At first, Hamas relied on its own considerable popular base. On March 15th it swamped a non-party rally with green flags, its chosen colour. But this show of unity was short-lived. Facing a barrage of stones, the protesters fled to a neighbouring square, only to be mauled by a mob wielding knives, clubs and chairs. Their tents were burned down and the square cleared within minutes. Female students claim they were groped by bearded bully-boys rummaging for mobile phones with video footage of the beatings.
Hamas's recourse to the brutality it had decried in opposition smacked of a loss of confidence. For the next few days, thugs in riot-gear thumped students trying to reassemble and ransacked foreign news bureaus, clubbing reporters and smashing their gear. Hamas's Internal Security Intelligence service hauled hundreds to its headquarters. Some were stripped of their computers and phones, others were beaten with electric rods and hooded in foul-smelling bags. Mr Shaheen said he was blindfolded and repeatedly smacked about the head.
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