Hamas security forces parade through Gaza in this file picture. Image Credit: AP

Damascus: Hamas is back in the news — once again, for the wrong reasons. This time its security services were filmed attacking Um Jabr Wishah, 90, universally hailed as the ‘mother of Palestinian prisoners’, at her home in Breig Refugee Camp in Gaza last Thursday.

She was beaten by thugs and so was her son Jabr, who spent 25 years in Israeli jails before he was released in 1998, thanks to a special deal orchestrated back then by former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Family members rushed her, bruised and bleeding, along with her daughters, to the nearby Al Aqsa Hospital.

At first, Hamas security denied the entire incident, then retracted their statement saying that they were carrying out a court verdict issued in Deir Al Balah, south of Gaza City, which criminalised the Wishah family for building an additional room in their home, with no real estate permit.

The Wishah family tried to prevent them from demolishing the room, which led to them using excessive force against the aging Um Wishah and her children.

“The Wishah family were not the only ones who added illegal space to their homes” said Zaher Al Khatib, a resident of Gaza City and neighbour of the Wishah family. Speaking to Gulf News, he said: “There are many other illegal rooms, rooftops, and even entire buildings in Gaza City, but they are owned by Hamas officials or people close to them.”

Hamas has arrested both those who filmed the video and those sharing it on social media. One journalist, Mahmoud Al Louh was picked up by plain cloth Hamas security men from his home in Al Nusairat in central Gaza. He remains in custody, despite objections from the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate.

Hamas checkpoints have been set up on the main road leading to Wishah’s home, preventing journalists from reaching Um Wishah. Members of the Doha-based Hamas Political Bureau have been in back-to-back talks with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), asking them to help resolve the crisis before it snowballs any further. The PFLP came out with a statement, describing Wishah and her son Jabr as “Palestinian icons.”

Meanwhile, Hamas claims that it sent the Wishah family six notices to tear down the additional room, which were all ignored.

Um Jabr Wishah rose to prominence in the 1980s for her grassroots lobbying on behalf of her son and other Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israel jails. She led weekly sit-ins and took part in at least three hunger strikes, raising the ire of the Israeli regime.

“The Israelis were unable to silence her” said Khatib, “but they never dared beat her before cameras, like Hamas police did on Thursday. Hamas and Israel are two sides of the same coin. Both are very bad.”

People took to the streets to protest terrible living conditions, corruption, and lack of basic services like clean running water, electricity, and medicine.