Human Rights Watch Condemns Hamas, Fatah for War Crimes

Rights group denounces execution slayings, attacks in hospitals, gunmen pretending to be journalists.

Haaretz Service
Haaretz Service

The Human Rights Watch organization Wednesday condemned Hamas and Fatah for committing "serious violations of international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes" in violence in Gaza in recent days.

It also took the Islamic Jihad and the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades to task for a June 9 incident in which gunmen used a jeep bearing "TV" insignias to allow them to approach and attack an IDF post in southern Israel, calling it a "serious violation of the laws of war."

"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 gun battles with one another inside and near Palestinian hospitals," the organization said in a statement.

It cited a number of summary executions as particular examples of violations of the rules of warfare, including the case of Muhammad Swairki, 28, a cook for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's presidential guard, who was thrown to his death, with his hands and legs tied, from a 15-story apartment building in Gaza City on Sunday.

"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."

The group denounced the armed Palestinian groups for carrying their fight to a number of hospitals in the Gaza Strip, stating that international humanitarian law "provides special protection to medical personnel and hospitals. Military and civilian hospitals and medical units must be protected and respected in all circumstances."

Human Rights Watch also cited the attack on the IDF post in which gunmen had used a jeep with "TV" markings to disguise themselves as journalists. "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," Whitson said.

The organization added that "customary international humanitarian law provides that journalists not taking direct part in hostilities in armed conflict zones 'shall be considered as civilians."

"The deliberate abuse of this protected status in order to breach the confidence of an adversary in an attempt to kill, injure or capture them, would amount to an act of perfidy, a serious violation of international humanitarian law."

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