Hamas forces carried out a brutal campaign of abductions, torture and unlawful killings against Palestinians accused of “collaborating” with Israel and others during Israel’s military offensive against Gaza in July and August 2014, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
‘Strangling Necks’: Abduction, Torture and Summary Killings of Palestinians by Hamas Forces During the 2014 Gaza/Israel Conflict highlights a series of abuses, such as the extrajudicial execution of at least 23 Palestinians and the arrest and torture of dozens of others, including members and supporters of Hamas’s political rivals, 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 its custody. These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to exact revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip.”
Many of these unlawful killings 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.” 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.
Hamas forces also abducted, tortured or attacked members and supporters of Fatah, their main rival political organization within Gaza, including former members of the Palestinian Authority security forces.
Not a single person has been held accountable for the crimes committed by Hamas forces against Palestinians during the 2014 conflict, indicating that these crimes were either ordered or condoned by the authorities.
“Instead of upholding justice, the Hamas authorities and leadership have continuously encouraged and facilitated these appalling crimes against powerless individuals. Their failure to even condemn the unlawful killings, abduction and torture of perceived suspects leaves them effectively with blood on their hands,” said Luther.
Atta Najjar, a former police officer under the Palestinian Authority who has a mental disability, was serving a 15-year prison term imposed by a military court after he was arrested in 2009 and subsequently convicted of “collaborating” with Israel. On August 22, 2014, he was taken out from the prison and executed.
“There were marks of torture and bullet shots on his body. His arms and legs were broken…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…It was difficult for us to carry him…He was heavy, like when you put meat in a bag; no bones. His bones were smashed. They broke him in the prison,” said his brother, who retrieved the body from al-Shifa hospital morgue on August 22, 2014.
Eight detainees were still on trial charged with “collaboration” with Israel at the time of their executions. Six others had been awaiting the outcome of appeals against death sentences from a military court in Gaza on the same charges. Two others had been convicted and were serving prison terms when they were executed. Many had been sentenced after trials before courts whose proceedings are grossly unfair. A number had said they had been tortured in order to extract “confessions.”