GAZA CITY — At a beachfront hotel in Gaza City this fall, hundreds of Gaza civic leaders crowded into a Hamas-sponsored conference to hear claims of an imminent Hamas victory over Israel.
“The state of Israel will be history,” the conference director, Kanaan Abed, said in a speech broadcast across the strip. “Palestinians outside Palestine: Prepare your papers. You will return to Palestine after the liberation.”
The reality, however, was nearly the opposite.
Seven months after Hamas launched an 11-day war with Israel, the deadlock between Israel and the Islamist movement has returned to roughly where it was before the fighting started.
Israeli strikes in May killed at least 130 civilians and up to 100 militants, and destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes, shops and offices in Gaza. Rockets from Hamas and its allies killed 13 people in Israel and, accidentally, at least 15 Palestinians in Gaza.
moribund since 2014, is as remote as ever.
Even Hamas’s one indisputable gain — a bump in popularity among Palestinians, burnished by starting the war in the first place — has dissipated, its poll numbers falling to nearly the same level they were early this year.
Its mantle as the leader of the armed resistance against Israel has been tarnished by rising criticism of its governance of Gaza and concerns about corruption and rampant unemployment. And though the group publicly declares that it vanquished Israel
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