The 'Gaza Spring'? Palestinian man sets himself on fire

Desperate circumstances were blamed for a desperate measure, as a Palestinian youth took his own life.

May 25, 2018 05:23
3 minute read.
Female Palestinian demonstrators react to tear gas fired by Israeli forces at during a protest in Ga

Female Palestinian demonstrators react to tear gas fired by Israeli forces at during a protest in Gaza. (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)


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A young man in the Gaza Strip committed an act of self-immolation, pouring gasoline over his body and setting himself on fire, in protest of what many Palestinians view as a hopeless situation.

According to medical sources, Fathi Walid Harb, 22, arrived on Sunday at the Al-Shifa Hospital with serious burns to more than 50 percent of his body. Three days later he succumbed to his wounds, family members confirmed.

Harb was a Gaza-based employee of the Palestinian Authority whose salary had been withheld for several months. Local reports said he cursed the Palestinian government as onlookers rushed to put out the flames engulfing him.

“[Fathi] is married and his wife just delivered a baby,” Rami Harb, the deceased's uncle, told The Media Line. He explained that his nephew decided to kill himself after determining that he would not be able to support his burgeoning family without an income.

The elder Harb clarified that Fathi did not commit suicide because “he had a fight with his wife,” as a Hamas spokesman alleged. “Hamas doesn't care and is stating lies,” he asserted. “They [Hamas officials] first claimed that Fathi was doing well and had enough money to cover his treatment.”

When contacted by The Media Line, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza refused to comment on the issue.

Rami Harb confirmed that the Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs reached out to the family on the first day of his nephew's hospitalization and offered to pay for his treatment. "But [the PA] woke up way too late," he stressed. "They heard about Fathi well after he burnt himself."

Abdullah Abdullah, chair of the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council, suggested to The Media Line that “the PA will never abandon the people of Gaza, not morally, humanely or politically. If Hamas fails to serve them, the PA will take the lead and provide whatever is needed." He added that the PA is doing everything possible to end divisions among the Palestinians by pursuing reconciliation with rival Hamas.

“A PA delegation went to the Strip to take over the ministries there, but Hamas refused to hand over any department," Abdullah affirmed. "The Gazans are part of the Palestinian people and we can never give up on our responsibility for them."

Mazen Safi, a Palestinian political analyst in Gaza, believes that the dire economic situation in the enclave motivated Fathi to take such an extreme measure. "Our young people find themselves without opportunities and hope for a better future," he told The Media Line, blaming the circumstances on "the Israeli blockade, which is in violation of international resolutions."

Safi also called out the “international community, which is leaving the Palestinians to suffer in catastrophic conditions and Arab nations that refuse to take a strong stance on the Palestinian issue. [PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction] and Hamas must also take joint responsibility for their people,” he concluded, by doing what is necessary to end the blockade and by implementing development projects for youth.

“Otherwise, we will hear about more suicide cases."

A report last year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe noted that as a result of the blockade on Gaza, enforced by both Israel and Egypt, “some 75,000 people are still displaced [in the territory] and 43% of Gaza’s population is unemployed, a figure which rises to 60% among young people. In all, 80% of the population relies on humanitarian assistance.”

According to a recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Gaza risks becoming uninhabitable by 2020.

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