Under Cover Of Conflict, Hamas Killed Palestinians, Amnesty Alleges
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Amnesty International says some two dozen people in Gaza were deliberately killed by fellow Palestinians during last year's war between Hamas and Israel. In a report issued this week, Amnesty blamed the killings on Hamas, which runs Gaza. As NPR's Emily Harris reports, those killed were accused of being collaborators - that is, spies for Israel - many while awaiting trial. A warning, this piece contains sounds of violence.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: During the chaos of last summer's war, Waheb Wadiya buried his 34-year-old son Adli.
WAHEB WADIYA: (Through interpreter) We took him to the cemetery and buried him next to my father. He had been shot about a hundred times - one shot in the eye.
HARRIS: Wadiya's son wasn't killed by an Israeli tank or a bomb. He had been serving time in a Hamas-run prison inside the Gaza Strip since 2010. His brother, Amer Wadiya, says he tried to find out who was responsible for Adli's death.
AMER WADIYA: (Through interpreter) After Adli was killed, I went to the prison and asked an official, where's my brother? He said internal security came and took him. I said, he was in your custody. How can others come and take him? He said, internal security can take anybody anytime.
HARRIS: Adli Wadiya was among a group of 11 men Amnesty International says were taken from prison and shot at a police station a few days before the war ended late last August. All were accused of collaborating with Israel. Among Palestinians, collaborators are widely seen as traitors. They're subject to trial, and if their actions led to the deaths of Palestinians, they can face the death penalty themselves. But human rights groups say the accusation is also used to settle political scores. Waheb Wadiya believes Hamas labeled his son a collaborator because he was active in a rival political military group.
W. WADIYA: (Through interpreter) His lawyer proved he had never killed or turned in any Palestinian. Plus, my son told me he was innocent, but tortured into giving a confession. They tied his arms behind his back and hung him in the air.
HARRIS: Amnesty International says these executions under the cover of conflict could amount to war crimes. Hamas said it wasn't responsible for the executions detailed by Amnesty, but accused collaborators still in prison in Gaza say they've seen this happen before.
Last September, with permission from Hamas authorities, I visited Katiba Prison in Gaza City - the section where accused collaborators are kept. I spoke with inmates unsupervised in a dim, out-of-the-way room. One, who gave his name as Naim, said he was arrested in 2008 and confessed to helping Israel after being physically and emotionally abused in prison. In 2012, during an eight-day war between Hamas and Israel, he says Hamas security forces took several accused collaborators, including him, out of the prison and kept them elsewhere for five days.
NAIM: (Through interpreter) On the sixth day, they took some men with them. They left me and another man. They executed the men they took away, then they drove me back to prison. I said, why are you putting me back in jail? Am I accused of anything?
HARRIS: Naim believed the fact Hamas did not kill him then proved his innocence. Naim was cleared and released from prison in March. But in this murky world of collaboration, there are always questions about who is really serving whom. As I spoke with a second inmate, a guard started beating a prisoner nearby.
(SOUNDBITE OF BEATING)
HARRIS: The inmate I was interviewing said this wasn't torture for a confession, just a guard mad at a prisoner for something. And don't panic, he said, this happens all the time. This inmate asked that his name not be made public. During last summer's war, he said he saw more than a dozen men taken from this prison, where they were awaiting charges or appealing sentences. They were among those Amnesty says were shot and killed.
UNIDENTIFIED INMATE: (Through translator) I knew them. I think one or two were collaborators. The rest had made a lot of mistakes but weren't collaborators.
HARRIS: Whether they were or were not, human rights advocates say someone needs to answer for killing them. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.