Moments after the call for evening prayer on July 28, the first day of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr, Fatah activist Sami Abu Lashin heard a knock on the door of his Gaza home.
Lashin, known as Abu Hassan, opened the door to discover some 20 masked men armed with rifles. When he asked the men what they wanted, one gunman stepped out of the group and promptly fired a shot at Lashin’s right thigh, and then two more at his left thigh, shattering the bone.
“It was a very powerful and painful scene for his little children who witnessed this heinous crime,” wrote Sami Fouda of Gaza, who reported the story on the Fatah-affiliated website Fateh Voice on Saturday. “They claimed he had broken the house arrest imposed on him.”
On Sunday, a photo of Lashin reading the Koran in his bed at Shifa hospital — under a Fatah flag, surrounded by large bouquets of flowers — was posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page. “A free voice in steadfast Gaza,” read the caption, which accused Hamas of the shooting. “Shame on the criminals who shed Palestinian blood.”
While Palestinian negotiators in Cairo strained to present a unified front in ceasefire talks with Egypt and Israel Sunday, Fatah continues to showcase stories of intimidation and physical assault against its members in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
One Fatah official, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal against his party members in Gaza, told The Times of Israel on Sunday that as many as 250 Fatah members in the Strip have been told by Hamas to stay home throughout Operation Protective Edge, and as many as 125 were shot at by Hamas operatives when they refused to comply. Ten victims of gunshots to the legs have been transferred to hospitals in Ramallah and Nablus in the West Bank, he added.
“They [Hamas] don’t want Fatah’s voice to appear in Gaza,” the official said. “They may be afraid of a Fatah revolution.”
Having won the 2006 national elections by a large majority, Hamas violently took control of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007, banishing and killing Fatah members in the city. According to the International Red Cross, at least 118 Fatah members were killed and some 550 wounded during the second week of June 2007, some thrown off the rooftops of high-rise buildings. In January 2014, as part of his movement’s reconciliation efforts with Fatah, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh declared that Fatah members could return to Gaza.
On July 27, when the Israeli land operation in Gaza was already well underway, Fatah issued a statement condemning Hamas for placing “many Fatah members in various areas under house arrest.” Hamas had told Fatah that the order was carried out by individuals and would be reversed, but “as of now it is only increasing,” Fatah’s statement complained. On August 4, Fatah issued a second communique claiming the harassment was continuing unabated. It had even reached “the point of opening fire at Fatah members, causing serious injury and the tearing of bones and leg tissue.”
The Fatah official who spoke to the Times of Israel said that any Fatah member in Gaza wishing to change his address was required to notify Hamas authorities first.
“Any [Fatah member] leaving his home would have his legs shot at,” he said.
Meanwhile, a senior official in Hamas’s Internal Security Agency visited Abu Lashin at the hospital and condemned the attack, promising to bring the perpetrators to justice. But Fouda, who recounted Abu Lashin’s story, was not satisfied with Hamas’s explanations.
“I wonder who could be crazy enough to so blatantly defy the [Hamas] rulers of Gaza with such a high number of armed masked men; perpetrating such a heinous crime so calmly during the state of war and destruction experienced by the people of Gaza.”