Hamas elite leaves Gaza for greener pastures, infuriating poverty-stricken residents

Palestinians in Gaza are mocking Haniyeh, sarcastically saying he and his family are leaving a “life of luxury” in the Strip for “poverty” in Turkey.

By Baruch Yedid, TPS

In recent months, a number of senior officials have left the Gaza Strip, angering the residents of the Gaza Strip who, in stark contrast to their leaders, live miserable and difficult lives.

A few days ago, surprised and angry residents of the Gaza Strip learned that the family of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is leaving the Strip and moving to Turkey.

This became known when Egypt published the list of Gazans who are allowed to leave the Strip through the Rafah Crossing.

The name of Hazem Haniyeh, the son of the Hamas leader who was allowed to leave the Strip alongside his wife Inas and his children Mona, Rim, and Amal, appeared on the list.

The residents of Gaza living in difficult conditions are refusing to calm down and have been ridiculing and directing anger at Haniyeh the father, who himself left Gaza about two years ago. He had gone to attend the funeral of Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, contrary to the promise he gave to Egypt, and has since “he disappeared in the hotels of Qatar and Turkey,” as stated by an official in the Gaza Strip.

Sources in Gaza say that a few months ago, Haniyeh’s wife left to live with her husband, and now it seems that the Hamas leader has finally moved the center of his life to Turkey, which recently offered a number of senior Hamas officials a Turkish identity card.

Following the departure of the Haniyeh family, activists began a campaign on social media with the hashtag “White Hands.” As part of the campaign, protestors wave a hand with a black glove on it with the caption “our hands are white,” mocking the words of Haniyeh, who said many times that his hands are free of corruption and Palestinian blood.

The ridicule on social media towards the Haniyeh family and the Hamas leadership expresses the growing feelings of frustration and anger in the Gaza Strip. Social media users attack Haniyeh for “becoming a trader in the Palestinian cause, selling them illusions and spouting slogans.” Others wrote that “Haniyeh decided to leave the life of luxury and well-being in wealthy Gaza and move to live in difficult conditions in Turkey and Doha in Qatar.”

Mahmoud Nashwan, a social activist from the Gaza Strip, wrote on his Facebook that “the families of the leaders, their children, grandchildren, and descendants do not believe in the Hamas project, and although they can live in Gaza in luxury, they choose to leave it in favor of the hotels and villas of Doha and Istanbul. They left the hungry people in Gaza as hostages to the ransom project, under the weight of poverty, lack, hunger, and need.”

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He wrote to the leaders of Hamas: “If your children do not believe in your project, how do you want people to believe in it when they see your dynasties living the lives of kings? Do you want them to believe in it while their children died in the sea by drowning and in the forests in search of a decent life while your children are busy investing in real estate?”

Another activist wrote that the Hamas leadership “stole the donations of the Gulf countries and their accounts in Turkey swelled, their children study abroad at the expense of the oppressed boys of Gaza, under the gang of Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal, the allies of Iran and the Houthis.”

Gaza ‘practically emptied’ of Hamas leadership

An official in the Gaza Strip told TPS that “Gaza is practically being emptied of the Hamas leadership, many of whose people have moved abroad permanently or for long periods.”

Khalil al Haya, the deputy leader of Hamas in Gaza, left Gaza and moved to Qatar. He returned about a month ago but may go abroad again.

Salah Bardawil moved to Qatar together with his family members, as did Sami Abu Zohri, who was the movement’s spokesman, and Taher Al-Nono, adviser to Haniyeh.

Two senior members of the Islamic Jihad also left Gaza – Sheikh Nafz Azzam, who moved to Lebanon, and Muhammad Alohindi, who moved to Turkey.

Meanwhile, Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip by definition, who stayed behind, has marked himself as the most important leader in Gaza.

This is not the first expression of protest in the Gaza Strip against the leadership of Hamas. In January, young Gazans led by five social activists, who left the Strip for Europe, launched an electronic event under the title “Hijack Gaza” and severely attacked the Hamas government. The event took place against the backdrop of the severe winter hardship that the residents of the Gaza Strip were experiencing. The initiative was led by lawyer Amer Balusha, who fled to Turkey, and Mohammed Nashwan, a young Gazan, who moved to Belgium.

Two years ago, TPS research revealed that over 70,000 Palestinians live in Brussels, 70% of whom moved from the Gaza Strip.

Wael Abu Omar, a supporter of Hamas, wrote on Twitter that the leadership ” hijacked Gaza and turned it into a center of resistance and defiance against the greatest power in the world, they hijacked it and it became a focal point for attacks on Tel Aviv, Haifa and occupied Jerusalem. They hijacked it and Gaza became the protector of Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah.”

