Was Palestinian prisoner Maissara Abu Hamdiyeh, who died of cancer on Tuesday, a member of Hamas or of Fatah? The rival parties have each endorsed Abu Hamdiyeh, who held the rank of general in the Palestinian Authority security forces.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas declared Abu Hamdiyeh one of its “martyrs,” and its representatives have begun receiving condolences over his death.

Hamas put up large posters of Abu Hamdiyeh in which he is also described as a member of one of its clandestine armed groups.

Fatah officials who tried to protest against Hamas’s endorsement of Abu Hamdiyeh were prevented by Hamas activists from handling their own posters of the deceased inmate.

In a statement published shortly after his death, Hamas’s armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, revealed that he had been active in its secret group almost from the beginning of its establishment in 1989.

Izaddin Kassam boasted that Abu Hamdiyeh had trained its men and delivered weapons and explosives to Hamas cells.

But Fatah activists claimed Wednesday that Abu Hamdiyeh was one of their own. Ibrahim Elayan, a top Fatah activist and former security prisoner in Israel, said that Abu Hamdiyeh was one of the leaders of Fatah in prison. He said that Abu Hamdiyeh had only recently moved to a section of prison where Hamas prisoners are being held.

“Abu Hamdiyeh never filed an official request to move to Hamas in accordance with prison regulations,” Elayan added.

He told the Fatah-affiliated Palestine Press News Agency that Fatah has notified other Palestinian factions that Abu Hamdiyeh was one of its men.

However, Hamas chose to ignore the Fatah claim and decided to set up an “obituary tent” for receiving condolences over the death of Abu Hamdiyeh, Elayan said.

Abu Hamdiyeh arrived in the West Bank and Gaza Strip together with thousands of PLO men following the signing of the Oslo Accords.

According to the Fatah activist, Abu Hamdiyeh – who joined the PA security forces in the West Bank – helped Fatah’s armed wing, al-Aksa Martyrs’ Brigade, during the second intifada.

Elayan admitted that Abu Hamdiyeh also used his military expertise to supply members of Hamas’s armed wing with weapons in the West Bank.

A PA official confirmed that Abu Hamdiyeh had served in the PA’s Preventive Security Force in Hebron.

The official said that Abu Hamdiyeh had been in charge of the force’s “counterespionage” unit, but quit following a dispute with his superiors.

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