Gaza-Israel war: Some Palestinian refugees in Jordan express hope for Hamas victory

At the Gaza camp north of Amman, residents sense that the conflict has changed in their favour

Gaza refugee camp, Jordan, 2020. Amy McConaghy / The National
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In Jordan’s most impoverished Palestinian refugee camp, there is often little to celebrate for thousands of displaced residents.

Over the last two days, however, some of the inhabitants of the Gaza Camp north of Amman have been delving into their meagre cash holdings to distribute sweets to passers-by.

They are celebrating one of the most lethal attacks against Israel in the history of the conflict, which by some counts, may have killed between 400 and 600 people, mostly civilians. Israel, in turn, is bombarding the densely populated Gaza territory, where at least 300 have died in 48 hours.

“Everyone I know cannot believe it. We are flying from joy,” says Ibtisam, a manager of a charity at the camp, one of ten for Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

The surprise attack by the Iranian-supported Hamas militant group on Saturday also resulted in the capture of an unknown number of Israeli soldiers and non-combatants who have been taken hostage.

The news has been followed closely in Jordan. A large percentage of the kingdom’s 10 million population are descendants of Palestinians who fled the 1948 and 1967 conflicts with Israel.

Among them are the 50,000 inhabitants of the Gaza camp, who trace their origin to the strip.

The authorities in Jordan, which is dependent on US aid and has a peace treaty with Israel, have been vocal in their criticism of Israeli pressure on the Palestinians, which mounted in the last two years, with more focus on the West Bank.

But Jordanian officials have had to balance their rhetoric with what they perceive as the need to maintain ties with Israel, and pursuit of diplomatic means to obtain Palestinians rights, away from militant violence outrightly supported by Iran and its Middle East proxies.

Relatives in Gaza

Most people in the camp have relatives in Gaza, but they appeared little concerned about their fate, although thousands of civilians were killed in past Israeli retaliatory strikes against smaller operations by Hamas and other militant groups.

“You might find some Palestinian intellectuals saying that the attack will not change anything and will only bring more misery to Gaza,” says Ibtisam.

“This time it's different. Fear has been instilled in the Israelis, many will be thinking about leaving,” she says.

Like most people at the camp, Ibtisam has dozens of relatives in Gaza, itself populated mostly by refugees from elsewhere in Palestine.

Most of the Palestinians in Jordan have Jordanian citizenship and unimpeded right to work, except for refugees from Gaza, who fled to Jordan in the late 1960s, and their descendants.

Iman, who works illegally as a secretary in the nearby city of Jersah, is in contact with her cousins in Gaza on WhatsApp.

She says that they are not afraid.

“We are not afraid about them either. They have incredible faith,” she says. “Hamas took so many hostages this time, so Israel will have to be careful in its response”.

Jordan maintains channels with Hamas and has a 40-bed field hospital in Gaza, although the authorities expelled the group's leadership from the kingdom in the 1990s.

Ahmad, who is in his 20s and works intermittently as a driver, has several uncles and aunts in Gaza.

“After being surrounded for almost 20 years without electricity or water or jobs, they have nothing to lose,” he says.

“What happened yesterday is bound to serve the cause.”

Updated: October 08, 2023, 2:25 PM