A UK-based international rights organisation has accused Hamas, a Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip, of committing atrocities against Palestinian political rivals during Israel’s military offensive in the besieged territory last year.
In a report released on Tuesday, Amnesty International said that Hamas members carried out a campaign of abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings against Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.
The human rights organisation said it based its allegations on a series of interviews with former detainees, prisoners’ relatives, witnesses, activists, and journalists in Gaza.
According to the report, at least 23 people were unlawfully killed by Hamas, including six who were arrested during the conflict and executed in public.
It also accused the group of abducting and attacking “members and supporters” of Fatah, the main political opposition in Gaza, as well as former security forces of the Palestinian Authority, which governs the occupied West Bank.
“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,” Amnesty said.
A Hamas spokesman criticised the report as being unfair, unprofessional and not credible.
“The report is dedicated against Palestinian resistance and the Hamas movement … it deliberately exaggerated its descriptions without listening to all sides and without making an effort to check the truthfulness of details and information,” Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.
Amnesty listed a number of cases in which Palestinians accused by Hamas of helping Israel were tortured and killed.
“Hamas forces used the abandoned areas of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, including the outpatients’ clinic area, to detain, interrogate, torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects, even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical centre,” the report added.
Detainees were reportedly systematically tortured with “the apparent aim of extracting a confession” of being undercover agents for the Israeli government, Amnesty said.
“Testimonies indicate that victims of torture were beaten with truncheons, gun butts, hoses, wire, and fists; some were also burnt with fire, hot metal or acid.”
Some of the detainees reportedly suffered “broken bones – including of the spine and neck bones – trauma to the eyes, as well as damage, punctures or burns to the skin”.
In a previous report in March, Amnesty also criticised Israel and accused it of war crimes during the conflict.
The latest Amnesty report came weeks after Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group that collects testimonies from combat soldiers, published accounts from the Gaza war alleging indiscriminate Israeli fire that killed Palestinians on a substantial scale.
More than 2,200 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, were killed during the conflict. In Israel, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed.
Apart from the many deaths, at least 16,245 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable.