in the Gaza Strip becomes a story worth covering.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.