Fatah-Hamas violence claims seven in Gaza

A Palestinian boy stands near a security forces officer loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during in a rally marking the 43rd anniversary of the Fatah movement in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 1 January 2008. (Haytham Othman/MaanImages)

The undersigned human rights organizations strongly condemn the bloody events in several areas across the Gaza Strip over the past few days. These events were motivated by the Palestinian police ban and crackdown on celebrations of the anniversary of the establishment of the Fatah movement. The ensuing violence resulted in seven people being killed, and dozens more injured.

Violence erupted after the government in Gaza banned celebrations to mark the 1 January anniversary of the establishment of the Fatah movement, in what appears to have been a response to the ban imposed by the government in Ramallah on Hamas marking the 14 December anniversary of the establishment of Hamas in the West Bank. In the lead up to the Fatah anniversary, police and Hamas gunmen in Gaza launched a campaign of arrests of Fatah activists and searched Fatah offices and the homes of people affiliated with Fatah. In addition, they removed Fatah banners from rooftops and public areas.

At approximately 8:00am on 31 December, Ibrahim Mohammad Abu Delakh, age 78, was killed when members of Hamas attacked his house in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza. Four other people, including Abu Delakh’s wife, were injured in the attack. A few minutes prior to the incident, police had arrived at the house, demanding Abu Delakh remove Fatah flags from the roof top. The police beat the residents with sticks.

During 31 December, Fatah leader Ibrahim Abu al-Naja was assaulted and humiliated by unidentified gunmen, who shaved his head and mustache before releasing him.

Regarding armed clashes, the most serious incidents occurred at approximately 18:30 on Monday, 31 December 2007, when clashes broke out between dozens of Fatah supporters in the al-Amal Quarter in Khan Yunis and Hamas supporters near al-Rahma Mosque. Both sides threw rocks, and shots were fired.

Two people died during the clashes. Mahmoud Shaker Abu Taha, age 58, was shot in the abdomen and killed. Twelve-year-old Mohammad Ayman Abu al-Wafa was killed after he was shot in the head.

At approximately 19:00 on the same day, a police jeep carrying seven policemen was traveling near the Abasan intersection east of Khan Yunis when it came under fire from an unknown source. The driver, Omar Abd al-Hakim Asfour, age 24, was shot in the head and killed. The jeep hit a cement block and the passengers sustained fractures and heavy bruising.

Also on 31 December, at approximately 9:00pm, a confrontation broke out in the Sheja’eya Quarter of Gaza city between Fatah supporters and policemen who came to disperse their assembly. The incident deteriorated into an armed clash between the two sides. Thabet Baker Hilles, age 50, was shot dead. Seven others were injured, including two policemen.

At approximately 1:30am on Tuesday, 1 January 2008, armed clashes broke out in the Sabra Quarter of Gaza City. Twenty-one-year-old Suliman Salem El-Deiri was shot dead during the clash. Several others were injured. A large number of Hamas gunmen were rapidly deployed into the area, and destroyed two homes belonging to Mansour Doghmush and Omar al-Khor. In addition, Mahmoud Abed Doghmush, age 25, was shot dead during another armed clash.

We, the undersigned human rights organizations, regard these events as extremely serious, and:

1. Call for an immediate investigation into the events, and full prosecution of the perpetrators.
2. View the involvement of masked gunmen in civilian clothes in the clashes as a continuation of the security chaos and violation of the rule of law, in Gaza, and remind all parties that only the civilian police are charged with law enforcement.
3. Strongly condemn the assault on Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, and call for a full investigation into the assault, and full prosecution of the perpetrators.
4. Strongly condemn the ban on holding celebrations to mark the anniversaries of the establishment of Fatah and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, and affirm the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly that are enshrined and protected by law.
5. Express concern over the escalation of human rights violations by the governments in Gaza and Ramallah and the security forces loyal to each.

Undersigned organizations:

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