Hamas-Fatah tensions bring increased rights violations

Palestinian security officers loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrest a supporter of the Islamic LIberation Party during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron, 29 July 2008.(Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is gravely concerned over the continuous deterioration in the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory caused by Palestinian security services in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including attacks against civil society organizations, political arrests campaigns and attacks against journalists. PCHR calls upon the two Palestinian governments in Gaza and Ramallah to stop such human rights violations and to ensure respect for the Basic Law and international human rights standards.

Security services of the government in Gaza have continued their attacks against civil institutions belonging to Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip. The latest of such attacks was on Tuesday 29 July 2008, as security services ordered the closure of Rafah Service Club in Rafah for the second time in two days, and Sharek Youth Forum in Gaza City. It is worth noting that on 26 July 2008, Palestinian security services in Gaza and the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas) launched a campaign against civil society organizations belonging to, believed to be close to, or even not linked at all to Fatah movement throughout the Gaza Strip. According to PCHR’s documentation, the number of civil society organizations that have been attacked throughout the Gaza Strip since 26 July 2008 has increased to 152.

Over the past few days political arrest campaigns escalated in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the hands of security services of the governments in Gaza and Ramallah.

In the West Bank, Palestinian security services resumed arrests of Hamas supporters over the past few days. PCHR’s documentation indicates that the arrests campaign that started on 26 July has targeted more than 100 detainees, many of them academics, religious leaders, school principals, community figures, university students, and elected municipality officials from the pro-Hamas change and reform party.

In Gaza, Palestinian security services continued to detain Fatah supporters in prisons or detention centers. These arrests are part of a campaign launched by these security services on 26 July against dozens of Fatah supporters.

Over the past several days attacks by security services on freedom of expression escalated in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Center’s preliminary investigations indicate that the latest violation occurred in the Gaza Strip. At approximately 1:00 on Wednesday 30 July, a police force arrived at the house of journalist Emad Eid (36) in Tal al-Hawa Quarter in Gaza City. Eid is the Director of Maan News Agency’s office in Gaza City and the correspondent of al-Manar Satellite Station. The Police asked him to accompany them to al-Abbas police station in Gaza City to discuss a news item published by Maan News Agency on 29 July. He was released half an hour later.

In the same context, the Palestinian police in Gaza City banned the entry of three daily newspapers (al-Quds, al-Ayyam, and al-Hayat) into Gaza for the third consecutive day. The agents for the three newspapers headed to Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing on 28 and 29 July to receive the newspapers. However, policemen near the crossing prevented them from receiving them and confiscated the 28 July editions.

At approximately 21:30 on Saturday, 26 July, agents of the Internal Security Apparatus in Gaza raided the WAFA News Agency offices in al-Aydi building in Tal al-Hawa Quarter in Gaza City. They confiscated all belongings and carried them in trucks to undisclosed locations. An Internal Security Apparatus force is still stationed at the entrance of the WAFA office.

At approximately 3:00 on Saturday (26 July), masked gunmen from the Internal Security Apparatus in Gaza detained journalist Sawwah Abu Seif (41), correspondent for German TV, from his residence in the Journalists’ Building in Tal al-Hawa Quarter in Gaza City. They took him to an undisclosed location. The Internal Security Apparatus confiscated his laptop computer. Abu Seif’s fate remains unclear till now.

In the West Bank, a force of the Preventive Security Apparatus raided the Arabi Media Center in the town of Dura southwest of Hebron, at approximately 21:30 on Tuesday (29 July). They detained the Center’s Director, journalist Awad Ibrahim Mohammad Rjoub (31), who is the correspondent of Al-Jazeera Net and other news agencies. He was taken to the Preventive Security Compound in the town. Awad’s brother, Mu’ath, informed PCHR’s fieldworker that the force confiscated two computers, a cellular phone, and documents belonging to his brother.

In the morning of Tuesday (29 July), Palestinian security forces detained the journalist Farid Hammad (35) from the town of Silwad northeast of Ramallah. He works in the editorial section of al-Ayyam newspaper. Farid’s wife informed PCHR’s fieldworker that two days ago her husband received a summoning order from a Palestinian security service she did not identify. He went to the headquarters of that security service and did not return home or call his family since then.

In the evening of Saturday (26 July), the Palestinian General Intelligence Service detained the freelance journalist Mustafa Ali Sabri (41) from his house in the town of Qalqiliya. He was taken to the General Intelligence compound in the city. Sabri informed PCHR’s fieldworker that General Intelligence operatives threw him on the ground, beat him, and used derogatory language against him. He was released on Sunday (27 July) without charges.

At approximately 12:10 on Tuesday (26 July), several photographers were covering a demonstration by the Islamic Liberation Party in Hebron. Two Palestinian security officers in military attire asked the photographers to stop shooting. And Immediately afterwards they snatched the camera of journalist Jusri Mahmoud al-Jamal (32) and one of them started pounding the camera against a car, destroying the camera. Al-Jamal works for Reuters.

It is noted that Palestine and al-Resala newspapers, close to Hamas, have been banned from distribution in the West Bank after Al-Ayyam Printing House declined to continue printing them in the West Bank since 16 June 2007 after receiving a threat from anonymous parties on 14 June 2007.

On another front, PCHR has documented additional attacks by members of Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, which included shootings, severe beatings, and torture against people and raids against houses.

