Where in the world is Hamas’s spokesman?

Where in the world is Hamas’s spokesman?

The mysterious disappearance of Ayman Taha has Palestinians speculating on everything from corruption to sexual misconduct

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Former Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha during a television interview, November 2012 (photo credit: YouTube image grab)
Former Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha during a television interview, November 2012 (photo credit: YouTube image grab)

Some light was shed Wednesday on the strange disappearance of a Hamas official in Gaza when his brother denied reports of his abduction by the militant Al-Qassam Brigades on suspicion of large-scale corruption.

Ayman Taha, a co-founder of Hamas in the late 1980s and its current spokesman, was stopped on the road between Khan Younis and Rafah two weeks ago and taken to an unknown location, local media reported. “Knowledgeable sources” told the official PA daily Al-Ayyam that Taha was arrested for “moral and financial” offenses.

Hamas has so far refused to comment on the matter, with even party officials reportedly kept in the dark concerning his whereabouts and the nature of his crimes. Al-Ayyam’s sources said however that Taha is suspected of buying villas in Gaza with embezzled money.

On Wednesday, Taha’s brother Hassan posted a video on YouTube explaining the family’s version of the disappearance. Taha, his brother argued, most likely left Gaza on a secret mission, and was not kidnapped by his own movement.

“Ayman is not a nobody in Hamas to be abducted,” Hassan said. “If Ayman Taha left for Egypt or beyond, he does not need to ask permission from the world to leave. He had left on secret missions before, with the knowledge of Hamas.”

“Ayman Taha never hid his official ties with Egyptian elements, either within the General Intelligence or within political circles,” Hassan Taha explained, adding that his brother was the official coordinator between Hamas and Egyptian General Intelligence. In that capacity, Taha was instrumental in executing the Shalit prisoner exchange in December 2011.

“Everyone knows about Ayman’s official duties in bringing in millions of dollars for the benefit of our besieged people in Gaza, under appointment by the movement leadership in Gaza,” Hassan Taha said.

All the money transferred by Taha was delivered to Hamas officials in Gaza, though not “in front of the cameras,” his brother said. Both the source and the address of the funds were well known, he said.

Hassan referred to rumors that his brother was involved in inappropriate sexual relations, even divorcing his wife. “The matter requires nothing more than going to his wife, who works as a civil servant with UNRWA, and asking her,” he said. The villas said to be bought by Taha were actually owned by Hamas, he added.

The entire story, Hassan concluded, was orchestrated by elements within Hamas jealous of his brother’s success.

“Hamas faces enough challenges from without, but to be eroded from within? What a shame.”

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