Hamas forces carried out a brutal campaign of abductions, torture, and unlawful killings against Palestinians accused of “collaborating” with Israel and others during Operation Protective Edge last year, according to a report published on Wednesday by Amnesty International.
The report reveals that Hamas carried out at least 23 extrajudicial executions during the war. Some of the executions were documented at the time by Palestinian journalists and photographers, prompting Hamas to halt the public killings.
Entitled “Strangling Necks: Abduction, torture and summary killings of Palestinians by Hamas forces during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict,” the Amnesty International report accuses Hamas of killing members and supporters of Fatah.
“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,” 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 custody. These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to extract revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip.”
The report said that many of the unlawful killings were publicly billed as attacks against people assisting Israel during the war, as part of an operation codenamed “Strangling Necks” to target “collaborators.”
According to the report, at least 16 of those executed had been in Hamas custody since before the war erupted. “Many had been awaiting the outcome of their trials when they were taken away from prison and summarily executed,” it added.
The report said that among those executed were also former members of the Palestinian Authority security forces.
One of them was Atta Najjar, a former PA policeman suffering from a mental disability, who was serving a 15-year prison sentence imposed by a military court that found him guilty of “collaborating” with Israel.
On August 22, 2014, he was taken out from the prison and executed.
Najjar’s brother is quoted in the report as saying that there were “marks of torture and bullet wounds on his body. His arms and legs were broken and his body was as if you’d put it in a bag and smashed it. His body was riddled with about 30 bullets. He had slaughter marks around his neck, marks of knives. And from behind the head – there was no brain. Empty.”
“Not a single person has been held accountable for the crimes committed by Hamas forces against Palestinians during the 2014 conflict,” Amnesty International points out in its report.
“Instead of upholding justice, the Hamas authorities and leadership have continuously encouraged and facilitated these appalling crimes against powerless individuals,” Luther said. “Their failure to even condemn the unlawful killings, abduction, and torture of perceived suspects leaves them effectively with blood on their hands.”
He added: “The Hamas leadership repeatedly calls for rights and justice for Palestinians. 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.”