April 9, 2024 | The Algemeiner

Hamas Pervades Every Aspect of Life in Gaza, and Is Preventing the Distribution of Aid

April 9, 2024 | The Algemeiner

Hamas Pervades Every Aspect of Life in Gaza, and Is Preventing the Distribution of Aid

Gaza is experiencing a total collapse of governance, making basic life-sustaining tasks like food distribution, aid delivery, and law enforcement incredibly challenging. The breakdown is a direct result of the iron grip that Hamas — the genocidal terror regime — held over the coastal enclave for more than a decade and a half. The US, Israel, and other partners have stepped in to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, but in order for these initiatives to succeed, Israel must first remove the Hamas threat.

In March, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights accused Israel of intentionally restricting aid entering Gaza. However according to UN data, more trucks of food entered Gaza in March than any month in the past 10 years, belying the accusation. Israel claims that bottlenecks occur once the aid is inside Gaza, and that the UN is not up to the task of distributing the sorely-needed assistance.

In addition to the near 20,000 trucks of aid that have entered Gaza since October 7, Israel has facilitated a new maritime aid corridor, airdrops of aid by several countries, and is working with the United States on an ambitious project to build a floating pier off the Gaza shore that will help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Israel is also working with several aid organizations on the ground in Gaza to facilitate aid delivery. These organizations have taken on high levels of risk to deliver aid to those who need it in the enclave. Tragically, seven employees of Word Central Food kitchen were mistakenly killed by IDF fire as they traveled from central to southern Gaza during the night hours of April 1. This terrible incident brings the difficulties of delivering aid in war zones into sharp relief.

Despite Jerusalem’s efforts to “flood” Gaza with assistance by land, air, and sea, it is clear that many — especially those who ignored IDF pleas and remained in the war torn north of Gaza – face hunger.

The journey from the south of Gaza, where the vast majority of the aid is entering, to the north of the enclave has proven treacherous. It is on this journey that aid convoys have been attacked by terrorists and mobbed by thousands of desperate Gazans.

The question that needs to be examined is what led to the rapid and total breakdown in governance in Gaza? The answer lies in the style of Hamas rule in the enclave; a lethal authoritarian terror regime that pervaded every aspect of civilian life in Gaza.

Hamas ruled Gaza unchallenged after it took over the enclave in a violent coup in 2007. The bureaucracy, aid organizations, and police were all dominated by the terror organization. Not surprisingly, Hamas was the biggest employer in Gaza in 2023 with a reported 50,000 public sector workers on its payroll.

Hamas was also deeply embedded in the business of humanitarian aid distribution. According to Israel, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) — the UN organization that for over seven decades has provided a litany of services to Palestinians that in normal circumstances would be the responsibility of their government — employed approximately 1,200 staff that were active members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israel also said that at least 12 took part in the horrors of October 7.

The European Council on Foreign Relations describes the Civil Police Force in Gaza as being made up of members of the armed wing of Hamas and other factions in Gaza. Accordingly, Israel has targeted the police and they have fled underground. Without Hamas to enforce the rule of law, civilians in Rafah have formed loosely organized vigilante groups that police the streets with assault rifles or crude batons, and claim their job is to prevent price gouging by Gazan merchants.

Israel reportedly asked clan leaders to assist with distributing aid to the more isolated Gazans in the center and north. The reports elicited a statement from Hamas, warning Gazans that anyone that cooperated with Israel would be dealt with harshly. Since October 7, Hamas has repeatedly targeted Gazans who have defied the regime, and have a history of meting out death penalties and summary executions.

Once Hamas is no longer a threat to Israel or Gazans, new figures may emerge that are willing to partner with Israel and the international community and could play a leadership role in rebuilding the enclave. However, until Hamas is crushed, pragmatic Gazans are understandably cautious; all the more reason for Israel to pursue a total victory.

Enia Krivine is the senior director of the Israel Program and the FDD National Security Network at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow her on X at @EKrivine.


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