UN Report Highlights Hamas Abuses in Gaza During Ten Years of Absolute Rule
A new UN report released on Tuesday highlighted the negative impact of a decade of Hamas rule in Gaza, ending with the grim prediction that living conditions in the coastal enclave will worsen significantly over the next three years.
The report, “Gaza – 10 Years On”, published by UNSCO — the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process — examines the progressive deterioration of Gaza’s public services and infrastructure in the decade that has elapsed since the civil war of 2007. After months of internecine fighting, Hamas seized absolute power in Gaza in a coup in June of that year, driving out the rival Fatah faction and launching fresh rocket attacks against Israel. Both Israel –which has the longest land border with Gaza — and Egypt imposed a blockade on the territory within months of the coup that remains in place.
“Upon seizing control of Gaza, Hamas has increasingly tightened its grip on power, including by executing, maiming and jailing opponents and suppressing dissent,” the report’s introduction stated. “For years, Hamas was able to sustain its de facto authority and build up its military strength primarily through controlling the movement of goods smuggled through tunnels between Gaza and Egypt and taxing this trade, while the Palestinian Authority paid for essential services to Gaza residents, including some civil service salaries, electricity, water and medical care.”
The report underlined that successive efforts since June 2007 to resolve the conflict between the Islamists of Hamas and the ruling Fatah Party of PA President Mahmoud Abbas had all failed. “The key issues separating the factions have remained unchanged over the years, with continuing ideological differences, including over the recognition of the right of Israel to exist and the use of violence,” it stated.
The establishment by Hamas in March 2017 of an administrative committee to run “governmental affairs” in Gaza had only led to a “hardening of the divisions” between the two factions, the report said.
Hamas’s woeful human rights record was also accented in the report. “Hamas has committed human rights violations, including restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly as well as a campaign of arbitrary arrests, harassment, torture that even lead to death in custody,” it said. “Certain associated armed groups, such as members of the Qassam Brigades, were also responsible for extrajudicial kidnappings, beatings and murders of political opponents.”
While the report strongly criticized Israel for engaging in “collective punishment” of Gaza’s population through its restrictions on civilian movement between Gaza and Israel, it also noted separately that “a further impediment to access and movement has been the military build-up in Gaza by Hamas and other militant groups, which continued and intensified over the past decade, including the development, stockpiling and firing of rockets capable of reaching deep into Israel and the construction of sophisticated tunnels used for kidnappings and terrorist attacks in Israel.”
The foreword to the report was written by Robert Piper — the UN coordinator for humanitarian aid and development activities in what the UN defines as the “occupied Palestinian territories” and a frequent harsh critic of Israeli policies. In a recent statement to mark the “50th Anniversary of Israel’s Occupation,” Piper accused Israel of running an occupation “backed by force,” adding that alongside this “ever-present security apparatus have been deliberate policies that have isolated Palestinian communities from each other, ruptured social cohesion, profoundly limited economic activity and deprived many of their basic rights — of movement, of expression, of access to health and much more. In too many cases, these policies have violated international humanitarian law as well as the human rights instruments to which Israel is a party.”
Piper’s foreword to Tuesday’s UNSCO report, however, did not mention Israel by name, speaking in general terms about the “socio-economic, humanitarian and human rights disaster that is unfolding in Gaza, and … the two million people trapped in this sad reality.”
The report concluded that Gaza may become “unlivable” by 2020, due to the combination of international and local factors restricting the territory’s development along with a population increase that is expected to reach 2.2 million by 2020.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said the UNSCO report “proves without a doubt that the rule of Hamas terrorists over the past ten years has not only led to unending attacks on innocent Israelis, but has also brought nothing but pain and destruction to the residents of Gaza.”
“It is time for the UN to finally designate Hamas a terrorist organization and to demand that the Palestinian leadership abandon its support of incitement and terror,” Danon stated.