The tragic death of three Palestinian siblings, killed in a fire that destroyed their house in the Gaza Strip on May 6, demonstrates yet again the depth to which Palestinian leaders will go to exploit their children for political purposes and narrow interests.
The three children from the Abu Hindi family -- Mohamed, 3 years old, his brother Nasser, 2 years old and their two-month infant sister Rahaf, died in a fire caused by candles that were being used due to the recurring power outages in the Gaza Strip.
The electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is the direct result of the continued power struggle between the two Palestinian rival forces, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
In recent months, the crisis has deepened, leaving large parts of the Gaza Strip without electricity for most of the day. Hamas blames the Palestinian Authority for the crisis because of its failure to cover the costs of the fuel needed to operate the power plants in the Gaza Strip. The PA has retorted by blaming Hamas's "corruption" and "incompetence."
The Abu Hindi family resides in the Shati refugee camp, where Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and other leaders of the Islamist movement live. But unlike the senior Hamas leaders, the Abu Hindi family could not afford to purchase their own power generator to supply them with electricity during the power outages. Instead, the tragedy-stricken family, like most families in the Gaza Strip, resorted to the cheapest alternative lighting method -- candles.
On that horrific evening, the Abu Hindi's three children went to sleep while the candles were burning. Hours later, the charred bodies of the three siblings were taken from the house while it was still on fire and engulfed with smoke.
In any other country, this incident would have been reported as a routine tragedy -- one of the kind that could happen in any city such as New York, London or Paris.
Here, however, the death of the three children is not just another personal tragedy. This was a case, rather, of child sacrifice: the Abu-Hindi children were sacrificed on the altar of the decade-long war being waged between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. And these children are far from the first or last such victims.
In equal measure, the PA and Hamas are exploiting the tragedy of the Abu Hindi family to wage a smear campaign against each other. It is not as though these rivals have lived in harmony until now. But the political mud-slinging at the expense of the three dead children has reached repulsive levels.
The children were not even buried before Hamas leaders pointed their fingers at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, who it claimed were held personally responsible for the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri claimed that the electricity crisis was part of the PA leadership's effort to keep the entire Gaza Strip under blockade. The PA's ultimate goal, he explained, is to see Hamas undermined and removed from power in the Gaza Strip.
Other Hamas officials said the crisis was the direct result of the Palestinian Authority's insistence on imposing a tax on the fuel it supplies to the power plants in the Gaza Strip -- a financial burden that Hamas could not afford to pay because of the already high cost of the fuel. They said that the tax was unjustified because the PA, through an arrangement with Israel (from which it purchases the fuel), gets the tax refunded. In addition, they pointed out, the PA has refused to file a request with Israel to increase its supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip.
Translation: Hamas takes no responsibility for the fact that two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip spend nearly 12 hours a day without electricity. Instead, in their view, it is the sole responsibility of Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, whose only interest is to strip Hamas of its power.
But where did the millions of internationally donated dollars go? How much do the tunnels cost, the ones Hamas uses to launch terrorist attacks against Israel? Funding terrorists and their families? Might not that money have been better invested in keeping children from burning to death from candle fire?
Hamas leaders staged the smear well. In an unprecedented move, masked members of Hamas's military wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam, were dispatched to attend the funeral of the three children. Hamas leaders such as Ismail Haniyeh were also present, offering condolences to the family. The cameras caught all this, demonstrating the family's affiliation with Hamas and implying that Abbas and his Palestinian Authority were responsible for the tragedy.
The Palestinian Authority is also seeking to cash in on the tragedy by waging a war of defamation against Hamas. Yusuf Al-Mahmoud, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority government, dismissed the Hamas charges. "Those who continue to hijack the people of the Gaza Strip are responsible for this tragedy," he said, referring to Gaza's Hamas rulers. "The tragedy of the children in the Gaza Strip is the tragedy of all Palestinians. Hamas is responsible for the ongoing split (between the West Bank and Gaza Strip)." Abbas's ruling Fatah faction has even gone as far as presenting the dead children's grieving father as one of its own.
The Palestinian Authority is now hoping that the tragedy of the Abu Hindi family will push Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to revolt against Hamas.
Hamas is hoping that the tragedy will further undermine the credibility of the Palestinian Authority among Palestinians, shown as being complicit in the blockade on the Gaza Strip to prevent it from receiving weapons.
These charges and counter-charges constitute yet more proof that the PA and Hamas are determined to pursue their fight to the last Palestinian child.
Yet Abbas is trying to persuade the world to back his plan for establishing a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is hard to imagine how he will even be able to step foot in Gaza after this funeral.
What happened in the Abu Hindi home is an unspeakable family tragedy. What is happening to the Palestinian people, who have forever been led by leaders who care nothing for their well-being, is a tragedy of national proportions.
Khaled Abut Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.