CNN cameraman Adil Bradlow in front of Palestinian Legislative Council, Gaza City, July 30
Eng. Ihab R. A. Al-Ghusain, as it says on his business card, stands in the hot Gaza sun with a smile on his face near the ruins of what was once -- before Hamas routed Fatah fighters -- the Palestinian border crossing office.
Ihab is dressed in a blue blazer and a tie as he greets dozens of journalists who have come to be part of the first Hamas tour of Gaza: Hamaspalooza, Summer Tour '07.
Reporters from China and Italy, Denmark and Canada are on the bus. CNN is here. So is Time Magazine, Sky News, Turkish television and the Associated Press. Some are here to cover the spectacle. Others have come to Gaza for the first time.
Ihab's card says he is spokesman for the Ministry of Information. But he's now working for the Interior Ministry. That is to say, he is spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza, not the Interior Ministry in the pro-Western government led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank.
"Welcome to Gaza," Ihab says with as journalists board the Sweety Tours bus.
When people think about Gaza these days, they probably think:
Hamas Executive Force members, Gaza City, July 30
But Hamas wants you to think:
Gaza City beach, July 30
Like any good tour guide, Ihab stands at the front of the bus with a microphone to guide us through "the new face of Gaza."
And, like any skilled PR campaign, Hamaspalooza deftly winds its way around the more inconvenient truths in Gaza.
The two-bus convoy is led by several Executive Force vehicles, including Jeep Cherokees that, until last month, belonged to PA security loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas. The convoy is trailed by a white pick-up truck filled with more Executive Force members with their machine guns.
We wind through Gaza like a diplomatic convoy. Police block traffic as we pass. Kids in the street gawk at the surreal site of these escorted buses rumbling through the dusty streets.
Our first stop is the three-story home of deposed PA PM Ismail Haniyeh. Camerman rush up the street of the refugee camp and jostle for space so they can get a shot of Haniyeh, who is standing silently on his balcony, waving to the 100 or so reporters below.
Haniyeh stands on his balcony in Beach Camp, Gaza Strip
"He has a normal house," Ihab says before we arrive. "Unlike any other president or prime minister, he wants to live among the people."
The tour is highly selective. The buses stop at Abbas' Gaza City home, but we can't go inside. The same goes for the home of the late Yasser Arafat.
The tour doesn't stop at the looted, charred shell of a home that once belonged to reviled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan. It doesn't stop at the burned beachshide chalets, or the presidential compound that was stripped of its valuables by Hamas and others.
In many places, Hamas has taken down the movement's signature green flags. But inside the main Gaza City jail and security headquarters, Hamas has hung framed pictures of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the Hamas leader killed in an Israeli air strike three years ago.
Portraits of Yasser Arafat and Sheik Yassin hang in the Gaza City security HQ
It's likely that Yassin's picture replaced that of Abbas on many of these walls.
Inside, prisoners tell reporters that things are better under Hamas than they were under Fatah. Then it's off to a Christian church, the border with Egypt and lunch with Haniyeh, who urges reporters to tell The Truth.
"This is not a day for public relations," said Haniyeh...