By Yousef al-Helou
With shortages of electricity, water, fuel, cooking gas and medicine, a lack of economy and no infrastructure, patience with the Hamas-led government in Gaza is running low.
The chronic fuel shortages have added to the despair of Gaza’s 1.6 million people, many of whom blame the government for its failure to resolve the endless crises.
Mohammad al-Abadlah, a member of the gas stations union, says 80 percent of life in Gaza has ground to a halt due to the lack of fuel and electricity. He held the Egyptian government responsible for the shortages.
This view was echoed by an official from the Energy Authority, who said $2 million was sent to Cairo but no fuel has arrived.
The fuel shortages have had a catastrophic effect on daily life. Gazans are enduring daily power cuts of up to 18 hours, hundreds of factories have shut down and even elevators are not working.
Gas station owners say they cannot obtain even a liter of fuel and people are using cooking oil to drive. Others wait in the streets for transport they are lucky to find. Even three-wheel motorbikes are in demand.
The noisy sound of generators can be heard throughout Gaza, day and night, causing several casualties through fires and by their lethal fumes.
Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has tried to calm people down and said Qatar agreed to send cargo ships with fuel via Egyptian ports.
At a press conference Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Awad said the crisis was politically motivated by external forces that sought to tighten the siege.
But many Gazans are not satisfied by the government’s response, and Hamas’ ongoing attempts to blame others for the crisis have only angered people further.
“They only blame the Israeli siege, but what has the government done to solve the problem?” a 32-year-old asked.
“It’s the lack of management. It’s corruption. If they cannot rule then they should leave office. Sometimes they blame the PA and sometimes the EU and now Egypt,” another said.
Sameh, a 23-year-old student, said the government could not expect people’s support when it failed to provide for its citizens.
“How do they expect the people’s support when they are not providing us with means of steadfastness under Israeli occupation and siege in Gaza?”
“People are not asking for surrender under the siege that is a form of collective punishment but again people’s fate is with the hands of the government,” said Abu Nidal, an unemployed man.
A recent graduate, also unemployed, said: “Life is unbearable in Gaza. Patience has run out.”
“For God’s sake, they should know that the people are the source of power and authority. People are not happy under the bad circumstances we are going through, so they should do something or step aside and let someone else rule,” said a taxi driver who could not find gas.
A 52-year-old restaurant owner who was forced to close his business said Hamas had disappointed voters who hoped the party would bring reform.
“A lot of Fatah supporters voted for Hamas for reform and change but after six years in power, what happens? Tunnel owners including some Hamas members have became very rich, prices of land and apartments and cars have skyrocketed and they even impose taxes and want to share everything we have.”
Discrimination against non-Hamas supporters has reached an unprecedented level, as anyone outside the party finds when applying for a government job, and aid sent to the Palestinian people through convoys is not fairly distributed.
With around 80 percent of Gazan households reliant on food aid provided by international organizations, Hamas’ tax hikes have only added to the discontent.
A change in policy could restore the government’s popularity, but for many Palestinians — who feel their needs are sidelined by personal and factional interests — only national unity will end the crises.
Yousef al-Helou is a freelance journalist from Gaza. He can be reached at [email protected]