'Gaza Is Totally Closed Off. There's No Choice but to Fire Missiles at Israel'

'Let us live or let us leave': a Gaza journalist explains what's happening in the Strip right now, and how residents feel about Hamas

Sami Obeid.
Sami Obeid.Credit: A screenshot from a Kan 11 broadcast
Nir Gontarz
Nir Gontarz
Nir Gontarz
Nir Gontarz

Hello to Sami Obeid, radio broadcaster and political commentator, resident of the northern Gaza Strip. Nir Gontarz from Haaretz here. How are you?

All right.

What’s happening now in the Gaza Strip in general, and what’s happening with journalists there?

Listen, everything is closed. There’s no movement in the streets. Huge destruction in the whole of Gaza. On every street, there’s a building that was toppled. There’s no electricity. There’s no clean water. There’s no food. There’s no money. There’s nothing.

I see. Is the Israel army shelling all the time?

Just now there were about three or four hours without any. Maybe they’re on the way to a truce.

Do you feel that we’re on the way to a truce?

Yes. This movie is over. The war was for Abu Yair [“Yair’s father,” meaning Benjamin Netanyahu], and now he’ll form a government with [Kahol Lavan head] Benny Gantz and everything goes back to routine. But after the quiet that will come today, tomorrow, in two days or in another 100 days – there won’t be any change in the life in Gaza. After the war, there will be donations to Gaza. Who takes the money? [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas. What does Abbas do with the money? There’s no rehabilitation for Gaza. We wait for the next round. That’s the mistake of the Israeli government.

How long have you been a journalist?

I present programs on the radio. And I also speak with residents and am a political analyst. Twenty-five years.

Give me your analysis of the relationship of Hamas in Gaza with the people. Do the citizens still support Hamas?

The citizens in Gaza are ruled by Hamas. There’s no escaping that and there’s no other ruler. Who else is going to rule in Gaza? Who else will manage life in Gaza? No one. The people are miserable. Let us live. There’s a mistake in Israel. If I were in the Israeli government, I would open it [the Gaza Strip] up and bring in workers and have coexistence. Hamas rules and will continue to rule, because no one wants Gaza. Only Hamas enjoys control, and it will fight against whoever tries to deprive it of control.

Do the people understand that they are paying a high price for that rule?

The citizens are miserable. They have no choice. What are they supposed to do? If they rise up against Hamas, what will they get from it? Nothing.

Do you know people who have been casualties of the current war?

Yes. Of course. Good friends of mine have died. Poor guys. They didn’t belong to anything and don’t belong to any organization. Innocent civilians died.

What are the feelings in Gaza right now, among innocent civilians, with regard to Israel?

The operation will end soon without results. We’ll go back to the starting point. Gaza is closed. Most of the residents are poor and begging. Most of the young people don’t work. It’s been like that for almost 15 years, and no one helps Gaza.

Could it be that if Israel kills the leaders of Hamas – that would actually…

In a dream.

Let’s say it was successful.

That’s only in the imagination.

A Palestinian youth looks for salvageable items amid the rubble of a building destroyed in an early morning Israeli airstrike on Gaza City on Tuesday.Credit: MAHMUD HAMS - AFP

So imagine it for a minute. Would that be good for the Gaza Strip or bad for the Gaza Strip?

It makes no difference. It’s nothing.

Why?

Who’s going to rule in Gaza? Who’s going to manage life in Gaza?

How does Hamas actually manage the internal affairs in Gaza?

Internal security like Hamas does, I’ve never seen in my life. Nowhere in the world.

What do you mean?

We are Arabs. Used to arguing with one another. There are no arguments. There is no crime in the neighborhoods. Quiet.

So internally, they’re good?

Yes. But there’s no money. There’s no work and there’s no money. The people who live here are miserable. They don’t decide. Who decides? Hamas manages the life of Gaza. They go to war without telling anyone. They stop a war without telling anyone.

How old are you?

Sixty-two. I have five sons.

What’s with them?

They’re watching. An attack from here, a launch from there. Planes.

What is their psychological state?

Only one is young. He’s 13. He comes to me every night in bed. Hugs me. And me – what? I try to calm him down. He says he dreams about bombs. I want to give him the feeling that it will pass and that it’s nothing. He’s afraid. We live on the fifth floor. Every bomb, the building goes from right to left, right to left, it shakes. All night long.

You should know that there are citizens in Israel – not many, but there are some – who do care about you, the innocent civilians of Gaza, and about the children of Gaza.

There aren’t. If there were they would do demonstrations and everything for the sake of a change in the terrible situation in Gaza.

There are. Only a few, it’s true, and we care about you and about the children.

The situation is bad. The suffering is enormous. And there is destruction everywhere. I don’t know what will be after the war. A great many buildings came down on the people and on little children. There is destruction everywhere. The sights [in the streets] are not good. Hamas and Israel want to stop the war, but they are embarrassed – who’s going to be the first to stop? Do you see?

Yes.

It’s a pity about everyone who is gone. A pity about the children.

Streaks of lights are seen from Ashkelon as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel on Wednesday.Credit: REUTERS/ Amir Cohen

Yes.

We need to be good neighbors. There is no other alternative. A war and another war and another war and another war. Until when?

Yes.

Why are we to blame that Hamas rules in Gaza?

But…

There is no one [else] to rule in Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas will not come to Gaza. He only wants the money.

The money from Qatar that Israel lets through – does it reach the citizens?

They give for 50,000 [people], each one gets $100, and the rest goes to Hamas officials. A neighbor of mine made me breakfast when you called. We were sitting and talking. There’s nothing else to do. I had an office. The building collapsed. It’s gone. We have to start over. Again. Mr. Bibi Netanyahu is also looking out for himself. And for [his wife] Sara and Yair. And the residents are miserable.

Yes…

We are closed off from Egypt and from Israel, and the sea is closed. A person has nothing to do. Only to fire missiles at Israel. You asked what’s happening in Gaza.

Yes.

We are waiting and waiting. For 15 years nothing has changed. Tomorrow the cannons will fall silent and we will return to the same thing. We will return to the same point.

Thank you very much, Sami.

You’re in Tel Aviv? Quiet, yes?

So-so.

I lived in Tel Aviv for seven years. From 1982 to 1989. I know all the streets. I can’t enter Israel anymore. Me and all the inhabitants of Gaza.

Yes.

The solution for Gaza is to open the crossings to Israel and to let us live our lives like human beings, or for you to open the sea to us and we will leave for other places in the world. But to imprison 2.5 million people for 15 years? Until when? The government of Israel is not in Gaza. Mahmoud Abbas is not in Gaza. There is no life in Gaza. People are waiting for the miserable $100. So they can buy food and cigarettes.

Take care of yourselves and of the children.

Thank you very much.

Good bye.

Good bye.