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Fatah men say mistreated by Hamas in Gaza
July 9, 2007 / 1:48 PM / 10 years ago

Fatah men say mistreated by Hamas in Gaza

GAZA (Reuters) - Flies crawled over two blood-encrusted holes in Palestinian policeman Tareq Asfour’s legs, wounds that he said were made by nails hammered in by Hamas gunmen who tortured him.

Asfour, 43, belongs to Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, the losing side in a brief civil war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip nearly a month ago.

The policeman said Hamas’s elite Executive Force came to his home two weeks ago to detain him and then handed him over to members of the Islamist movement’s main armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.

“They dealt with me as if Fatah men had no homeland, no rights. As if we came from another planet,” Asfour told Reuters on Monday.

After handcuffing him and tying him up with wire, the Hamas men began hurling accusations, he said.

“They said I killed Hamas people and I denied it. Then they said I tortured Hamas people and I denied that. Finally, they said that my children -- the oldest is 14 -- and I fired at Hamas men. I denied that, too,” he said.

“They hit me with the wooden handle of a shovel and they used hammers to hit my joints. They put nails in my legs.”

Hamas spokesmen denied it engaged in torture but acknowledged the group had carried out raids to detain Fatah security men briefly and take away their weapons.

Asfour’s allegations of mistreatment have been echoed in reports Fatah members have filed with human rights organizations in the territory since the fighting.

“We have received dozens of complaints that included arrests, brief questionings, house raids and torture but I cannot specify how many were torture cases,” said Khalil Abu Shammala, head of the Ad-Dameer Association for Human Rights.

Asfour displayed medical documents that stated there were two 5-cm-deep (2-inch) holes in his right and left legs. The report made no mention of the cause of the injury.

A Qassam Brigades spokesman declined to comment. A spokesman for the Executive Force said any allegations of mistreatment would be investigated and any breaches of discipline punished.

“We condemn any use of violence against people. Any Executive Force member proven to have been involved in any act of violence would be punished,” said the spokesman, Islam Shahwan.

WEST BANK

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Fatah forces have detained at least 299 Hamas supporters since the Gaza fighting, a Hamas official said. Fatah security sources confirmed dozens of arrests and said some detainees had weapons caches and would be tried. More than half the 299 have since been released.

Some Hamas supporters were taken away not by Fatah-led uniformed forces, but by masked gunmen linked to Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militant movement and other splinter groups.

In the Gaza Strip, another Fatah member, Sobhi Abu Muamar -- his back covered with bruises -- said Hamas gunmen tortured him for three hours.

“They put a gun to my head and said they would kill me,” said Abu Muamar, 47.

His wife, who was forced to fetch Abu Muamar’s rifle from their home and bring it to them, said the gunmen were teenagers.

“Does Islam allow this?” she asked. “I voted for Hamas because of their slogan -- change and reform -- but they neither changed nor reformed.”

Members of the Fatah-dominated Preventive Security Service, founded by Hamas arch-foe Mohammad Dahlan, appear to be the focus of the raids.

The service was responsible for the largest Fatah crackdown against Hamas since limited Palestinian self-rule was launched in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1994 under interim peace deals with Israel.

In 1996, amid a Hamas suicide bombing campaign in Israel, Fatah-led security services rounded up more than 1,000 Hamas political leaders and commanders of its armed groups. Hamas said its men were mistreated by Fatah and some were tortured.

Now, Fatah security officers say, Hamas is out to settle the score.

“It is all about revenge,” said one of the officers, currently on the run from Hamas, which has demanded he turn himself in.

Abu Shammala, the human rights group’s director, said the Qassam Brigades had no legal authority to detain people. He said the Executive Force was holding people inside their posts across the Gaza Strip and not in the territory’s main prison.

“Many of the arrests happen without a legal warrant from the prosecution and we have reports of torture, sometimes supported by a medical report. Other people complain of mistreatment,” he said.

Human rights activists in the Gaza Strip said they have discussed the complaints with Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, the prime minister Abbas dismissed before forming an emergency government.

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