‘Only Hamas can defend us’: Israeli raids and Fatah failures boost support in West Bank | Israel-Gaza war

Khalil, limping around his family home in the hills surrounding Ramallah, was nervous after being released the day before. His mother also feared he would be rearrested.

Khalil, a shy 21-year-old whose name has been changed, was arrested in a pre-dawn raid last October for his allegiance to Hamas. However, when Israeli forces broke down the door of his parents’ home, they did not tell him why they were detaining him. He was jailed for six months without charge in “unbelievable” circumstances.

“The Israelis are using these methods to restrain us and to instill fear in us,” he said. “People are afraid. There is no freedom of speech…I am afraid to travel to any city in the West Bank if I am detained. Still, I feel that they could attack my house at any moment. .”

Last October, Israeli officials, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called out Hamas after it carried out unprecedented attacks on Israeli towns and kibbutzim, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping another 250. I swore that I would.

But Israeli forces continue to attack Gaza, claiming they are targeting remaining Hamas brigades, and also mop up thousands of Palestinians in raids in the West Bank. According to the Palestinian Prisoners of War Committee, most are not aligned with Hamas. Still, the increase in raids and settler attacks have succeeded in creating a climate of fear that weakens Fatah, Hamas’s rival who runs the dominant Palestinian Authority, and threatens Fatah’s inability to protect Palestinians. It is highlighting the situation and secretly increasing the popularity of Hamas.

Opinion polls show consistent dislike for Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and head of Fatah. Photo: Anadolu/Getty Images

“These attacks create distrust towards the Palestinian Authority, but they also create fear of attacks by them. They cannot protect us, but they can also attack us. ” said Khalil, noting the authorities’ history of detaining Hamas members in the Palestinian territories. West Bank of the Jordan River.

Map showing the location of Al Mughair

For Khalil, Israel’s series of attacks have achieved nothing but anger. The Birzeit University student pointed out that almost all of the 24 student council leaders have been detained or are at risk of being detained. Birzeit’s Hamas-backed bloc has won a landslide victory in annual student elections in recent years, a victory often seen as a rare democratic usher for the entire West Bank.

Hamas sees these successes as a clear sign of grassroots support, as there have been no Palestinian Authority elections for almost two decades. But now, fear of arrest and possibly rearrest has silenced much candid political expression across the West Bank, and even casual discussion of support for Hamas can carry the risk of detention. .

Opinion poll conducted by the Center for Palestine Policy and Research in Ramallah showed a rise in support for Hamas It declined in the months after the October attacks, and then in recent months. But what remained consistent was the authorities’ distaste for President Mahmoud Abbas and their search for political alternatives to his rule.

In his home in al-Mughayyir village, where blackened dirt from settler attacks still remains on the road and cars outside, Ahmed echoes his anger at Israeli soldiers and settlers, as well as his anger at the Palestinian Authority. He was also eager to vent his anger. His name was also changed.

“The PA shows up here with guns, but why don’t they use guns when the settlers attack?” They only come here to collect taxes from our backs. They take everything, promise us protection, but offer us nothing. But if you try to protect yourself, the police will arrest you before the Israelis do,” he said, looking angrily across the village, and soon gunshots echoed in the air.

Al Mughair village photographed through a broken window after an attack on Israeli settlers in April 2024. Photo: Mohammad Trokman/Reuters

“The truth is clear: Hamas gives us a glimmer of hope,” Ahmed said. “My support for Hamas continues to grow. What was taken by force can only be taken back by force. Only Hamas can protect us from the settlers.”

“We are fighting against the Palestinian Authority, but we are not getting any benefits from them. They are clearly our enemies… Their existence has no meaning,” he said. It added that for months it had “intensified” its own crackdown on Hamas supporters, searching for weapons and trapping the father.

“People are too scared to even put up banners,” he says. “You don’t even have the courage to mention Hamas. Even growing a beard is a felony. But as they try to turn people away from Hamas, their support only grows.”

Kadula Fares, the head of the authorities’ prisoners and ex-prisoners committee and a long-time Fatah party official, was concerned that their perceived failures had emboldened their rivals. . He added that al-Mughayyir, a place on which Fatah traditionally relies on significant support, is concerned about an increase in settler attacks. Israeli soldiers sometimes witnessed or participated.undermined the agency’s policy and security cooperation with Israel, and the organization itself.

“This continued security cooperation is disliked by the majority of Palestinians,” he said. “On top of that, corruption and lack of elections mean a lack of legitimacy, which adds to the reasons why people choose Hamas.”

Fares attended a political rally in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s de facto capital, and said he was surprised to hear secular and Christian participants expressing support for Hamas.

“Hamas’ popularity in the West Bank is clearly growing,” he said, adding: “One of our main mistakes has been the detention of Hamas members, and we need to stop this.”

At the heart of Fares’ concerns was that Fatah’s decision 30 years ago to begin peace negotiations with Israel ultimately did little to improve the situation for Palestinians in the West Bank.

Fares called the results “less than zero…We need to make some fundamental changes and reevaluate our national message as Fatah to show that we are serious about change.” Yes. Maybe people will give us a chance.”

“Palestinians now believe more in Hamas’ policy that resistance to the occupation is the only possible strategy.” But, he added, “If the Palestinians had their own state and we felt free, Hamas would revert to being a small party.”