Report: Infighting claimed lives of 161 Palestinians

A wall in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, reads, “No to internal fighting, Yes to fighting the occupation,” June 2007. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

PCHR has published a special report titled “Black Days in the Absence of Justice: Report on Bloody Fighting in the Gaza Strip from 7 to 14 June 2007.” The report details results of investigations conducted by PCHR into the bloody fighting between Hamas and Fatah movements, represented by their armed wings and security services, which ended with Hamas’ takeover of all headquarters and sites of security services, and consequently, the whole Gaza Strip.

This latest round of fighting took the lives of 161 Palestinians, including 41 civilians. This figure includes seven children and 11 women. Additionally, at least 700 Palestinians were wounded.

According to PCHR’s documentation, the two parties of the conflict perpetrated grave breaches of the provisions of international law concerning internal armed conflicts, especially common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The fighting included: extra-judicial and willful killings of combatants who laid down their arms; killing a number of wounded persons inside hospitals; abduction and torture; using houses and apartment buildings in the fighting, endangering the lives of civilians; and obstruction of access of medical and civil defense crews to areas of clashes.

The latest round of fighting was an extension of other rounds of fighting between Fatah and Hamas movements over 15 months (from April 2006 to June 2007), in which divided security services were also involved. Violence and fighting has been an outcome of the conflict over security and political authorities between the presidency and premiership in the Palestinian National Authority following the parliamentary elections that were held in January 2006, in which Hamas won the majority of seats of the Palestinian Legislative Council (74 seats for Hamas and 45 ones of Fatah out of a total of 132 seats). Although the elections were an important turn point towards democratic reform since they were transparent and fair, the subsequent developments constituted a setback of the process as this democratic experience was combated and besieged so as to be buried. The the Hamas-led government that was formed in March 2006 was boycotted by the United States, the European Union, Canada, Japan and others. All money transfers from Arab and Islamic countries through banks were also blocked. Subsequently, the economic conditions deteriorated to an unprecedented level, the government was not able to pay salaries to its employees and the services provided to the Palestinian population sharply decreased.

At the same time, the internal security situation further deteriorated with the state of lawlessness and security chaos that have plagued the Occupied Palestinian Territory for years.

The political conflict over authority between Fatah and Hamas movements has negatively impacted the whole Palestinian internal situation, including the deep division it has caused in the executive between the presidency and the premiership. This conflict was demonstrated in bloody fighting between armed wings of the two movements. Palestinian security services, which are divided in support for the presidency (those formed before the formation of the Hamas-led government) and the government (those formed by following the formations of the government, like the Executive Force) were also involved in the fighting.

The past 15 months have witnessed several rounds of fighting in the Gaza Strip between the two movements. The fighting has been characterized by grave breaches of human rights and international humanitarian law, including willful killings, abduction and torture. The militants disregarded the lives of civilians when they transformed the roofs of a number of apartment buildings as sites for them and established barriers in densely populated areas. These places were used in the fighting, thus endangering the lives of civilians.

Each round of fighting ended with an agreement between the two movements to calm down the situation brokered by the Egyptian security delegation to the Gaza Strip and Palestinian political factions. However, no investigation was conducted into any crime and the politically-protected perpetrators have remained free. The lack of legal action against the perpetrators of crimes has increased tension motivating new rounds of fighting. Any truce lasted for days, and at best, for a few weeks, while tension and lack of confidence between the two movements remained persistent motivating new rounds of fighting. The latest round of fighting has been the fiercest of all rounds and has ended with Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip.

This report highlights the latest round of fighting between Fatah and Hamas movement from 7 to 14 June 2007 and the grave breaches of human rights and international humanitarian law concerning internal armed conflicts. The report does not detail every single detail in the fighting, rather what PCHR has been able to investigate and document through eyewitnesses’ testimonies and checking the damages caused by the fighting.

The report does not discuss the developments that followed the fighting, including acts of retaliation by armed groups affiliated to Fatah movement and security services in the West Bank against members of Hamas following the measures taken by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The report includes four sections in addition to the introduction. The first section details the developments in the Palestinian National Authority that followed the Palestinian parliamentary elections of January 2006, including acts of violence between the supporters of Fatah movements and those of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which developed into several rounds of fighting between the two movements from April 2006 to June 2007. The second section highlights the latest round of fighting; how it began, how it developed and its end with Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip. The third section details violations of human rights and international humanitarian law perpetrated or allegedly perpetrated by the parties of the conflict, including extra-judicial and willful killings, abduction and torture; using houses and apartment buildings in the fighting; attacks on civilian property; attacks on hospitals and medical and civil defense crews; endangering the lives of civilians in the streets and houses; attacks on peaceful demonstrations; and seizure, robbery and destruction of public, private and non-governmental institutions. The last section of the report provides PCHR’s conclusion and recommendations to relevant parties. Annexed to this report is a list of names of those who were killed in the latest round of fighting.

  • Download the full report [PDF]

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