The Centre’s preliminary investigation indicates that the most prominent of these violations are the shooting of persons after being abducted by Izzedin al-Qassam Battalions. In Gaza City, al-Qassam masked gunmen in a vehicle abducted Emad Ahmad al-Sheikh Khalil (28) in the afternoon of 26 July. They abducted him from his neighborhood of al-Twan in Jabaliya as he was walking near his house. Later during the same day, an unknown caller contacted Emad’s brother using Emad’s cellular phone and informed him that Emad was injured and was near al-Nawras resort west of the town. Emad’s relatives headed to the area and found him injured by several bullets in the pelvis and legs. They took him to Shifa Hospital where his condition is listed as serious.

In the town of Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, members of the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades abducted nine members of the Abu Sa’da clan at approximately 9pm on Sunday (27 July). They took them to the al-Qassam outpost in the town. The gunmen fired pistol shots at one of the abductees, Abd al-Hamid Suliman Abu Sa’da (32) inside the outpost. He was injured by four bullets in his right hand and right leg. They other abductees were beaten and humiliated by al-Qassam members.

In Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, members of the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades abducted Zeyad Hasan Abu Samak (35) at approximately 1:00am on Saturday (26 July). He is a construction materials trader from the refugee camp. They took him to an undisclosed location. Approximately 1.5 hours later, people found him near Abu Obaida School in Beir al-Na’ja area in a bad health condition as a result of severe beating. They took him to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where sources said he was suffering from concussions in the head and bruises to the body. He was transferred to Barzelai Hospital in Israel due to the severity of his condition.

In another incident, Ali Majed Hussein (25), a released abductee, informed PCHR that at approximately 11:10pm on Saturday (26 July), Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades gunmen traveling in a car abducted him from his grocery store in al-Mashtal Street northwest of Gaza City. They took him to a residential building near the former headquarters of the General Intelligence Service in the Sudaneya area west of Jabaliya. The abductee stated that the gunmen beat him with their hands and gun butts on the way. Then they forced him to sit in an open area near the residential building and threw four construction bricks at his feet. Then they tied his feet and put cement blocks with protruding iron rods on his feet. Then they took him to an open area near Khaled al-Alami school in Mashtal Street and forced him to lie face down on the ground. Then they beat him and left the area. The area residents took him to al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, suffering from bruises and punctures in his feet caused by pressure from the cement blocks.

On another front, Izzedin al-Qassam Battalions members closed the house belonging to Abd al-Qadir al-Mash’harawi, the father of Fatah leader Samir al-Mash’haraw, and the house of Zahir Abu Baker in al-Daraj Quarter in Gaza City. At approximately 00:00 on Tuesday (29 July), tens of al-Qassam Brigades members arrived at the house of Abd al-Qadir al-Mash’harawi and forced him to evacuate the house that consists of five stories and houses approximately 30 people, most of them women and children. They closed the house entrance with an iron-wielding machine, and wrote on the walls “closed by order of Izzedin al-Qassam Battalions.” Adnan Abd al-Qadir al-Mash’haraw informed PCHR that the commander of the gunmen informed him, “This is a message to your brother Samir in order to refrain from making statements.”

About 15 minutes later, Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades gunmen closed the house of Zahir Mohammad Abu Baker located approximately 20 meters away from al-Mash’harawi house using the same method. The house consists of three stories and houses six people. It is noted that Abu Baker purchased the house from Zeyad Abd al-Qadir al-Mash’harawi on 2 August 2007.

On another front, Izzedin al-Qassam Battalions confiscated private vehicles. The most prominent case occurred at approximately 11pm on Saturday (26 July) when 10 masked El-Qassam gunmen in three vehicles arrived at the house of Hasan Jum’a al-Efranji in Gamal Abdel Nasser Street in Gaza City. The searched the house garage and confiscated three vehicles, one of them a governmental vehicle and the other two private. At approximately 1:30 on Monday (28 July) the owners retrieved the two private vehicles from the al-Qassam Brigades. One was suffering from a serious mechanical flaw due to misuse by members of al-Qassam.

PCHR strongly condemns these violations, and:

  • Calls upon the government in Gaza to stop the campaign against civil society organizations and to retreat from all measures of closure and confiscation against dozens of organizations.
  • Asserts that the right of association is ensured by the constitution and international human rights standards, and that all measures taken by security services and the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades violate Law No. 1 of 2000 Related to Charities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
  • Calls for neutralizing the civil society from the conflict between Fatah and Hamas movements, and stresses that independence of the civil society and the vital role played by NGOs in providing social, economic, developmental and cultural services.
  • Calls for the immediate release of all political detainees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and reminds of the Palestinian High Court Decision of 20 February 1999 outlawing political arrests; and calls upon all executive parties to respect the High Court decision and retrain from conducting illegal political arrests.
  • Points with concern to the recurrence of attacks on freedom of expression and journalism freedoms; affirming the need to provide protection for journalists and media outlets in order to fulfill their tasks freely in respect of freedom of expression and journalism freedoms.
  • Strongly condemns the continued illegal detentions perpetrated by Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, and calls for their immediate stop and for the closure of all al-Qassam-controlled detention centers. The Centre affirms that Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades is not a law-enforcement agency and is not empowered to conduct arrests or deal in civilian matters in this form.

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