Death of Gaza activist who fled Hamas shocks Palestinians

In the past few years, Hamas security forces repeatedly summoned him for interrogation of briefly detained him over his activities.

By
August 22, 2019 03:31
4 minute read.
Palestinians take part in a protest calling on Hamas and Fatah factions to conclude the reconciliati

Palestinians take part in a protest calling on Hamas and Fatah factions to conclude the reconciliation, in Gaza city December 3, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)

The death of a prominent political and social activist who fled from the Gaza Strip to Bosnia and Herzegovina has shocked many people in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.

Tamer Fathi al-Sultan, 38, was a staunch critic of Hamas. Sources in Gaza said he was affiliated with Fatah. His friends said he was one of tens of thousands of Palestinians who emigrated from the Gaza Strip in recent years to escape Hamas “oppression.”

“He fled Hamas oppression and died away from his homeland,” said Maher Sulieman, a friend of the activist. “This is a real tragedy, not only for Tamer, but for thousands and thousands of young people in the Gaza Strip who are fed up with the corruption and dictatorship of Hamas. Hamas is the main reason why people like Tamer are prepared to do everything, including leaving their families, to immigrate to another country in search of work and freedom.”

In the past few years, Hamas security forces repeatedly summoned al-Sultan for interrogation or detained him over his activities.

The last time he was summoned for interrogation was earlier this year, when Hamas ordered a crackdown on Palestinians protesting economic hardship in the Gaza Strip. The protests were part of a youth-engineered campaign called “We want to live!”

A father of three, al-Sultan is believed to have died of cancer five days after he was admitted to a hospital in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a source in Gaza said. Another source, however, claimed that the man may have drowned while trying to enter Europe, or perhaps was bitten by a scorpion.

Al-Sultan, who worked as a pharmacist, was one of thousands of Palestinians who left Gaza in the past few years in search of work and a better life. Ironically, the news of his death coincided with reports that Israel is encouraging Palestinians to emigrate from the Gaza Strip.

An unnamed Israeli official was quoted earlier this week as saying that some 35,000 Palestinians have left Gaza in the past two years. The official said that Israel is willing to finance flights for Palestinians who wish to emigrate from there.

Palestinians rejected the talk about emigration and warned against a “new Nakba (catastrophe).”

Al-Sultan’s brother, Saher, said that he was unaware of any serious health problems his brother had been facing recently. “We learned about his death from posts on social media,” the brother said. “Until this moment, we still don’t know the exact cause of death.”

Al-Sultan left Gaza to Egypt last April with the hope of beginning a new life in another country, his friends and relatives said.

His decision to leave came a few weeks after Palestinians launched a wave of protests against Hamas and the badly-managed economy. Hamas accused al-Sultan of being one of the organizers of the protests and repeatedly arrested and interrogated him.

Hamas’ rivals in Fatah and other Palestinians called al-Sultan a victim of Hamas repression and corruption.

In a statement on Wednesday, Fatah said that al-Sultan was the latest victim of Hamas persecution and intimidation. “He preferred to emigrate to the unknown to escape the oppression of the dark forces of Hamas,” Fatah said.

Criticizing the Hamas-sponsored weekly protests near the border with Israel, which Palestinians call the March of Return, Fatah said that it is “ironic that the result of the March of Return has been the emigration of more than 35,000 Gazans in search of a place that protects them from the evil of Hamas and preserves their dignity and life.”

Fatah urged Palestinians in Gaza to “raise their voices” against their Hamas rulers, whom it accused of implementing a scheme to drive out Palestinians.

In a Facebook post in June 2018, al-Sultan referred to the issue of Palestinians who were emigrating from the Gaza Strip and held Hamas fully responsible.

“Some have condemned the emigration of youths, especially physicians, pharmacists and engineers from the Gaza Strip,” he wrote. “This is nice talk, but have any of you thought about the real reason behind the emigration? These young people did not find anyone who wanted to take advantage of their capabilities and skills. Instead, they saw people who were less qualified and less educated than them being employed just because they are the son of a certain [Hamas] leader.”

In his post, al-Sultan also complained about Hamas’s tough measures against Palestinians who take to the streets to demand their rights. These Palestinians, he added, “were assaulted and imprisoned when they went out to demand jobs to provide for their families. Be assured that when Gaza rids itself from this black era, these Palestinians will return to build their homeland.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas instructed the Palestinian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to help bring al-Sultan’s body for burial in the Gaza Strip.


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