In Brief

Hamas accused of 'spine-chilling' abuses during Gaza war

Amnesty International claims Hamas used conflict with Israel to execute and torture its enemies

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Hamas has been accused of committing "spine-chilling" war crimes, including the summary execution of at least 23 Palestinians, during last summer's Israel-Gaza conflict.

Amnesty International claims that during Israel's 50-day military offensive against Gaza, Hamas "took the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores", carrying out unlawful killings, abductions and torture on opponents and alleged Israeli informants.

At least 23 Palestinians were executed by Hamas without due process, according to Amnesty. Some suspects were awaiting the outcome of appeals, some had said they had been tortured into confessing to "collaborating" with Israel, while others were never even formally charged.

The report, entitled Strangling Necks, also claims that Hamas "abducted, tortured or assaulted" perceived opponents with impunity, including members of the rival Fatah party and former members of the Palestinian Authority security forces in Gaza.

Many people were "arrested" by men in civilian clothes and masks who failed to present identification and forced suspects into cars. Amnesty uncovered evidence of Hamas forces beating suspects with truncheons, gun butts, hoses, wire, and fists. Others were also burnt with fire, hot metal or acid.

Amnesty says the abuses amount to "serious violations of international humanitarian law, constituting war crimes" and is urging Palestinian authorities to investigate the allegations and bring the perpetrators to justice.

"These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to exact revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director.

The abuses came as Israeli air and ground attacks killed more than 1,500 civilians, a third of whom were children, and reduced tens of thousands of homes to rubble.

Luther said it was "absolutely appalling that, while Israeli forces were inflicting massive death and destruction upon the people in Gaza, Hamas forces took the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses".

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