Last Refuge


Hamas A whole generation of Palestinians have grown up under siege

A whole generation of Palestinians have grown up under siege

THE MASSACRE by Hamas of over 1,000 Israeli civilians a fortnight ago has been the justification for the current slaughter by Israel of at least 3,000 Palestinian civilians in Gaza in just over a week. Western media has concentrated mainly on the trauma of Israelis but below we publish an account of the psychology of Hamas militants by journalist and author Dr Ramzy Baroud.

Regardless of the precise strategy of Palestinian group Hamas or any other Palestinian movement for that matter, the Palestinian military campaign deep inside Israel on Saturday, October 7, was only possible because Palestinians are simply fed up. Israel imposed a hermetic siege on the Gaza Strip 17 years ago. The story of the siege is often presented in two starkly different interpretations. For some, it is an inhumane act of ‘collective punishment’; for others, it is a necessary evil so that Israel may protect itself from so-called Palestinian terrorism.

Largely missing from the story, however, is that 17 years is long enough for a whole generation to grow up under siege, to enlist in the resistance and to fight for its freedom. According to Save The Children, nearly half of the 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza today are children. This fact is often infused to delineate the suffering of a population that has never stepped outside the tiny, impoverished strip of 365 sq km, approximately 141 sq miles. But again, numbers, although they may seem precise, are often employed to tell a small part of a complex story.

This Gaza generation, which either grew up or was born after the imposition of the siege, has experienced at least five major, devastating wars, of which children, like them, along with their mothers, fathers and siblings, were the main targets and victims. “If you surround your enemy completely, give them no chance to escape, offer them no quarter, then they will fight to the last,” wrote Sun Tzu in The Art of War.

Yet year after year this is precisely what Israel has done. This strategy proved to be a major strategic miscalculation. Even the mere attempt at protesting the injustice of the siege, by gathering in large numbers at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel, was not permitted. The mass protests, known as the Great March of Return, were answered with Israeli sniper bullets. Scenes of youngsters carrying other bleeding youth while shouting “God is great” became a regular scene at the fence. The casualty count increased but media interest in the story simply faded with time.

The hundreds of fighters who crossed into Israel through four entry points at dawn on October 7 were the same young Palestinians who knew nothing but war, siege and the need to protect one another. They also learned how to survive, despite the lack of everything in Gaza including clean water and proper medical care. This is where the story of this generation intersects with that of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad and any other Palestinian group.


Yes, Hamas chose the timing and the nature of its military campaign to fit into a very precise strategy. This strategy, however, would not have been possible if Israel did not leave these young Palestinians with no other option but to fight back. Videos circulating on social media show Palestinian fighters yelling in Arabic – with that distinct, often harsh-sounding Gaza accent – “this is for my brother” or “this is for my son”. They shouted these and many other angry statements as they fired among panic-stricken Israeli settlers and soldiers. The latter, on many occasions, had abandoned their positions and run away.

The psychological impact of this war will most certainly exceed that of October 1973, when Arab armies made quick gains against Israel, also following a surprise attack. This time, the devastating impact on the collective Israeli thinking will prove to be a game-changer, since the ‘war’ involves a single Palestinian group, not a whole army, or three. The October 2023 surprise attack, however, is directly linked to the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war. By choosing the 50th anniversary of what Arabs consider a great triumph against Israel, the Palestinian resistance wanted to send a clear message: the cause of Palestine remains still the cause of all Arabs. In fact, all the statements made by top Hamas military commanders and political leaders were loaded with such symbolism and other references to Arab countries and peoples. This pan-Arab discourse was not haphazard.


Instead of attacking at night, the resistance attacked at dawn. Instead of striking at Israel using the many tunnels under Gaza, they simply drove there, parachuted, arrived by sea and, in many cases, walked across the border. The element of surprise became even more baffling when Palestinian fighters challenged the very fundamentals of guerrilla warfare: Instead of fighting a ‘war of maneuver’, they, however temporarily, fought a ‘war of position’, thus holding for many hours on the areas they gained inside Israel.

Indeed, for the Gaza groups, the psychological warfare was as critical as the physical fighting. Hundreds of videos and images beamed through every social media channel as if hoping to redefine the relationship between Palestinians (the usual victim) and Israel (the military occupier). Regardless of how many Palestinians Israel will kill in retaliation, although tragic, it will hardly salvage the tattered image of an undisciplined army, a divided society and a political leadership that is solely focused on its own survival.

It is too early to reach sweeping conclusions regarding the outcomes of this unprecedented war but what is crystal clear is that after the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, the fundamental relationship between the Israeli occupation and occupied Palestinians is likely to be altered – and permanently so.

Dr Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of the Palestine Chronicle, whose honorary editorial board includes Prof Noam Chomsky and Dr Hanan Ashrawi. Baroud is the author of six books on Palestine and is a non-resident senior research fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University. His website is

Micko - Halloween 2023

Related Articles: