Palestinian political parties, community and human rights organizations responded to the killing of Omar Nayef Zayed in Sofia, Bulgaria, in the Palestinian embassy with strong denunciations and demands for action. Nayef Zayed, 52, had taken refuge in the Palestinian embassy since December 2015, as he was being pursued for extradition by Bulgarian police after the Israeli embassy requested he be turned over under the European Convention on Extradtion. He had escaped Israeli prison in 1990 following a 40-day hunger strike and hospitalization, and had escaped Palestine, eventually coming to Bulgaria, where he lived for the past 22 years, marrying his wife Rania, a Bulgarian citizen and raising three children.
An international campaign was mobilized to fight the extradition attempt as Nayef Zayed remained within the embassy, whose walls cannot be breached by the host state. He was found dead on the morning of 26 February in the embassy’s garden; his family and Palestinian organizations have denounced the killing as an Israeli operation, while Israeli media have speculated on the likelihood of a Mossad assassination of Nayef Zayed. The family has also highlighted the role of the Palestinian Authority and the embassy in his death, saying that he was not appropriately protected – it is claimed the embassy had no security cameras or alarm system – and was instead constantly placed under pressure to leave the embassy throughout his time there.
A series of Palestinian organizations’ responses to the killing of Nayef Zayed are below, beginning with his own Palestinian political party, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine:
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine: The PFLP statement (in English) denounced the killing of “Comrade Omar Nayef Zayed, the former Palestinian political prisoner and lifelong struggler for the freedom of Palestine, assassinated this morning in the Palestinian embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria.” The statement continued:
“We in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hold fully responsible for this nefarious crime the Zionist State and the Israeli Mossad who targeted Comrade Omar Nayef Zayed for assassination, as we hold responsible the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Embassy in Bulgaria who failed to protect him and his security, and the Bulgarian government and security forces who pursued Comrade Nayef Zayed for arrest and imprisonment for over three months. We note the full responsibility of the Palestinian Authority at the highest levels for failing to protect Comrade Nayef Zayed from assassination, up to and including PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and Ambassador Ahmad al-Madbouh.
This crime took place as the highest officials of the Palestinian Authority met with the highest officials of the Bulgarian state in Ramallah, with no apparent demands made for our pursued comrade, the martyr Omar Nayef Zayed.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine vows to pursue in all ways the truth of the assassination of the martyr Comrade Omar Nayef Zayed, to stand by the family of our martyred comrade, and to hold accountable those responsible for his targeting and assassination. We pledge as always to remain on his path of unremitting struggle for liberation of Palestine, its land and people, as he joins the convoy of the great martyrs of our people whose lives have been taken inside and outside Palestine by the murderous Zionist colonial project.”
Palestinian Prisoners’ Society: The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society stated that they were gravely concerned about the fate of freed Palestinian prisoners around the world in light of the assassination of Omar Nayef Zayed in the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria. They demanded a serious investigation into this crime, coming after over 2 months of the Israeli occupation authorities demanding that the Bulgarian authorities arrest and turn him over for imprisonment. They called for urgently providing full protection to prisoners inside Israeli jails and freed prisoners as a national and international responsibility.
Islamic Jihad: Islamic Jihad denounced the assassination of Omar Nayef Zayed inside the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria on Friday, 26 February, saying the Israeli state bears responsibility for the crime. Spokesperson Daoud Shehab said that “The one who gave the order to assassinate him is the same which directs the terrorism against our children and youth….the same who insist on continuing the imprisonment of journalist Mohammed al-Qeeq in order to kill him.”
Furthermore, Shehab said, this raises urgent questions about the situation in Palestinian embassies in Europe and internationally, including the role of ambassadors, staff and security personnel in the embassy. “Is security coordination practiced there as well, and play a role in the persecution of our people in exile?” he asked.
Hamas: Ismail Haniyeh, deputy chair of the Political Bureau of Hamas, said that the assassination of Omar Nayef Zayed was a “stain on the conscience of the international community, ane evidence of the continuing occupation crimes in light of security coordination and security weaknesses.” He said that the crime could not have taken place without the weakness of the security of the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri declared that Israel is responsible for the assassination of former prisoner Omar Nayef Zayed inside the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria. He also demanded the resignation of Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki and Ambassador Ahmad al-Madhbouh, for their responsibility for the crime taking place inside the Palestinian embassy, calling for them to be tried because of the killing in the embassy and, at best, the failure to protect Nayef Zayed.
Fateh: Fateh said that the Israeli occupation has full responsibility for the killing of Omar Nayef Zayed, saying that the Palestinian leadership has formed a commission of inquiry into the crime. Fateh spokesperson Osama Qawasmeh denounced Hamas’s position, accusing them of “political opportunism” and “reckless accusations,” and defending the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria, saying they refused to turn over Nayef Zayed despite pressure against them.
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine: Tayseer Khaled, member of the Political Bureau of the DFLP, said that evidence indicates the Israeli Mossad is responsible for the assassination of Omar Nayef Zayed, calling for a national committee including independent Palestinian organizations, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Palestinian Embassy in Bulgaria to investigate the killing of Nayef Zayed and report to the Executive Committee of the PLO.
Popular Resistance Movement in Palestine: The Popular Resistance Movement called for an immediate investigation into the assassination of Omar Nayef Zayed in Bulgaria, saying that it bears the marks of the Israeli Mossad. They also said that the Bulgarian authorities are responsible for the assassination of Nayef Zayed, by forcing him into the embassy by threatening him with extradition to the Israeli occupation.
The Palestinian National Initiative: The PNI condemned the assassination of Omar Nayef Zayed in Bulgaria on Friday. Mustafa Barghouti, the general secretary of the PNI, called for a comprehensive investigation as to what occurred in the killing of Zayed, as well as accountability from Bulgarian officials about this crime and its consequences.
Palestinian Arab Front: The Palestinian Arab Front denounced the assassination of former prisoner and struggler Omar Nayef Zayed in the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria, saying that the occupation and its intelligence services are responsible for the crime and that “the assassination on foreign soil within the walls of the Palestinian embassy is a violation of all legal and ethical norms and a blatant defiance of diplomatic roles.” It also demanded that the PA provide better security services and equipment for Palestinian embassies internationally.
Palestinians in Europe Conference: The Palestinians in Europe Conference strongly condemned the crime targeting the Palestinian ex-prisoner Omar Nayef Zayed, considering it a “dangerous precedent”. The conference called for serious investigation into the crime and for holding accountable those responsible for the assassination including the Palestinian embassy and the Bulgarian authorities.