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 unknown to many Palestinians.
They first heard his name when Hamas announced that he had been “martyred” during a clash with IDF soldiers. Baraka, 37, joined Hamas at the age of 18, according to sources in the Gaza Strip.
While he worked for Hamas, his older brother, Suleiman, became a famous astrophysicist, who worked as scientist with the NASA space agency.
Prof. Suleiman Baraka, 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 in the Gaza Strip in 2008. Suleiman had been arrested at least twice by the IDF during the 70’s and 80’s for security-related offenses.
He is the only Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who has worked for NASA - an achievement that has been recognized by UNESCO, who nominated him as the first Middle East chairman, among other awards, according to a report by the London-based Middle East Eye news site.
“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 site upon his return to Gaza. “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 was offered a position on a PhD study program in France. He then moved to the US, where he briefly worked at a NASA branch 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.
He added in an interview with Al Jazeera that he had plans to increase Palestinians’ education in astronomy, and said he hoped it would become a major program at Palestinian universities.
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