Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Gazans fed up with Hamas

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip -- Mohammed Wahdan, a 20-year-old Palestinian farmer, waited until his mother's four-day funeral had ended, until the last mourner had left his family's crumbling farmhouse on the edge of the Gaza Strip.

Then he picked up an ax and walked out to the family's orange grove. The trees, then full of bright fruit, overlooked fields that rolled down to a cluster of white houses in the distance, their outlines fuzzy in the winter mist.

Hefting the ax, Wahdan sliced into the dozen or so orange trees, part of his family's livelihood, sending them to the ground, one by one.

Palestinian gunmen -- members of Hamas, the armed movement that controls Gaza, and other groups -- had used the cover offered by the orange grove to launch rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot, the white houses at the edge of Wahdan's fields.

When the fighters came one morning last month, the Wahdan family pleaded with them to think of the Israeli return fire that the rockets often drew. "There are women in the house, there are children," Wahdan recalled telling them. "You run away, but if the Israeli planes come, where do we go?"

But the gunmen went on as planned, the Wahdan family said. When the fighters came back that afternoon to launch rockets that had failed to fire the first time, Khadra, Mohammed's 54-year-old mother, was rolling dough in the kitchen. She ran out to shout at the fighters.

Khadra made it to the gate of the family courtyard when an Israeli shell hit. Shrapnel killed her and the family's 15-year-old hired farmhand.

"Her last words were, 'Go away,' " Mohammed Wahdan said.

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