Toshikuni Doi, Gaza Residents Are “Double Victims” of Both Israeli Forces and Hamas

February 27,  2024

I spent 30 days on the ground during the Gaza offensive in the summer of 2014. About 2,100 Gaza residents were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced. But the scale of the Israeli attack on Gaza this time has been completely different from the previous four attacks on Gaza, both in scale and length: at the end of February 2024, the death toll is far more than 10 times that of the 2014 attack on Gaza, and more than a million people have lost their homes.

What has further afflicted the Palestinians is that the Israeli blockade has cut off food, water, fuel, medicine, and other necessities of life, pushing the population to the brink of starvation. M, a journalist in Gaza with whom I have been in regular contact, said, “A family of five eats one meal a day, and they don’t even have flour, their staple food. They drink water by boiling irrigation water. Vegetables are scarce, expensive, and hard to come by. They are making do with expired canned goods and beans that they can barely get their hands on.”

In the winter during the rainy season, there is neither sufficient warm clothing nor heating when it is very cold. Living in tents is especially hard on children. Influenza and other infectious diseases are spreading among the children. In addition, children are forced to drink unclean water and suffer from abdominal infections.

Mental trauma

Even more serious is the psychological damage to the children caused by the prolonged Israeli military assault and the harsh living conditions.

M, who has three children under the age of five, reported to me, “The children cry and scream in the middle of the night. They wake up in the middle of the night screaming and yelling as if they are having nightmares. They need psychological treatment.”

It’s not just children. M says that adults are also exposed to the sound of shelling every night and are constantly tormented by the fear that their homes might be shelled. Many Palestinian residents are preoccupied with ‘survival.’ This is why the residents M meets on the streets and in stores, especially the younger generation, all say, “I will leave Gaza when the fighting is over. The social infrastructure and economy of Gaza have been almost completely destroyed.” M predicts that it will take at least two to three decades to rebuild it, unlike in the past. “I don’t see a future for Gaza. Gaza is finished!” M said to me.

Rage against Hamas

Needless to say, the people of Gaza harbor immense hatred and anger toward Israel, which has murdered more than 30,000 of them, destroyed their infrastructure, starved them with its blockade, and shattered their dreams for the future.

But Israel is not the only target of residents’ anger, according to M. “Anger against Hamas, which triggered the Israeli attack on Gaza, is increasing daily among Gazans as the Israeli army’s unprecedented assault and genocide continues, and there is a growing chorus of voices on the streets and social networking sites vehemently condemning the Hamas leadership.”

At the beginning of the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, “there were certainly some residents who supported the Hamas attack, saying that it ‘punished’ Israel for what it had done to the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem,” M said. However, many residents reportedly did not have enough information about what atrocities Hamas had actually committed inside Israel.

On February 8, M told us in a video message.

“People are calling [Yahya] Shinwar [Hamas’ chief executive in the Gaza Strip] a ‘son of the devil,’ a ‘crazy adventurist,’ and other such epithets. Shinwar has brought about this utterly senseless catastrophe. People have no idea what the purpose of the October 7 attack was, and they ask: What did you [Hamas] accomplish with this attack? The liberation of Palestine through armed struggle? That is impossible. What is the purpose of that madness!”

Another factor contributing to the anger of Gaza residents against Hamas is Hamas’ refusal to release the hostages and agree to a ceasefire, even though the people have suffered tremendous damage and are exhausted from the attacks. Meanwhile, the Gaza residents are being killed one by one and suffering from starvation.

Israeli reaction

Meanwhile, in Israel, there have been daily demonstrations shouting, “The Netanyahu government must make the release of the hostages its top priority!” However, in the face of the horrific situation in Gaza, where 30,000 Gaza residents have been killed by Israeli troops and more than 2 million people are suffering from starvation, almost no one is saying, “Stop the attack!” Most Israelis think that “the terrorist group Hamas, which has massacred some 1,300 Israelis, must be destroyed. The Gaza residents who support Hamas are equally guilty, and they should be held responsible.”

But many Gaza residents, angered by Hamas and its actions, have been destroyed, starved, and ruthlessly murdered in Israeli military attacks. The 2.2 million Gazans are “double victims” of both the Israeli military and Hamas.

Toshikuni Doi is an independent journalist and filmmaker