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A year later: Hamas still defiant, but Gazans continue to struggle

The Islamist militant group has controlled the coastal strip for a year now and says it will not relent to international pressure.

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Few Gazans are making any money these days. There are the shopkeepers who profit from selling cooking oil to fuel motorists' dilapidated diesels and the donkey-cart drivers who find more fares every day.

But for most, the economy in Gaza has ground to a halt a year after the Islamists of Hamas routed the secular Fatah Party in a violent coup.

Today, Hamas's year in power is felt everywhere. While Gaza suffers under an Israeli blockade, it has been changed from a lawless territory to one that is relatively safe. But by most Western standards of governance, Hamas has failed.

Hospitals lack medicine. Raw sewage streams into the sea. Drinking water is in short supply. People continue to die almost daily in the ongoing conflict with Israel. All the exits to Gaza are shut. Even the glimmer of a cease-fire with Israel does not arouse much hope that any improvement is around the corner.

Now Hamas finds itself at a crossroads. After evolving from an Islamist resistance movement to a political titan influencing regional and global politics, it faces possible war with Israel while at the same time it still maintains support among Palestinians for its ongoing defiance.

"The mistake of Hamas was to be in government and resistance at the same time," says Eyad Sarraj, an independent politician and the Gaza commissioner of the Palestinian Independent Human Rights Committee. "If they get rid of their extreme ideas, they can do much better. They have a moral power they haven't even used yet," which stems from their lack of personal corruption.

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