After prayers, men old enough to remember the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which began a decades-long occupation of Gaza, say Hamas has finally won a fight with Israel and should march on Tel Aviv.
But as the nervous ecstasy of conflict gives way to a grim status quo, there are signs, even here, that any power Hamas has derived from its recent confrontation with Israel is fading. The change in popular sentiment is occurring gradually, along generational and gender lines, and suggests a limit to any political benefits for Hamas gained through armed conflict.
As older men speak of an imminent return to lost family land inside Israel, many younger men, who grew up in the bitter decades after the first Palestinian uprising, ask what precisely Hamas accomplished during the eight-day confrontation last month.
So, too, do some of this refugee camp’s women.
“What kind of victory?” asked Um Ram Abu Rokba, covered in traditional Islamic attire as she walked home from afternoon prayer. “They are lying to the people. It is a kind of blackmail.”
As groups of children gathered around her, Abu Rokba, who would give only her nickname, said, “The Jews are hurt, we are hurt. If they lose a child, they cry. If we lose a child, we cry. It is the same. My own wish is only peace and security.”
It is not the message of the Hamas leadership, as it prepares for an expansive celebration in December to mark the 25th anniversary of a movement classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel.
Facing an increasingly restless population in Gaza before the recent conflict, Hamas has emerged more popular after it, but whether the support will endure remains to be seen.
Since taking full control of the enclave after a brief but brutal fight with the secular Fatah movement five years ago, Hamas has imposed, bit by bit, a form of Islamist rule at which many Gazans chafe.
New mosques, already plentiful here, are being built across the strip at a time when many Gazans need houses. Bikinis, once permitted in semi-private oceanfront clubs, have been banned from Gaza’s beaches, where women wade into the clear Mediterranean waters in heavy ankle-length tunics. Men and women socializing together at night are often asked by Hamas police for proof of marriage.
But the recent wartime display of Hamas’s new arsenal — with rockets that reached Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jerusalem — has boosted morale among some Gazans.
Alongside the fading billboards marking the deaths of Palestinians in past conflicts with Israel are posters memorializing those killed in the latest one. Children pick through ruins of newly bombed houses, green banners marking the sites.