Jerusalem – Human Rights Watch has accused Palestinian groups of committing “serious violations of international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes.”
In internal Palestinian fighting over the last three days, both Fatah and Hamas military forces have summarily executed captives, killed people not involved in hostilities, and engaged in gunbattles with one another inside and near Palestinian hospitals. On Saturday, armed Palestinians from Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade used a vehicle with a “TV” insignia to attack an Israeli military position on the border with Gaza.
“These attacks by both Hamas and Fatah constitute brutal assaults on the most fundamental humanitarian principles,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. “The murder of civilians not engaged in hostilities and the willful killing of captives are war crimes, pure and simple.”
On Sunday, Hamas military forces captured 28-year-old Muhammad Swairki, a cook for President Mahmoud Abbas’ presidential guard, and executed him by throwing him to his death, with his hands and legs tied, from a 15-story apartment building in Gaza City. Later that night, Fatah military forces shot and captured Muhammad al-Ra’fati, a Hamas supporter and mosque preacher, and threw him from a Gaza City high-rise apartment building. On Monday, Hamas military forces attacked the home in Beit Lahiya of Jamal Abu al-Jadiyan, a senior Fatah official, captured him, and executed him on the street with multiple gunshots. On Tuesday, there were reports of additional killings of individuals not involved in hostilities.
In addition, Fatah and Hamas forces engaged in battles in and around two Gaza Strip hospitals on Monday. After Hamas fighters killed Fatah intelligence officer Yasir Bakar, Fatah gunmen began firing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, drawing Hamas fire from inside the building, killing one Hamas fighter and one Fatah fighter. At a hospital in Beit Hanun, three family members with ties to Fatah, ‘Id al-Masri and his sons, Farij and Ibrahim, were killed, and others wounded. Earlier, hospital officials reported that the three were being treated for injuries sustained. One was reportedly shot at close range.
Human Rights Watch maintains that “all parties engaged in armed conflict are subject to customary international humanitarian law, which forbids deliberate harming of civilians and those who are not engaged in armed hostilities at the time,” going on to say that “International humanitarian law also provides special protection to medical personnel and hospitals. Military and civilian hospitals and medical units must be protected and respected in all circumstances.”
In the June 9 incident, four armed Palestinians drove a white jeep bearing “TV” insignias to a fence on the Gaza-Israel border and fired at Israeli soldiers. The Israelis returned fire, killing one Palestinian. Spokesmen for Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, an offshoot of Fatah, claimed responsibility for the attack. An Islamic Jihad spokesperson denied that Palestinians had put press markings on the jeep used in the June 9 attack, and accused the Israeli military of doing so after the fact. However, photos taken by the Associated Press as the attack was under way show the letters “TV” written in red on the front of the jeep.
“Using a vehicle with press markings to carry out a military attack is a serious violation of the laws of war, and it also puts journalists at risk,” said Whitson.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007