10 Years After Gaza Takeover, Hamas Under Pressure To Surrender Power : Parallels Ten years ago, the Islamist group Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a bloody coup. Now, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is cutting back on financial support to pressure Hamas leaders.
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10 Years After Gaza Takeover, Hamas Under Pressure To Surrender Power

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10 Years After Gaza Takeover, Hamas Under Pressure To Surrender Power

10 Years After Gaza Takeover, Hamas Under Pressure To Surrender Power

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Ten years ago this summer, the Palestinian militant group Hamas staged a coup and took over the Gaza Strip. Hamas has held de facto control of Gaza since then while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ruled just in the West Bank. Well, now Abbas is taking unprecedented steps to get control back, but it's making life in Gaza even tougher. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: When Hamas took over Gaza, it felt it took what it deserved. It had won the majority of seats in Palestinian legislative elections. But Hamas and the rival Fatah party couldn't work out how to share power. It led to gun battles. I met a man who saw his cousin, a Fatah border guard, killed by Hamas gunmen. Ten years have passed, but he's still afraid to let me identify him.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Through interpreter) The darkest 10 years in my life.

ESTRIN: It's been a dark 10 years for most Gazans. Thousands died in three Hamas wars with Israel. Egypt and Israel keep Gaza's borders nearly sealed, citing security concerns. So most people can't go in or out, and imports are restricted. Now the hardship is entering a new phase. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is cutting back the aid he's been providing Gaza. The aim - to pressure Hamas to give him back the keys.

I visited Gaza's main hospital and walked into the medicine storage room. It was largely bare. The Palestinian Authority has slashed health care aid and has even caused delays for Gazans seeking hospital treatment in Israel and the West Bank. The hospital pharmacy director, Nael Skaik, showed me a list of dozens of medicines out-of-stock.

NAEL SKAIK: It's very, very dangerous. You talk about very sensitive medications not available local market. It's not available here.

ESTRIN: The Palestinian Authority has also reduced salaries it pays some employees in Gaza, and it has stopped paying Israel to provide electricity for Gaza, which now has just a few hours of power a day. Little power means sewage can't be treated, and tap water frequently cuts off.

RAED: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: This farmer, who asked us just to use his first name, Raed, often sleeps in a shack in the middle of his field so he can irrigate his crops when electricity comes on in the middle of the night. He's tired of paying taxes to Hamas.

RAED: (Through interpreter) Hamas is just taking money, not giving any services. They are willing to take everything.

ESTRIN: He slips into profanities I can't repeat on the radio.

You don't like Hamas very much, do you?

RAED: (Through interpreter) I hate Hamas from the bottom of my heart, from the river to the sea.

ESTRIN: Gazans are openly angry at Hamas much more than the past, and some have been punished for speaking out. I posed a follow-up question to the farmer.

Do you like Fatah better?

RAED: No. (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: "Fatah is worse," he says. And that's the thing. Abbas' government in the West Bank is not making any friends in Gaza by reducing electricity, and senior Hamas leaders are not feeling the heat because they use generators, says Gaza political science professor Mukhaimer Abu Saada.

MUKHAIMER ABU SAADA: Even air conditioning is on when these generators are on.

ESTRIN: He says by cutting off money and electricity to Gaza, Abbas is cutting himself off from Gaza.

ABU SAADA: After 10 years of the current political split, I believe the split might become permanent and go into final separation between West Bank and Gaza.

ESTRIN: The stakes go beyond just Gaza. President Trump wants to work with Abbas on an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. But it will be hard for Abbas to claim he represents the Palestinians with Gaza out of his hands. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem says the group needs to be in the equation.

HAZEM QASEM: (Foreign language spoken).

ESTRIN: He said, "Hamas is a resistance movement and cannot be ignored." Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Gaza.

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