Hamas under pressure to deliver improvements in Gaza

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Rafah Crossing, Gaza, Occupied Palestine – Omsyat Owaja is clutching a dusty, battered small sports bag.

Inside are the few possessions this 21-year-old Palestinian will take with her if she manages to cross from the Gaza Strip to Egypt in the next couple of days.

It has taken two and a half years to get this far.

Omsyat is with thousands of other Palestinians in a packed sports hall that has now become a waiting room for those heading to Egypt.

Some families have been here for days in stifling heat, dozing on the bleachers. There is no breeze or fans to circulate the stale air.

For the last five years Egypt has only opened the Rafah crossing with Gaza occasionally, for a few days at a time.

As many as ten thousand Palestinians are on a long list waiting their turn to travel.

Palestinians in Gaza do a lot of waiting, for everything from statehood, to clean water and reliable electricity to the toughest wait – an end to Israel’s 11-year blockade.

Apparent concession

Now Egypt has said the Rafah crossing will be open daily, throughout Ramadan.

It is the only apparent concession after eight weeks of protests at Israel’s fence with Gaza that have claimed 111 lives and left hundreds of mainly young men with crippling life changing injuries.

“The blood that was shed and the people who lost their legs are worth more than this,” Omsyat says.

“Opening the crossing is just a show. I can’t deny I’ll benefit from it, but still this is not the real price we sought from the protest of return. There is still a siege that should be lifted.”

Waiting for Omsyat on the other side is Mohammed Hersh, her husband of two and a half years.

The couple have never been able to meet.

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Hamas, the Palestinian party that runs Gaza, knows that Omsyat’s view is not unusual.

It is under significant pressure to deliver improvements to daily life after the deaths and injuries inflicted by Israel’s military during the protests.

On a dusty patch of land near the fence with Israel, a stage has been set up for Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar. A crowd of a few hundred supporters has been brought here to hear him.

As the sun sets to mark the end of the daily Ramadan fast, Sinwar delivers a fiery speech.

“History will talk about you and your sacrifices, that you stood up to Trump,” he says.

“All the Arab countries and their armies couldn’t do anything while Trump moved his embassy, but you stood to say we are opposing such a decision.

“We will continue the struggle until we bring you bread dipped in freedom”.

As Sinwar leaves the stage, he is reminded of those sacrifices as he is mobbed by dozens of injured young men.

They ask for help, for crutches, for wheelchairs, for prosthetic limbs.

Improvements to come

Hamas insists the improvements to conditions in Gaza will come.

“One of the most significant achievements is that international public opinion is talking about Palestinian rights,” Sohail al-Hindi, a Hamas official, tells me.

“People are talking about the suffering of Palestinians. The siege of Gaza is making headlines in the newspapers and on TV.”

The area on the Gaza side of the fence is much quieter these days, but still dozens of young men, some on crutches, come back and stare across the fence at Israeli military positions.

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Mahmoud al-Noauq, a 20-year-old English literature student, is also frustrated that so far “nothing has improved”.

“But I think we should keep up the unarmed protesting as I think so much results have yet to come. I think Israel is so concerned about its reputation that eventually they will say, ‘We have to do whatever they want to because we are also concerned about our reputation as a country’.”

So far Israel has not been concerned enough to ease the restrictions on Gaza.

Back at the stadium and after three days of waiting, Omsyat has finally been able to cross into Egypt.

She will start a new life in Sweden with her husband, fulfilling a bittersweet dream of many Palestinians here – which is just to leave.

WATCH: Inside Story – The burning frustration of the Palestinian people

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