By Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute—
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, says it has taken drastic steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among the two million Palestinians living under its rule.
On March 22, the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health announced the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip: two Palestinians who returned from a visit to Pakistan. The ministry said the two patients were placed in quarantine in a field hospital near Gaza’s border with Egypt.
The ministry also announced the suspension of Friday prayers in all mosques throughout the Gaza Strip and the closure of wedding halls, restaurants and coffee shops.
The Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers, however, still seem to have time to continue their repressive measures against Palestinians, despite increased fears that more cases of coronavirus might be detected there.
On March 13, Hamas security forces arrested Palestinian writer Abdullah Abu Sharekh for Facebook posts in which he criticized Hamas’s handling of a fire that broke out in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. In the fire, which was caused by an explosion of natural gas tanks in the camp’s central market, 22 Palestinians were killed and more than 80 injured.
In one of the posts, Abu Sharekh wrote, addressing the leaders of Hamas:
“The victims of the fire in Nuseirat do not want Hamas to pay for their dead. The people want only one thing from Hamas: to quit and leave the Gaza Strip as any failed leader in a democratic country that values human life would do. Since 2007, Palestinian intellectuals in the Gaza Strip have felt that their lives are not as valuable as those of the rats or cockroaches in the sewer systems.”
On March 18, Hamas ordered Abu Sharekh remanded into custody for an additional 15 days on charges of “spreading rumors and harming the social fabric” of Palestinian society. A spokesman for the Hamas security forces said that Abu Sharekh was arrested for “publishing rumors and lies on social media that cause harm to public interests and create confusion among the people.”
This was not the first time that Abu Sharekh, who is known for his opposition to Hamas, has been arrested for expressing his views about the policies and actions of Hamas.
The latest arrest, however, which came as Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were taking precautionary measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, triggered a wave of protests by several Palestinian political activists and factions, as well as human rights organizations.
Palestinian writer Akram Atallah launched an online campaign to demand the release of Abu Sharekh and other Palestinians detained by Hamas for expressing their views. Continue Reading….