This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Friday, March 04, 2016

The Disposable Hamas Commander

"He [Yehya Sinwar [Qassam representative to Hamas political wing] is harsher than other leaders -- he wants his army to be pure."
"Those who are in the Qassam [Hamas's militant wing Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades] are the most important people in Gaza. There is a need, they say, to show that these people are not untouchable."
Ibrahim al-Madhoun, writer, Gaza City
The funeral of Mahmoud Ishtiwi, a former commander in the armed wing of Hamas, at a mosque in the Gaza Strip - Palestine News
The funeral of Mahmoud Ishtiwi, a former commander in the armed wing of Hamas, at a mosque in the Gaza Strip – Palestine News

Hamas has a reputation of singling out Gazan Palestinians whom it suspects of deviance in working with the enemy, and executing them. Now it appears they apply the same methodology to their very own high-placed functionaries whom they feel they have as much reason to suspect of treason as any Palestinian living under their rule who may have aroused suspicion, or who may have been accused by a personal enemy of giving aid and comfort to the "Zionists".

Much has been written of the death of Mahmoud Ishtiwi revolving around charges by Hamas intelligence that he had become a spy for Israel. That he was the source that forewarned the IDF of impending Hamas attacks to enable defensive action. He was accused of spying for Israel, for giving the IDF information on terrorist Mohammed Deif's presence with his family which led to an attack leaving him wounded and killing family members, during Operation Protective Edge.

With the death of this senior, well-respected commander, there is little doubt that Hamas members were left disquieted wondering who else among them might be accused of collaboration with Israel, and consequently marked for execution. Other Hamas fighters were also put to death, but there appeared to be little comment let alone backlash. Until now, when the family of Mahmoud Ishtiwi which had vigorously implored his release and his innocence of the charges brought against him, have made their grief very public.

Survived by two wives and three children, this prominent member of an influential Palestinian family that had always supported the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, once at great personal risk even sheltering Mohammed Deif when he was being vigorously sought by Israel. Now the family that was once unmatched in their loyalty speaks of the innocence of a son whom forces beyond their control sacrificed within an increasingly fractured Hamas. Of the five Ishtiwi brothers three had been Qassam commanders, Ishtiwi the youngest.

In January of 2015 Ishtiwi responded to a summons to be interrogated by Qassam military intelligence officials on suspicion that he had diverted funds allocated to his unit for weapons. Under torture he agreed to having taken those funds. His alacrity in doing so caused further suspicion until someone under his command admitted to having had sex with him. Their theory was that revelations that Ishtiwi was gay meant he could be pressured by Israeli intelligence for silence in their part in exchange for information of benefit to Israel.

In Palestinian society if it were known that he was gay he would become an outcast, making him easy prey for blackmail. It seems that a backlash has been in evidence with some members of the al-Qassam Brigades resigning in protest with the argument that he was executed as a result of "internal disagreements", which has led to the establishment of a breakaway group, the Free Qassam Members, openly critical of the old Qassam Brigades. The previous cohesion of Hamas appears to have broken down in stages.

The war in Syria separated Sunni Hamas from its benefactor Shiite Iran following protests of Palestinian refugee camps in Syria being targeted. And while Qatar stepped in briefly with a handsome donation, it was a one-time gift, not repeated, and nor has Saudi Arabia chosen to make up the funding lost through Iran. The elite authority figures at the political end of Hamas are divided, locating themselves in Turkey [newly expelled], Qatar, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The economy is Gaza is in ruin and Palestinians living in Gaza are anything but pleased at their embattled status and economic straits.

Two of Ishtiwi's sisters visited him at a Qassam base and they recounted that experience in an interview: "Mahmoud, we heard the things they are saying about you! Is it true?" asked his sister Samia. And he responded, yes. "Is he agreeing because  you filled him with beatings?" she asked two guards standing by. "They said, 'He confessed without us giving him even a slap'." At that point, Samia saw her brother raise his hand and she saw the word "zulum" (wronged) written in pen on his palm.

Then on the first of March, Ishtiwi's brother Hussam was informed by him of the continuous torture in detention. Later, when his wives visited he gave them a note which read: "They nearly killed me. I confessed to things I have never done in my life." According to relatives, they were told by Ishtiwi that he had been suspended from a ceiling for hours on end, for many consecutive days. Loud music blared into his cell, so he couldn't sleep, and he was whipped.

His mother had sent an eight-minute video to Mohammed Deif, reminding him that she had risked personal danger to protect him from discovery by the IDF in her home. She begged him to intervene, to save her son's life. The family lobbied Hamas officials to have their son freed. On February 7 the last such meeting took place with a senior Hamas cleric and two other men.

That very day, after Ishtiwi had said afternoon prayers, he was finally disposed of.

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