From refugee camps to 5-star hotels: Hamas' top officials leave Gaza en masse

Over the past year, at least eight top terror men from Hamas and Islamic Jihad left the Palestinian enclave for an array of reasons, with none showing a hint of returning anytime soon

Elior Levy|
They are the top leadership of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, those who lead the armed resistance to Israel, whose words can rile up the enclave's populace into a war fervor, despite the difficult conditions.
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  • But at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words and right under everyone's nose, several of these top officials booked it out of Gaza and have not returned since.
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    Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh
    Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh
    Hamas political leader abroad Ismail Haniyeh
    (Photo: EPA)
    The group consists of eight figures with prominent media presence, all of which hold great sway within their respective organizations.
    Over the past year, they all moved out of the decrepit and crowded streets of Gaza for safer locations around the globe, with some living in luxury and pampered by their hosts.
    The first to take part in this exodus was Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' political leader abroad, who left his home in the Al-Shati Refugee Camp for the extravagant hotels in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
    Haniyeh justified his departure due to his candidacy for the leadership of Hamas — but the election ended a few months ago. In addition, Haniyeh pressured Egyptian authorities to allow his wife and children to leave the Strip through the Rafah crossing, and they are currently living with him in opulence in Qatar.
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    Hamas offical Khalil Al-Hayya
    Hamas offical Khalil Al-Hayya
    Hamas offical Khalil Al-Hayya
    (Photo: Middle East Monitor)
    Another key figure is Khalil al-Hayya, who until very recently served as the deputy of Hamas' leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar. He left the enclave several months ago after receiving a promotion as the terror group's "Head of Relations for Arabic and Muslim Countries".
    Just like Haniyeh, al-Hayyah managed to get his family out of Gaza and move to Doha.
    Others on the list include Salah al-Bardawil, a senior member of the group who according to a Palestinian source took a sabbatical abroad; Hamas' mythological spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri who has since moved up to the organization's political bureau and veteran diplomatic advisor and personal deputy of Haniyeh Taher Al-Nunu. None of these officials are giving any signs regarding a possible return to the Strip.
    But Doha is not the only destination, with Turkey becoming the new home of Hamas top man Fathi Hamad. The senior official belongs to the group's hawkish wing, with his home base in the northern Strip, where he was responsible for many violent clashes with Israel.
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    פתחי חמאד
    פתחי חמאד
    Fathi Hamad
    Hamad used to also be the head of a private militia in charge of executing terror attacks against the Jewish state, with him constantly calling for Palestinians in the West Bank to murder Israelis.
    He moved to Istanbul in almost complete secrecy, now frequently traveling between the Turkish capital and Beirut.
    The departures from Gaza did not miss the Islamic Jihad either. Two of the organization's leaders in the Gaza Strip - Nafaz Azzam and Muhammad al-Hindi, also secretly left Gaza some time ago. Azzam is in Syria and probably also in Beirut, while al-Hindi has made Istanbul his new home.

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