Former NASA employee is brother of Hamas operative killed by IDF

Dr. Suleiman Baraka, who teaches in Gaza colleges, was a valued colleague in America’s space agency.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Hamas commander who was killed Sunday night by an elite undercover unit of the IDF in Gaza has a brother who worked for NASA several years ago, Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh revealed Tuesday.

While Nur Baraka climbed the ranks of the terrorist organization over the past 19 years to become a high-ranking officer, his older brother Suleiman was studying to become an astrophysicist, the JPost report said.

Nur died in an exchange of fire Sunday night in which an Israeli lieutenant colonel also lost his life and another IDF soldier was seriously injured.

Suleiman, a 53-year-old professor, left Gaza after receiving his Master’s degree in the 1980s. After receiving his doctorate from a French university, he moved to the United States to work in his field, according to the Middle East Eye (MEE), a pro-Palestinian website that interviewed him upon his return to his hometown two years ago.

Suleiman left his family behind while earning a living, according to the interview, and was in his NASA office in Virginia in 2008 when he learned that his 12-year-old son had died in an Israeli airstrike on his home.

Although he claimed in the interview that he “want[s] to teach these children peace and love – nothing else,” and that his main focus is to “build a new infrastructure for young scientists,” especially in his field of astronomy, his view of Israel is seemingly similar to that of his brother. Suleiman was arrested at least twice by the IDF during the ’70s and ’80s for security-related offences and called Gaza a “concentration camp” in the MEE interview, JPost reported.

‘Physics for Palestine’

He also refers to himself as a “freedom fighter.” Having earned his education, he says he now has “physics for Palestine.”

The senior Baraka is the only Gazan to have ever worked for NASA, and he was highly praised by a former colleague quoted by MEE.

“His talents lie in using numerical simulations to predict phenomena that can be confirmed with NASA’s spacecraft observations,” said Dr. David Sibeck, who also called Baraka “energetic, ever-curious, able to communicate with both the general public and the specialist.”

He is also the first to hold a UNESCO Middle East chairmanship, being its Chair in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Sciences at The Islamic University of Gaza.