In February last year, shortly after Hamas's surprise election victory, Laila El-Haddad spoke to nine Palestinians about their hopes and fears for the future.

Since that time, rigorous economic sanctions have been imposed on the Hamas-led Palestinian government and the Palestinian people. The economy has been devastated, which has resulted in unprecedented levels of poverty and left nearly a quarter of the population without salaries. Hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority have been withheld by Israel and all of Gaza's border crossings have been all but shut, sealing in Gaza's 1.4 million residents and isolating them from the West Bank, Jerusalem and the outside world.

 

Laila has tracked down four of the original group and asked them about their thoughts on the situation and whether they have shifted allegiances.

 

Riyad Ni'mami Jabin, 36, farmer

 

"You want the truth? The situation is the same. We haven't benefited anything from anyone - whether from the new government or the old. You came and spoke to me last season when I was unable to export my strawberries due to a continuous Israeli-imposed closure of the Karni crossing. Most of my harvest spoiled. And now 11 months on, I'm in the same situation. Only last year, no one compensated us for our losses and since I didn't have a single shekel to spend, I couldn't prepare for this year's harvest. So I didn't have an opportunity to plant strawberries. There is no support, and no one looks to help the farmers. Even the non-governmental organisations - they put the money all in their pockets.

 

"If new elections were held, I'd most likely vote for the PFLP again. But in the end, we're not benefiting anything from anyone so it's really a vote for the sake of voting. Before it was Fatah, now it's Hamas. And where have we come? Only those with connections can survive. And the rest lose out. In Fatah's day, there was some support for the average person. Now, there's nothing.

 

"Who do I blame? I blame the situation. There's nothing to be done except to stay quiet and accept it. From here to 800 years, it won't change."

 

Mohammad Hinbawi, 58, confectioner

 

"We were hoping for a government that can help create a lively economy. But we've found otherwise.

 

"This started with the closure of all of our government's offices abroad, in American and Europe and elsewhere, which shut their doors to our government representatives. This was followed by the international boycott on all of Palestine, and closures from Israel to prevent us from even our daily bread, in addition to the withholding of our tax revenues. We've endured heavy losses, both economically and militarily.

 

"But despite this all, I still support Hamas and would vote for them again - everyone does. Hundreds of thousands show up at their rallies knowing full well the reality we face - hunger, murder, lawlessness. Yes, we want change, but we are in the middle of a war of convictions, and unfortunately, many people lack faith and patience. Hamas truly wants change, that's why they were elected, but they have simply have not been given an opportunity to do this."

 

 

Khamees Akeela, 37, restaurateur

 

"The situation has worsened, and work is very bad. I didn't vote last time - partly because I was too busy at work, and party because I assumed the outcome [a Fatah victory] was a given. But if new elections are held, I will definitely go out and vote and I will vote for Fatah. Everything is worse than it was before Hamas came into power and I blame the government for not acclimating to the reality surrounding it.

 

"Still, I say a unity government is best and this is what we are holding out our hopes for. But every one seems to be rejecting it on the political level."

 

Leila Dabba, 58, handicrafts shopkeeper

 

"My opinion is the same as it was 11 months ago: there is no stability, there is only fear, and the situation is worse than ever. The only difference is we are fighting each other and Israel is happy to see us do so. We only have ourselves to blame. While some people are wreaking havoc, others are just staying quiet about it. People need to speak out against what's happening!

 

"I didn't vote last time, I didn't really think it would make a difference. But for sure, I will cast a ballot next time and bring a hundred others with me in order to make sure Hamas does not win again. Despite everything that was wrong with Fatah, at least things were moving along, no matter how small a movement that was, we were not going backwards. We don't want to eat or drink, we want stability, we want to sleep at night without having to hear constant shooting."

Interviews and pictures by Laila El-Haddad

Source: Al Jazeera