Seeing no future for himself in Hamas-ruled Gaza, a young Palestinian publicly set himself on fire in protest of the terror organization.
By: United with Israel Staff and AP
A young Palestinian set himself on fire on Sunday in protest of Hamas’ failed and repressive rule in the Gaza Strip
Fathi Harb, 20, is in moderate condition after publicly igniting himself, a drastic act that his family says he committed due to his despair over Gaza’s dire living conditions under Hamas, the Islamic terror group that rules the territory.
While suicide is strictly forbidden in Islam and such incidents are rare in Gaza, dozens were reported last year, including cases of self-immolation. However, this was the first time that such an act was filmed and posted online, receiving broad publication.
In the brief clip, Harb is already ablaze in front of a residential building. Footage shows him burning alive and screaming in agony. Onlookers rush to put out the fire with rugs and water.
Israel’s Ynet quoted eyewitnesses who saw Harb dousing himself in flammable liquid while shouting “damn the government.”
Majda, the young man’s mother, told The Associated Press that a day earlier, Fathi, her eldest son, said he was going to collect a payment. Half an hour later the police came to her home saying he was in the hospital after having set himself ablaze.
Majda said she doesn’t know for sure what led Fathi to such a horrible act. She said he was expecting his first child soon and felt helpless due to the harsh economic situation in Gaza.
“What can a man do when his wife is giving birth and he has no money for a doctor, diapers and milk?” she said.
Fathi is a laborer who sought any job that paid, his mother said. He had worked as a waiter at a wedding and was supposedly on his way to collect his wages, about $14, when he set himself on fire.
Hamas, which rules Gaza with a tight fist, has mostly denied political or economic motivation behind recent suicides. Hamas police were quoted in Palestinian media as blaming “internal family problems” for the incident involving Fathi.
Gaza Short on Freedom, Jobs, Future
Gaza has been under Hamas’ rule since it violently took over the territory in 2007.
More than a decade of Hamas rule has brought the Palestinians strife, hardship and oppression.
Gaza suffers daily electricity and water cuts, 60 percent youth unemployment and a rising backlog of thousands waiting for a rare chance to exit the territory.
Unable to offer a remedy, the Islamic terror group has been doubling down on oppression. It has jailed the few who dare to complain publicly, including the organizers of street protests and authors who wrote on Facebook that “life is only pleasant for Hamas leaders.”
As an example, local writer Abdullah Abu Sharekh landed in jail last year after writing on Facebook that “people are not steadfast.”
“They cannot do anything because you (Hamas) rule Gaza with iron and fire … you brought Gaza back to the Middle Ages,” he wrote.
Polls show that almost half the people would leave Gaza altogether if they could, although support for Hamas is steady at around a third. With potential opponents crushed, there is no obvious path to regime change.
Palestinian rights groups say Hamas tyrannical practices mirror those of its rival, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA). Both governments have carried out arbitrary arrests and mistreated detainees, and both monitor social media and civil society to silence dissent.
Hamas’ rise to power was fueled by frustration with corruption during the rule of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement.
Ahmed al-Nashar, 64, said he had voted for Hamas, hoping “they would do something good in the name of religion,” but has since concluded, “there is no future here with these people.”
Furthering the misery is the internal Palestinian feud between Abbas and Hamas. Abbas has imposed severe sanctions on the Strip in an attempt to bring Hamas to its knees. Measures have including cutting salaries of employees in the Strip.
Repeated reconciliation attempts have failed.
Israel and Egypt, citing security concerns, have enforced a border blockade, banning movement and imports that could be used for terrorism.
“Our life is just a long series of waiting,” said Abed Meqdad, a teacher. “You wait for electricity to come, for the crossing to reopen, for the situation to improve, and nothing gets done.”
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