JERUSALEM (JTA) – Hamas used the cover of last summer’s conflict with Israel to torture and kill Palestinians from rival factions, according to a new report.
“‘Strangling Necks’: Abduction, torture and summary killings of Palestinians by Hamas forces during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict,” a report released on Wednesday by Amnesty International, highlights the extrajudicial execution of at least 23 Palestinians and the arrest and torture of dozens of others, including members and supporters of Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Hamas rival.
During the 50-day conflict in July and August 2014, Hamas “took the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.
“In the chaos of the conflict, the de facto Hamas administration granted its security forces free rein to carry out horrific abuses including against people in its custody. These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to exact revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip,” Luther said.
Many of the unlawful killings, which took place in an operation code named by Hamas “Strangling Necks,” were said by Hamas to be retaliation against Palestinians collaborating with Israel in its Operation Protective Edge; however, at least 16 of those executed by Hamas were in prison, most on collaboration charges, before the start of the conflict, according to Amnesty International.
In addition, Hamas abducted other suspected Palestinians and tortured them, including “severe beatings with truncheons, gun butts, hoses and wire or held in stress positions,” the report said. At least three of those tortured died in Hamas custody.
The human rights organization has called on Palestinian leaders, including the Hamas government, to ensure that the cases documented in the report “are investigated impartially and independently and that, wherever there is sufficient admissible evidence, suspected perpetrators are brought to justice in proceedings that fully respect international fair trial standards and without recourse to the death penalty.” Amnesty International also urged Hamas to co-operate with independent international investigations, including the Commission of Inquiry set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council in July 2014.