by Khaled Abu Toameh
Armed Hamas militias committed the ugliest crimes. It was the Palestinians who made this charge.
Hamas militiamen confiscated food and medicine sent to the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and some "friendly countries," the Fatah leaders disclosed. "Hamas distributed some of the aid among their men through the mosques or sold it on the black market," they said.
It is hard to believe that the journalists did not hear about the Hamas crimes. But it is still not clear why journalists and human rights advocates continue to ignore the story. Is it because such stories are lacking an anti-Israel angle?
During the recent war in the Gaza Strip, armed Hamas militias committed the ugliest crimes and violations.
This charge was not made by the Israeli Government Press Office or the Israel Defense Forces spokesman.
Rather, it was Palestinians who made this charge – and not just ordinary ones.
Leaders of the ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank made the charge against Hamas in a strongly worded statement that was issued in Ramallah on August 30.
The statement refers to Hamas's crackdown on dozens of Fatah members in the Gaza war during Operation Protective Edge – the name used by the IDF to describe the war with the Islamist movement.
The Fatah leaders – members of the faction's Central Committee, a body dominated by supporters of Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas – accused Hamas militiamen of shooting dozens of their activists in the Gaza Strip in the legs and other parts of the body.
They accused Hamas militias of brutally beating other Fatah activists who, with Israel's help, were later transferred for medical treatment in West Bank hospitals.
Fatah's leaders also accused Hamas of placing some 300 of their members in the Gaza Strip under house arrest during the war and "endangering them and their families' lives by exposing them to Israeli airstrikes and shelling."
In addition to the clampdown on Fatah members, Hamas militiamen confiscated food and medicine sent to the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and some "friendly countries," the Fatah leaders disclosed. "Hamas distributed some of the aid among their men through mosques or sold it on the black market," they said.
The Fatah charges against Hamas did not surprise many Palestinians, especially those living in the Gaza Strip, who witnessed some of the assaults on the Fatah members.
However, what is hard to understand is that many foreign journalists who entered the Gaza Strip during the war did not report about Hamas's "ugliest crimes and violations."
It is hard to believe that the journalists did not hear about the Hamas crimes.
A few journalists later admitted that they had been aware of the assaults on Fatah members but were unable to cover the story because of Hamas "restrictions."
Some foreign journalists complained that their local "fixers" refused to provide them with information about Hamas's violations, either out of fear or because they did not want to report about anything that could reflect negatively on Palestinians during war.
Fatah leaders in the West Bank explained this week that they, too, had refrained from making any charge against Hamas during the war "out of concern for national unity."
But even if the foreign journalists' claim that they were unable to report about the Hamas crimes while they were still in the Gaza Strip sounds somehow valid, it is still not clear why they continue to ignore the story.
Many of the wounded Fatah men are now hospitalized in hospitals in Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron in the West Bank to which the journalists have free and unlimited access.
According to Zakariya al-Agha, a senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, the Fatah men were transferred to West Bank hospitals after Hamas denied them medical treatment in the Gaza Strip.
Al-Agha mentioned the case of one Fatah activists who defied the house arrest and left his home together with his family out of fear of being killed in Israeli airstrikes in the northern Gaza Strip. "When the man returned to his home, Hamas accused him of violating the house arrest order and shot him in the legs," he said. "Gaza's hospitals refused to receive these cases."
One of the Fatah men, Yusef Shaheen, of Jebalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, said that Hamas militiamen kidnapped him as he was standing outside his house on the same day the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire was announced in late August.
Shaheen said that the Hamas gunmen accused him of violating the house arrest. "They took me to the area of Sheikh Zayed and beat me severely," he said, adding that his two legs were broken in the assault.
Fatah member Yusef Shaheen lies in hospital with both legs broken, courtesy of Hamas. (Image source: Facebook)
Another Fatah activist who is also being treated in West Bank hospitals said Hamas gunmen fired 17 bullets at his legs from close range.
Had these Fatah members fallen victim to an assault by IDF soldiers or Jewish settlers, their photos and stories would have made it to the front pages of major newspapers in the US, Canada and Europe. But unfortunately for them, they were shot and beaten by fellow Palestinians – in this instance Hamas. Obviously, this is not a story worth being covered by representatives of the "mainstream" media in the West.
There is another aspect to the Hamas crimes against Fatah members in the Gaza Strip. The crackdown proves that the talk about Palestinian "unity" is nothing but a farce and that the hostility between Fatah and Hamas remains as strong as ever.
Hamas says it placed the Fatah men under house arrest for "security reasons." This means that Hamas views the Fatah members in the Gaza Strip as potential "collaborators" with Israel. Sources in the Gaza Strip said that some of the "collaborators" who were publicly executed by Hamas during the war were members of Fatah.
The ongoing rivalry between Fatah and Hamas also casts doubts on the hopes of some Israelis, Americans and Egyptians to bring Abbas' forces back to the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the war. Even if the Hamas leadership agrees to allow Abbas' forces to be deployed at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the movement's armed wing and militias would most likely oppose such a move.
Abbas and his Fatah leaders in the West Bank continue to talk about the need for a commission of inquiry into Israeli "war crimes" in the Gaza Strip. Yet despite their serious allegations against Hamas, they are stopping short of calling for an inquiry into what they themselves call "Hamas's ugliest crimes and violations."
Abbas probably sees Hamas's "crimes" as an internal Palestinian issue that should be dealt with through "national dialogue." But the question remains, why do international journalists and human rights advocates continue to turn a blind eye when Palestinians commit atrocities against their own? Is it because such stories are lacking in an anti-Israel angle?
Khaled Abu Toameh
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