Former Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan al-Khatib: Hamas in the West Bank has become more popular, more important and powerful (Reuters)

Palestinian celebrations of Israel's release outside the Ramallah municipality last Friday saw Hamas green flags spread out among the crowd and young men wearing green hats, Bloomberg reported, noting that it was the latest sign of the group's growing popularity in the West Bank.

Support for Hamas was also evident outside the Nasser mosque in Ramallah a few hours earlier, when hundreds of worshippers protested after dawn prayers against Israel's war on Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pledge to completely destroy Hamas appears a distant goal, with heavily armed militants entrenched in tunnels stretching hundreds of miles beneath Gaza.

The truce, which allows the exchange of Israeli detainees and Palestinian prisoners, continues for a seventh day, and efforts to extend it as international pressure for a permanent ceasefire grows.

Bloomberg says Netanyahu's biggest problem is the support Hamas enjoys in the occupied West Bank, which is ruled by Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority.

Interviews with dozens of Palestinians suggest that events over the past eight weeks have strengthened Hamas's standing and weakened Abbas's "more moderate" administration.

Hamas cannot be eliminated

Ghassan al-Khatib, a former Palestinian minister of labor and lecturer at Birzeit University in the Gaza Strip, told the newspaper that "Hamas in the West Bank has become more popular, more important and strong, while the Palestinian Authority has become more marginalized and less popular. You can't eliminate Hamas. "As long as the political root is not addressed, these rounds of violence will continue."

A poll published this month by the Arab World Research and Development Group, a Palestinian polling group, found that 83 percent of 391 respondents in the West Bank supported what the Palestinian resistance did in the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7.

Khaled Rudil, a teacher in the West Bank, said: "Hamas is on our side."

Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza and demolished its settlements there in 2005. The following year's Palestinian legislative elections (2006), saw Hamas win the legislative elections and form a government headed by Hamas after the PLO's Fatah movement dominated the authority.

In 2007, Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip and has ruled there ever since.

Source : Al Jazeera + Bloomberg