JAFFA, Israel – The death of three Gazan children in a house fire has sparked a fierce media war between Fatah and Hamas.
The three brothers died over the weekend after a burning candle started a fire while they were sleeping. The candle was being used because electricity to their home had been cut off due to Gaza’s collapsing power grid.
The Gaza Strip has experienced frequent power cuts following a shortage of fuel and ongoing debts to the Israel Electric Corporation.
Hamas has accused the Palestinian Authority of not resolving the debt as it has pledged, while Ramallah has claimed that Hamas refuses to pass on collected tax money.
Hamas has placed banners across Gaza, saying that President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah are directly responsible for the death of the three boys by condoning the ongoing blockade of the Strip.
Hamas’ leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh also blamed Israel, claiming the Jewish state’s blockade of the Gaza Strip caused the house fire. “Israel’s planes are scorching the earth and Palestinian homes, and those who conspire (to continue) the siege on Gaza are burning Palestinian children,” Haniyeh stated at the children’s funerals.
The pro-Hamas Shehab news agency, meanwhile, broadcast a report produced by Israel’s Channel 10 which allegedly explains how the Palestinian Authority blocks attempts to resolve Gaza’s electricity crisis, including Qatar’s initiative to vouch for Hamas’ debt – which Israel has accepted.
The agency said that maintaining the electricity crisis is a way for the PA to apply pressure on Hamas, which took over the Strip in 2007.
In parallel, Shehab broadcast footage of Hamas officials visiting the bereaved family, which also sparked some criticism. One viewer, Khitam Mahmud, commented on the video: “Don’t worry, we’ll compensate you for your house and find you a job… And allow you to have more kids in their stead. Allah forbid.”
A picture showed Haniyeh shaking the hand of the childrens’ father and handing him an envelope that probably contained money. The report said that Haniyeh instructed the government to provide for the family.
The readers treated his gesture as a PR stunt.
“Now you offer them money and help?” wrote Lubna Nasser. “Only after people die you do something for them and show how good you are.”
However, Abu Kamel Shimali wrote: “Kudos to the Hamas leadership, which is targeted by a worldwide Zionist scheme to pressure them to recognize the Zionist-Nazi entity, as Shi’ite Mahmoud Abbas and his Zionist gang did.”
Fatah’s Facebook page was also a platform for mutual jabs. A picture of a miserable looking Palestinian boy surrounded by the portraits of Hamas leaders and the caption “have mercy on us and leave us” was later replaced by a picture of the leaders with the caption “killers of children.” The commenters, mostly Fatah loyalists, wrote critical comments such as “May Allah give them retribution” and “Leave us alone.”
This was followed by a video showing a Gaza resident slamming the Hamas government.
Other Facebook pages joined the social media war, including the page for the “Jabalia Refugee Camp,” which said: “My neighbor told me: I want to burn my naughty son, maybe the government in Gaza will give me an apartment.”
The post received angry responses, accusing its author of cynical exploitation of the tragedy.
One follower of the page wrote: “Go on, sacrifice your children. Hamas will give you housing and furniture, and the PA will give you a job.”
User Um Fathi replied: “Why didn’t they think about helping him before he lost his children?”
Abdelmagid Ajuri retorted: “Tell all our glorious leaders that our childrens’ blood cannot be bought off.”
Another Palestinian Facebook page posted the following: “They lied to us and told us that the candle should light our way – but here it took the lives of three little kids.”
The hashtags #innocent_candle and #shati_fire (the refugee camp where the fire took place) also invited factional battles.
“It turned out that the man who sold the family the candle is to blame, because if he didn’t it wouldn’t have happened.”
اتضحلي إنّو بياع الشمع هو المسؤول لأنو لو ما باعهم الشمع كان ما إنحرقوا. #الشمعة_بريئة
— Majdoleen Al_Qishawi (@MajdoleenQi) May 7, 2016
Ali tweeted: “Those who are responsible blamed the candle, but the candle is innocent.”
محدش استقال ولا ترك منصبه واتهموا الشمعة وتراشقوا اعلامياً!
وانا بقول #الشمعة_بريئة
— Ⓜ️|علي بخيت| (@alibkheet) May 7, 2016
“Why do they say that hell is free of charge? Hell is also looking to recruit, and boy do these people qualify,” Muhamad wrote.
— Muhannad Abu Abdo (@Mabuabdo) May 7, 2016