Fatah Spokesman in Gaza Attacked by Masked Assailants Amid Protests

Party officials support popular protests against Hamas tax increases ■ Attack leaves Dr. Atef Abu Saif seriously wounded and increases tension between Fatah and Hamas

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Fatah spokesman in Gaza, Dr. Atef Abu Saif,who was attacked near his home on Monday, in 2015.
Fatah spokesman in Gaza, Dr. Atef Abu Saif,who was attacked near his home on Monday, in 2015.Credit: Nasser Nasser / AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Unknown assailants attacked the spokesman for Fatah in Gaza, Dr. Atef Abu Saif, near his home in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday in what may be among actions taken by Hamas to repress popular protests over tax increases. His condition was described as critical.

The protests have been going on in the Gaza Strip for the past few days, under the slogan: “We want to live.”

The attack was one of the main topics discussed on Tuesday morning on the Palestinian Authority’s official radio station, the Voice of Palestine, which is based in Ramallah. Fatah called the attack an attempt to murder Abu Saif and said Hamas was responsible.

>> Hamas crushes protests at cost to its popularity | Analysis

Fatah representatives, including Abu Saif, have praised the protests and condemned its repression – while Hamas has accused Fatah and its security forces of being behind the unrest. The attack has heightened tension between the rival Palestinian factions that control Gaza and the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, respectively.

Palestinian media said a group of armed and masked men beat Abu Saif after one of them fired in the air. An official close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said one of the attackers hit Abu Saif in the head with an iron bar while witnesses were present. After the attack, Abu Saif was taken by an ambulance to the Red Crescent’s al-Quds Hospital in Gaza, where he was found to be suffering from broken limbs and a head injury.

Earlier on Sunday, unknown attackers in the West Bank city of Hebron fired shots at the home of Azem Salhab, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council representing Hamas. The shots caused damage to his car and house, and he was at home at the time. Hamas blamed the PA’s security forces for the attack.

Abu Saif, the Fatah official from Gaza, was also attacked in September 2018 by unknown assailants and has suffered from his injuries since. The attack occurred six months after he was appointed Fatah spokesman, and since then he has not hesitated to criticize the Hamas government in public and use strong language to reject the accusations by Hamas against Fatah and Abbas.

Abu Saif studied at Birzeit University, in England and in Italy, and has a Ph.D. in political science. He is a writer who has published novels and short story collections, the latest of which was “A Suspended Life,” published in 2014. He also published a book on the Israeli use of drones in the Gaza Strip and their effect on the public there. He was born in 1973 in the Jabaliah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip and his family is originally from Jaffa.

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