Hamas has mounted a desperate damage-limitation exercise in Gaza after one of its units shot dead an innocent 20-year-old Palestinian woman for “immoral behaviour” as she enjoyed a day out with her future husband.
Horrified residents of Beit Lahia, close to Gaza City, have demanded – so far in vain – that the Islamic armed faction hands over three of the gunmen still at large to the Palestinian Authority after what the victim’s family believe was a – tragically unjustified – type of so-called honour killing.
Masked Hamas gunmen shot dead Yusra Azzami in a hail of bullets as she sat in the front passenger seat of her fiance’s car after they had forced it to stop. The gunmen then beat up her fiance, Ziad Zaranda, and his brother, Rami, before making their escape in the victims’ car.
Nusra’s terrified sister, Magdelen, who was engaged to Rami, managed to run away before she was also beaten.
Two senior officials from Hamas, which has admitted that its members killed the woman, were turned away by her grief-stricken family this week when they visited to present their condolences.
Both sisters and brothers were to be married this weekend in a joint ceremony.
The killing casts a stark spotlight on the chronic – and in the view of some residents deteriorating – weakness of law and order in the Strip. But it may also do serious harm to Hamas’ campaign in a series of municipal elections in Gaza next month, including in Beit Lahia itself.
A Hamas spokesman said yesterday that the killing was carried out because there was a – mistaken – “suspicion of immoral behaviour” by the couples.
It was not clear yesterday whether inter-factional rivalry also played a part because Yusra was a Hamas member at the Islamic university but her fiance was in Fatah.
Other factions have been quick to condemn the killing, and gunfire was exchanged between Hamas and Fatah at Yusra’s funeral. Hamas provoked outrage among some local residents by claiming her as one of its “martyrs”.
The faction, which seeks to enforce the strictest Islamic codes on alcohol consumption and pre-marital contact, has issued leaflets in the town saying the killing was a mistake and promising to punish the culprits.
Both couples had exchanged marriage certificates after their betrothal. Although they were not yet living together – in accordance with Palestinian custom – they were married according to strict Islamic law.