Even the neighbors of Nour el-Deen Baraka didn't know what he really did. He completed his master's degree in comparative Sharia law only this year after a period of intense study and memorization of the Quran. The group of uniformed men that generally accompanied him might have given his neighbors a clue of his other, more valuable role.
Nour Baraka, 37, married with four children, was known for keeping a low profile. He lived in the family house in Bani Suheila, east of Khan Yunis—not far from where Hamas leaders Muhammad Dahlan and Yahya Sinwar were raised.
Nour Baraka was the commander of the Khan Yunis Brigade of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, and was also put in charge of the Khan Yunis tunnels.
But the most famous of the Baraka family is actually his brother, Dr. Suleiman Baraka, a space scientist and astronomer, who studied in Egypt and Lebanon, moved to the United States to complete his doctorate, worked for NASA and won prestigious prizes in Paris and Washington. In 2008, after his 11 year-old son was killed in an Israeli operation in Gaza, Dr. Baraka stopped his work and returned to Gaza.
Recently, Suleiman gave a speech at a Palestinian TED event and received loud applause from the Gazan audience as he recounted his life-story in the Arab world. He described how in Syria he was suspected of being a Palestinian spy, how they were sure that he was a Zionist spy in Lebanon after seeing an Israeli stamp on his passport, how he had not managed to reach Australia and how he had almost settled in despair in Libya. "But in the end, like my brother Nour, I belong to the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades," he said.
On the day of the incident, Nour returned from a "work tour" in the north of Khan Yunis and entered his house. According to reports in Gaza, he identified "something suspicious" when he spotted a Volkswagen outside his window. He questioned the Israeli passengers, was not satisfied with their answers, and then the weapons were drawn and the shooting began.
According to reports on social media and news outlets in Gaza, two Israelis from the Volkswagen dressed in women's clothing were the ones who opened fire at Nour Baraka.
Al-Jazeera TV correspondent Wa'il Dahdouh air images on Monday of what was left of the Volkswagen used by the Israelis before they fled. "This is far beyond killing or taking captive a Palestinian, the Israelis planned something much bigger here, and did not succeed," he said.