Hundreds killed in Gaza Strip violence

Vehicle on fire during clashes between Hamas and Fatah militants in Gaza City, May 2007

Vehicle on fire during clashes between Hamas and Fatah militants in Gaza City, May 2007

© APGraphicsBank

24 October 2007

Hundreds of Palestinians lost their lives as a result of the inter-factional political violence that engulfed the Gaza Strip in the past year. Fighting between security forces and armed groups loyal to the two main Palestinian political parties caused the deaths of many unarmed bystanders not involved in the confrontations, including children.

Both sides -- Fatah, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas of then Prime Minister Isma’il Haniyeh -- committed grave human rights abuses. They showed a flagrant disregard for the human rights of a civilian population already worn down by decades of Israeli occupation, military campaigns and blockades. These have caused a sharp deterioration in the humanitarian situation of the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.

As armed clashes became more frequent and intensified, Fatah and Hamas gunmen unlawfully killed and maimed captured rivals and hostages. They used indiscriminate and reckless fire in and around residential neighbourhoods.

Neither medical nor educational facilities were immune as they and residential buildings were both attacked and used as firing positions from which to mount attacks. Homes and public properties were damaged and beleaguered residents were virtually imprisoned in their own homes for days by the fighting.

After Hamas’ violent takeover in the Gaza Strip in June, President Abbas’ decision to suspend operations of PA security forces and judicial institutions in the Gaza Strip created a legal and institutional vacuum there. This opened the way for Hamas to establish a parallel security and law enforcement apparatus, but one which lacks appropriately trained personnel, accountability mechanisms or safeguards.

Unsurprisingly, arbitrary detentions and torture or other ill-treatment of detainees by Hamas forces are now widespread and the initial improvements in the security situation that followed Hamas' takeover are fast being eroded.

In the West Bank, there has also been a marked deterioration in the human rights situation under the emergency government set up by President Abbas in June. Arbitrary detention of suspected Hamas supporters by Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces has become routine. Detainees are often subject to torture or other ill-treatment and Fatah gunmen have launched revenge attacks against Hamas supporters and their properties with impunity.

Amnesty International is calling on both the PA and Hamas to take swift and decisive measures to stop and prevent the increasingly widespread human rights abuses committed by those acting under their authority and to put an end to the impunity enjoyed by security forces and armed groups.

The organization is also calling on the international community to hold all the Palestinian parties accountable to the same human rights standards and to ensure that the population of the Gaza Strip is not punished for the positions and actions of the Hamas de-facto administration and that emergency assistance essential to fulfilling fundamental human rights is never used as a bargaining tool to further political goals. 

Occupied Palestinian Territories: Torn apart by factional strife

Index Number: MDE 21/020/2007
Date Published: 24 October 2007
Categories: Middle East And North Africa, Palestinian Authority

In the past year fighting between security forces and armed groups loyal to the two main Palestinian political parties - Fatah and Hamas - caused the deaths of many unarmed bystanders. This lawlessness is to a large extent the result of the prolonged failure of the Palestinian Authority to enforce the law, to curb the proliferation of unlicensed weapons, and to hold both armed groups and members of the PA security forces accountable for their crimes. This document reports Amnesty International's concerns about both sides in the inter-factional political violence, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

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