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Fatah veteran dies after lengthy illness

February 14, 2014 at 11:40 am

Veteran Fatah politician Abdul Aziz Shahin, known by his kunya of Abu Ali, has passed away, aged 80. He died on Tuesday morning after spending weeks in Al-Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip suffering from liver disease. His funeral will be held in Rafah on Tuesday afternoon.

Abu Ali returned to the Gaza Strip at the beginning of this year, when Fatah celebrated its anniversary, and refused to be moved to a hospital abroad, insisting that he wanted to die in Gaza. He was visited in hospital by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, an act of reconciliation which pleased both men.

Abdul Aziz Shahin was expelled with his family from his village of Basheet by the nascent Israeli state in 1948. His father was killed by the Israelis as he fought alongside other villagers to defend their homes. The survivors of the Shahin family sought refuge in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, where five uncles of Abdul Aziz were also killed by the Israelis between 1956 and 1967.

Abu Ali joined the Palestinian resistance under the umbrella of Fatah. He was arrested by the Israelis after the 1967 war and spent 15 years in prison. After his release in the early eighties, he founded the Fatah Youth group in Palestinian universities as a political bloc to compete against the Islamic groups in student council elections. Politically, Abu Ali was on the extreme left-wing, despite being a prominent leader of Fatah.

Following another arrest, the Israelis expelled Abu Ali to Jordan from where he went to Tunis to work with Fatah’s number two, Khalil al-Wazeer, commonly known as Abu Jihad. In the early 1990s, he moved to Egypt in order to be close to Fatah members in Gaza who were clashing with Hamas over the Islamists’ opposition to the peace negotiations in Madrid, the first public meetings between Palestinian leaders and the Israelis.

Known for his opposition to the Oslo Accords, Abu Ali returned to Gaza where he was elected as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in 1996 representing Fatah. In May of that year he was chosen to head the Ministry of Social Welfare.

In 2000, at the beginning of the second Intifada, he was one of the Fatah representatives on the Committee of National and Islamic Factions, which was formed to follow-up Palestinian affairs during the uprising.

After Hamas won the election in 2006 and took full control over the Gaza Strip the following year, Abu Ali started a one-man protest, standing in the street holding a photograph of Yasser Arafat in protest at the expulsion of Fatah as a movement from the territory. He then left for the occupied West Bank and continued to be politically active there.