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MID: Ahmed and Mohammed want one-way tickets out of Gaza

By Jacques Clement
23 Jan 2009 8:25 PM

GAZA CITY, Jan 23 AFP - Israel's 22-day war on the Islamists of Hamas have left young men like Ahmed and Mohammed with just one dream -- get out of Gaza as fast as they can.

The 20-year-olds marooned on the devastated coastal strip sandwiched between Egypt and Israel say they just cannot imagine their futures under Hamas rule.

"We want to leave, as soon as we can get out of Gaza," says Mohammed.

He would happily go to find his sister in Sweden, but the tall and thin young student of architecture has eyes for any foreign destination.

Ahmed, sporting a three-day beard and tousled hair, would like to go to Syria to join his mother.

"If Hamas stays in power, tomorrow will be the same as today. Nothing will change," he says seated at a table in a kebab eatery in in the city centre.

Mohammed is convinced that despite the fact that Hamas fought Israel in the 22-day war, it's the Islamist movement that is playing into Israeli hands and not Fatah, which runs the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.

"Israelis prefer those who say 'no' because that gives them an excuse to come and crush us.

"Israel does not like people who say 'yes' like (Mahmud) Abbas," the beleaguered Palestinian president and Fatah leader whose forces were routed by Hamas on the Gaza Strip in 2007.

"Anyway we are not strong enough to win" against the Israelis, says Ahmed.

Neither can find words strong enough to condemn the senior Hamas leader who lives in exile in Syria, despite fear of reprisals against anyone who speaks out.

"Khaled Meshaal is nice and warm in Damascus, he gets plenty to eat, he sleeps well. He says we won when there are 1,300 Palestinians dead," spits Mohammed, saying he doesn't care anymore.

"If he had been under the bombs in Jabaliya, he would have had a different opinion."

"Hamas has Gaza by the throat," adds Ahmed, voicing a view that many appear to share but few dare to admit. Both students spoke on condition of anonymity.

They talk of peace but lack conviction. In their experience, a Middle East settlement will require a miracle.

And they certainly do not expect that new US President Barack Obama -- the first black American in the White House -- will be able to change the future for Palestinians living in the shadow of Israel and its military might.

Obama looks like being "a friend of the Jews" like previous US presidents, they say.

The pair live in a south Gaza City district spared by Israeli tanks.

"If they had come to our place we would have fought against them," Ahmed says, "even though we don't have any guns."

They study architecture at the University of Palestine which opened after the evacuation of the Jewish colony of Netzarim in 2005, as Israel pulled out of the strip for what was supposed to have been the last time.

But classes have been suspended because their faculty was hit by the bombs.

Much of the war they spent following on television events that were happening just a few kilometres away.

"For the first 16 days of the war, we had no electricity in our house, after that it was every other day. When it's like that you don't go out at night, you just try to sleep," says Mohammed.

He's been trying to learn to play the guitar and says he loves music -- anything from Britney Spears and Christine Aguilea to Arab legend Fayruz, Egypt's Amr Diab and a list of well-known reciters of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

Ahmed spends his spare time playing football. But the pitch was bombed by the Israelis.