CBNNews.com - GAZA STRIP - One year after a military coup by Hamas, 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza favor Hamas rule over Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party.
"The fact that Hamas is still in power one year after the 'coup' speaks for itself," writes Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh.
While living conditions in the Strip deteriorated under Hamas rule, the residents blame Israel and the US for their problems.
"The international sanctions have, ironically, strengthened Hamas," one Palestinian political analyst in Gaza City said.
"The siege also gave Hamas a good excuse not to do anything and to continue blaming the Israelis and Americans for the disastrous situation in the Gaza Strip," he said.
Some residents attribute the 95 percent drop in crime, a figure provided by Hamas-affiliated organizations, to the terror group's tough measures against drug dealers and others.
"We feel safer walking on the street under Hamas," university student Anwar Najjar said. "[There are] no more gangsters, no more kidnappings, no more thefts," he said.
"We've reached a situation in which drivers are afraid to drive through a red light," one journalist said.
"Most people here are happy that the Fatah security forces are gone because they were very corrupt and many of their commanders were acting like mafia leaders," he said.
"They are also happy that all the Fatah gangsters who used to roam the streets and intimidate the people have disappeared. No one [outside of Hamas forces] dares to carry a gun in public," he said.
Toameh points out that the toll in human lives has been high. In the internecine fighting between the two factions, 450 Palestinians have been killed and 1,800 injured.
Since Hamas took over, 75 percent of the population is unemployed, 3,900 factories went out of business, hotels and restaurants have fired some 500 employees and about 1,500 fishermen can't work under the restrictions Hamas placed on them.
International organizations that employed thousands have left the Strip, and human rights organizations claim that 85 percent of the population relies on handouts.
Medical services have also deteriorated under Hamas rule, resulting in the premature deaths of nearly 200 people.
Hamas, which blames Israel for the problems, says it is stronger than ever and the people appear to agree.
"As long as the Palestinians don't see a better alternative to Hamas, they will continue to support the movement," a Gaza City editor said. "The only way to get ride of Hamas is to offer the Palestinians a better alternative," he said.
"Many Palestinians still don't trust Fatah because of its failure to reform itself and remove all the corrupt leaders," he said.
Source: The Jerusalem Post