This last week, however, Hamas made a mistake that has seriously harmed their image in the Arab World. They seized international aid supplies that were coming into the Gaza Strip through the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). After their stores were raided at gunpoint for the second time in the last few days, UNRWA announced that it is suspending its aid to Gaza until its supplies were returned and it had assurances from Hamas that such actions would not be repeated.
Hamas's move has come under fire from various quarters, particularly in the Arab World. Al-Quds al-Arabi, for example, recently published an editorial called "Hamas made a mistake, and must rectify it." In the article it bashed the armed movement's actions, saying that they seriously undermined the lifeline of aid that trickled into Gaza. International aid agencies are sorely needed in Gaza, and pushing them out of the Strip through such selfish action did not help ordinary Palestinians living there. The newspaper stated:
The article acknowledged that Hamas has long been aggitated by UNRWA's refusal to help a wider range of Palestinians in Gaza - the agency only distributes aid to those with the status of "refugee." Hamas rightly states that most Palestinians in the Strip are facing the same problems, whether or not they have the refugee label. al-Quds al-Arabi, however, reminded its readers that UNRWA is, by definition, an agency created to aid refugees and refugees only. Hamas can't make the agency violate its own laws according to the Palestinian group's whims.
وربما يفيد التذكير بان ممثلي وكالة الاونروا كانوا اكثر ايلاما لاسرائيل من صواريخ المقاومة، عندما تصدوا بشجاعة للعدوان الاسرائيلي، وفضحوا جرائمه في حق الاطفال والنساء، وتحدثوا بطرق مؤثرة عن معاناة ابناء القطاع تحت
الحصار التي هزت الرأي العام العالمي بأسره.It may be important to remember that UNRWA's representatives were more harmful to Israel than the resistance's rockets: when they courageously confronted Israeli aggression, exposed Israel's crimes towards the rights of women and children, and spoke passionately about the suffering of Gazans under the blockade in a way that shook international public opinion to its core.
In the face of similar public pressure, Hamas has apologized for its seizure of UNRWA supplies. Hopefully, they won't resort to such tactics again. It's only through cooperating with international institutions like UNRWA that they, or any other groups, can improve the situation of those in Gaza - or indeed, any other part of Palestine.