Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Amnesty finds ‘spine chilling’ Hamas crimes

Amnesty International says Hamas committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians, ‘ruthlessly settling scores’

Amnesty International said in a report on Wednesday that Hamas committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip during last year's war with Israel.

A ceasefire last August ended 50 days of fighting between Gaza fighters and Israel in which health officials said more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

Many of the Hamas killings recorded by Amnesty “were publicly billed as attacks against people assisting Israel during the July and August 2014 conflict as part of an operation, codenamed “Strangling Necks,” to target “collaborators”, according to the report. “However, in reality, at least 16 of those executed had been in Hamas custody since before the conflict broke out. Many had been awaiting the outcome of their trials when they were taken away from prison and summarily executed.”

Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International, said “It is absolutely appalling that, while Israeli forces were inflicting massive death and destruction upon the people in Gaza, Hamas forces took the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses.”

Hamas responding to the report by blaming Israel for creating “a situation of chaos” during the war, according to the New York Times.

Mushir al-Masri, a spokesman for Hamas, told the Times that Israel had attacked the Gaza security services, preventing them from managing Palestinian internal affairs properly.

Amnesty called on the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and Hamas to "cooperate with independent and impartial international investigative mechanisms," and to bring "suspected perpetrators" to justice.

The Palestinians are preparing to sue Israeli officials through the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes committed during last year's Gaza conflict.

In a report in March, Amnesty also criticized Israel and accused it of war crimes during the conflict. Apart from the many deaths, at least 16,245 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. Gaza fighters fired thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel.

Israel's military has opened investigations into deadly incidents that took place during the war.

In Wednesday's report, Amnesty said that during the conflict, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza committed war crimes by firing thousands of indiscriminate rockets and other projectiles into southern Israel.

Amnesty noted that it has been unable to send a delegation to visit the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the July/August 2014 conflict, and that it carried out research on this report remotely, supported by a fieldworker based in Gaza. Other research was conducted remotely in “interviews with former detainees, prisoners’ families, witnesses to abuses, human right activists, journalists and others."

The report listed a number of cases Amnesty described as "spine chilling" in which Palestinians accused by Hamas of helping Israel were tortured and killed.

“The Hamas leadership repeatedly calls for rights and justice for Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere. But they do not always act in a manner that reflects respect for rights, justice and the rule of law. By failing to halt such grave violations, the Hamas authorities are dragging the name of justice through the mud and condoning these appalling crimes,” said Luther.

The Palestinians have joined the International Criminal Court since the end of the war, a move opposed by Israel, and the ICC is examining possible war crimes in the conflict. 

Al Jazeera and Reuters

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