A series of events that recently took place in the Gaza Strip is rekindling the protest against the Hamas government, but for the time being, the protest is mainly limited to social networks.

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The revelations of corruption in Hamas, which are spread on social networks and the Arab media, fueled the popular protest two years ago that was suppressed with great force. Arab media, including those with an interest in discrediting the leadership of Hamas, reported, for example, that Haniyeh owns many assets and his capital is estimated at billions of dollars.

He has many assets in the Sudaniya area and Gaza and is a partner in a real estate company that owns 13 apartment buildings in the Gaza Strip. He also owns four apartments in the Tobarak building in the Gaza Strip, several apartments in Tel-el-Hua, and a villa in the Palestine lot where his son, Abd al-Salam, lives. This is in addition to vacation homes in the Nusirat area, another house in Shatti, and another property in Sheikh Ejalin.

The Haniyeh family also has a partnership in an electrical appliance company, a company registered to one of his nephews, partnerships in a jewelry store with businessman Kasem Abu Kasem, and another in concrete factories and stone crushers in Zawida.

Khaled Mashal, former chairman of Hamas’ Political Bureau who is often photographed in gyms in the Gulf and whose fortune is estimated at $4 billion, is also involved in corruption. Open sources claim that he is the owner of the Qatari real estate company “Alfacil,” which manages a project on 27 dunams in Qatar. The company is also registered in the name of his son and his wife.

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Majlah reported last year on the luxurious life of Hamas leaders abroad and the real estate assets they own that are worth billions of dollars.

Among the leading names in the Hamas leadership who amassed a huge fortune by exploiting international aid and donations directed to the Gaza Strip are Mashal and his deputy Musa Abu Marzouk.

In the Gaza Strip, this information is well known; the corruption – not much different from that of the Palestinian Authority – is carried out before their eyes.

Forbes magazine ranked Hamas third on itslist of the richest terrorist movements, with annual revenues of more than $700 million in 2018.

Hamas tax imposed

The Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip recently decided to impose a new tax on goods coming from the territories of the PA, an illegal step in the eyes of Ramallah and a political statement on the part of Hamas that sees itself as a separate entity. The new tax, at 16%, which has already earned the name “Hamas tax,” is imposed on a variety of goods coming from the PA, including mineral water, chips, and soft drinks, and is intended to be used as a response to the taxes that the PA levies on goods coming from the Gaza Strip.

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It is estimated that Hamas collects tens of millions of dollars a month from taxes and customs at the Rafah border crossing. These funds help run a strong government and a military, while international aid covers most of the basic needs of the two million residents of Gaza.

The Haniyeh family’s abandonment of the Strip joins a long list of revelations of corruption that have stuck with the Hamas leadership in the Strip. The well-being of senior Hamas officials and their families fuels anger in the Gaza Strip, and in the past two years, a number of embarrassing affairs have been revealed.

For example, Anas Radwan, the son of a senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan who went to Mecca two years ago to perform the Hajj, reportedly took advantage of his status to enter the limited list of pilgrims and embezzled a special grant meant for “martyrs and the wounded” of the PLO. His picture on the bus, next to the pilgrims, was circulated on social media and caused great outrage in Gaza, and he was accused of using the grant money and the right to go to Mecca at the expense of the residents of Gaza, who cannot afford the travel expenses.

Muhammad Hamad is also considered a “prince” in the Gaza Strip, as the son of Fathi Hamad, a senior member of Hamas and a member of its Political Bureau. Two years ago, Muhammad celebrated his 20th birthday, and videos circulated on social media revealed a huge, luxurious party held in an event garden in the Gaza Strip, with tables laden with food and cakes. Hamad celebrated in the company of his friends, dressed in expensive clothing and entertained by several musicians.

Abdel Salam Haniyeh, the son of the leader of Hamas, the chairman of the Amwaj Council for Sports in the Gaza Strip and a member of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports is also drawing fire from the protest movement,as someone who uses his position in soccer clubs and his ties to his father to steal funds from the Palestinian people. His ties with Qatar, which will host the World Cup in 2022, have also raised suspicion.

Two years ago, Haniyeh was photographed next to his father Ismail while showing off his new luxury car, one of the advanced Nissan models, on the streets of Gaza.

In sharp contrast, the civil economic distress in the Gaza Strip stands at the center of the renewed protest. The electricity supply is limited to a few hours a day after a 60% drop in electricity output. Hunger is on the rise, and according to Gaza sources, the poverty rate is 70% to 75%, while unemployment climbs to 65-70%.