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January 13, 2022 9:46 am
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Commanders in Exile: Gazan Faction Heads Quit the Strip

avatar by i24 News

Palestinian group Hamas’ top leader, Ismail Haniyeh speaks during a protest to express solidarity with the Palestinian people amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Doha, Qatar May 15, 2021. REUTERS/Hussein Sayed

i24 News – A string of prominent Palestinian leadership figures from the Gaza Strip have, over the last year, departed from the enclave and appear in no hurry to return.

Taken from the Strip’s ruling faction Hamas and its local affiliate and rival, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the eight commanders traded in residency in one of the world’s mostly densely populated locations for sometimes opulent lives in exile.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader overseas, was the first to depart Gaza — trading the Al-Shati Refugee Camp for a hotel in Doha — Ynet reported. Initially departing due to election logistics, Haniyeh remains abroad and summoned his family to join him in Qatar.

Also now residing in Doha is Khalil al-Hayya, a former lieutenant to Hamas’ head in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, who moved overseas following his promotion to manage the organization’s relations with Arab and Muslim countries, Ynet reported. Al-Hayya too remains abroad after several months and has been joined by his family.

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The Israeli daily noted that three other Hamas figureheads are residing in Doha: Salah al-Bardawil, Sami Abu Zuhri and Taher Al-Nunu.

Besides Qatar, Turkey is also playing host to Gazan exiles with senior commander Fathi Hamad now living in Istanbul, from where he travels frequently to Beirut, Ynet reported.

Next to the list of absent Hamas leaders, Palestinian Islamic Jihad also has two figures who departed from Gaza in the last 12 months: Nafaz Azzam who splits his time between Syria and Lebanon, and Muhammad al-Hindi, living in Istanbul, the daily reported.

Commanders may be living overseas as they feel less easily targeted by Israel there, to improve communications with actors outside the Gaza Strip, or to avoid living in the crushing poverty experienced by most Gazans.

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