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Gazans are becoming more openly angry with Hamas for the war's toll on civilians

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Cheers rang out in Gaza last night at the news that Hamas responded to an offer for a cease-fire.

(CHEERING)

PFEIFFER: But as NPR's Daniel Estrin reports, Hamas also faces widespread criticism in Gaza from civilians who are paying a heavy cost.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: There have been a few rare protests in Gaza in recent weeks.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Arabic).

ESTRIN: In this video of one recent protest shared on social media, protesters chant, the people want a cease-fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Arabic).

ESTRIN: They name the leaders of Israel and Hamas - Netanyahu and Sinwar, enough war and enough destruction. The anger at Israel is clear. It's the deadliest war Palestinians have ever faced. But calling out Hamas is noteworthy, first because Hamas does not tolerate dissent and has broken up protests over the years, and second because Palestinians tend to rally around Hamas during wartime for standing up to Israeli oppression. But NPR's producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, has documented growing voices of dissent.

ADNAN ABDELAAL: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: "Hamas has destroyed us," says Adnan Abdelaal (ph). He had to flee his home and then fled for safety three more times. Now he's living out of a backpack. Here's what he says about Hamas' decision to ambush Israel on October 7. "I don't know if they thought about it and what would happen to us. We didn't receive any warning to leave. Now we just look for a loaf of bread to eat." During the war, bread lines last hours. Bakeries don't have enough flour, fuel and cooking gas.

SUHEIR SAFI: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: Suheir Safi (ph) says Hamas should, quote, "give consideration to their people. Every shepherd is responsible for his flock."

ABDELSALAM AL-GHOUL: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: Thirty-year-old Abdelsalam Al-Ghoul (ph) says Hamas' attack was an honorable act against Israeli oppression. But he says Hamas miscalculated because Hezbollah and Iran didn't join the attack. He says Hamas prepared its fighters for this war but not its civilians.

AL-GHOUL: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: He says the resistance says it's ready for rounds of combat for months and years, so are we but provide us with our daily bread so we resist together. On Facebook, many Gazans have been alluding to their frustration with Hamas' leader. One man named Sami Allhelou wrote, a captain takes the ship to where the people want. A pirate takes the ship to where he wants. A man named Mohanad Mehrez wrote, an entire generation in Gaza never saw a tank in their lives. The crazy man brought the tanks to the center of the refugee camp because of stupidity.

To be clear, Hamas still has supporters in Gaza. A recent poll found more than half of Gazans support Hamas' decision to attack October 7. Most of those surveyed didn't think Hamas committed atrocities that day, and more than half think Hamas will survive the war despite Israel's goal to crush it. Hamas is still managing to attack Israeli soldiers. And Hamas has even reasserted itself as a governing force, paying partial salaries to civil servants and sending police officers to patrol.

THOLFIKAR SWAIRJO: Because Hamas, they consider that they are the winner in this war.

ESTRIN: Tholfikar Swairjo is in Gaza. He used to be active in a leftist Palestinian political party. The message, he says, Hamas wants to project?

SWAIRJO: They didn't lose the war because Hamas, until now, Hamas is Hamas.

ESTRIN: The bigger war, as he puts it, is what Hamas will face after the fighting is over, the colossal task of rebuilding a decimated Gaza. He thinks Hamas will have to change from an outlier opposition force to a participant in the internationally recognized Palestinian movement, the PLO, committed to the goal of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

SWAIRJO: Hamas, they are smart enough to understand what's happening and what is coming in the future. Because of that, they will change. People will obligate them to change because they will not accept to have another war, another catastrophe. People will not accept to continue this forever.

ESTRIN: As he puts it, I lost my job, my business. I lost my house. I lost everything. I want Hamas to do something for me.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Daniel Estrin
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.