Smoke rises during an Israeli air strike in Gaza, November 12, 2018.
(photo credit: AHMED ZAKOT / REUTERS)
Sheikh Nur Baraka, the Hamas commander who was killed in Sunday night's clash with an elite IDF unit in the southern Gaza Strip, was not known to many Palestinians.
They first heard his name when Hamas announced that he had been "martyred" during the clash with the IDF soldiers. Baraka, 37, joined Hamas at the age of 18, according to sources in the Gaza Strip.
But while he was working for Hamas, his older brother, Suleiman, became a famous astrophysicist, who even worked as scientist with the NASA space agency.
Prof. Suleiman, who was born in the Gaza Strip in 1965, returned from the US to the Gaza Strip two years ago to teach at local universities and colleges.
His 12-year-old son, Ibrahim, was reportedly killed in an Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip in 2008. He himself had been arrested at least twice by the IDF during the 70's and 80's for security-related offences.
Prof. Baraka is the only Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who has worked for NASA - an achievement that has been recognized with his nomination for UNESCO's first Middle East chairmanship, among other awards, according to the Middle East Eye website.
“There was always a debate inside my head, tossing around the thought that the missile which hit my son could have been developed by colleagues I lived and worked with on a daily basis. I couldn’t reconcile that thought,” Prof. Baraka told the website upon his return to the Gaza Strip. “I have decided to move from the great expanse of the universe to a small pocket of land on earth."
Prof. Baraka received his Bachelor's degree from Al-Quds University in Abu Dis (south of Jerusalem) in 1987, and later he was offered a place on a PhD study program in France. He later moved to the US, where he briefly worked at the NASA space agency in Virginia.
“That was a turning point in my life - in the life of any young man - to work with an organization that has developed, and is developing, some of the most extraordinary modern-day visions with a real capacity to change history,” he said in the interview.
In another interview with the Al-Jazeera network, the scientist said he had plans to increase Palestinians' education about astronomy, and said he hoped it would become a major program at Palestinian universities.
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