Hamas is an Islamist militant group in the Gaza strip, which is also known as Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya (Islamic Resistance Movement). Hamas is a Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States Government and many other countries due to its armed resistance against Israel.
Hamas became a prominent power after the widespread Palestinian protests in 1987 (the First Intifada). The militant group made its opposition of the Oslo peace accords very clear by using suicide bombings to effectively null any agreements that were proposed in the peace agreement. The Hamas-endorsed suicide bombings effectively increased opposition towards the Oslo accords on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. The Palestinians felt like the Oslo Accords were disproportionately beneficial to the Israelis, and the Israelis were outraged by the terrorist attacks on their fellow Israeli citizens.
Hamas has been the ruling power in the Gaza strip since 2006 when it ousted the rival movement (Fatah) from power. However, it is possible that the long reign of Hamas is slowly coming to an end. Some sources consider Hamas to only serve as a passive organization that cheers on protesting and violence against Israel rather than being an active coordinating power. They have also been labelled by Palestinians as corrupt and ineffective. Protests earlier this year indicate that the public attitude of Gazans towards Hamas continues to become more strained. Until now there have not been many significant protests or opposition against Hamas, but with the increasing prevalence of technology and ease of dissemination of information, this could quickly change. According to
One such example of increasing dissent of Hamas took place on January 27th 2022. It took the form of an online audio discussion which mainly focused on criticizing the Hamas rule of Gaza. The three-hour online discussion is being referred to as “They Hijacked Gaza”. Following the audio discussion which included hundreds of Palestinians, the tag began trending on Twitter as خطفوا_غزة#. In February the tag was trending on twitter. It is still being posted today alongside posts expressing frustration with Gaza’s abysmal economic situation, extremely high rates of unemployment, and lack of basic resources like clean water and sewage treatment. The topic and posts are not as urgent or aggressive as it was in early February but if a similar event were to take place, it could easily escalate to the same level of widespread protesting that was seen in March of 2019.
In March of 2019, there was a Hamas opposition movement called “We want to live” or #بدنا_نعيش . During this time was the one of the top trending hashtags in the Middle East (via Twitter). According to a BBC article on the event, the original goal of this movement was not to change the regime in Gaza, but to get the regime to peacefully bring changes in the economic conditions and create more jobs and improve economic conditions. However, this movement lead to more aggressive and violent mass protesting. One man, Ahmed Abu Tahoun, self-immolated after his shop was closed by Hamas because he participated in the protesting. Another woman pointed out the disparities between the average Gaza Youth and the children on Hamas officials saying that Hamas official drove expensive cars while 70% of the population was unemployed and starving. Situations like this serve to escalate the feelings of desperation and anger which lead to violent protesting.
It is possible that the economic situation in the Gaza strip will worsen as the war between Russia and Ukraine intensifies. Due to the war in Ukraine, world-wide the prices of gas have increased significantly as NATO countries agree to boycott Russian Gas suppliers. According to BBC, the European Union will only buy Russian gas provided through pipelines, the United States has completely stopped buying Russian oil and gas, and the United Kingdom will no longer use Russian gas or oil by the end of 2022. Russia is also the largest exporter of fertilizer in the world. With a lower access to export goods and facing heavy sanctions, Russia is no longer able to supply fertilizer or oil at the same pre-war capacity. This leads consumers to look for other sources, meanwhile prices of gas, oil and fertilizer have increased significantly. The Ukraine and Russia war could also significantly decrease the amount of donations sent to Gaza. With the increased price of gas, oil, fertilizer, and consequently food, the budget for humanitarian aid will likely be stretched thin. Ukraine is also in desperate need of financial contributions to the war effort as well as Refugee efforts. Due to this added expense, this may result in a decrease in funds for humanitarian aid in Gaza.
Additionally, if Hamas were to lose power in the Gaza strip that could create a power vacuum for a more extreme group. This is relevant to the United States because it could significantly change the power dynamic between Israel and Palestine. The United States of America is an ally of Israel, but the US also has interests in the holy sites located in Jerusalem. If a more extreme group were to oust Hamas they could have more lethal attacks or larger scale attacks on historical religious sites. Additionally, a new leading authority in Gaza could have more funding from other countries or organizations, making future attacks more accurate and efficient. The U.S. Government may consider tracking changes in Palestinian leadership by monitoring Palestinian dissent and support of alternative movements.