Captured Israeli ‘mistreated’ by Hamas in Gaza
Condemned by Human Rights Watch
JERUSALEM: Human Rights Watch charged yesterday that Hamas is violating the rules of war by prohibiting a captive Israeli soldier from having contact with his family and the Red Cross.
The treatment of the 23-yearold soldier, captured exactly four years ago, by his Hamas captors is “cruel and inhuman” and matches a UN definition of torture because he is denied any outside contact, the US-based rights group said in a statement.
Hamas militants captured tank crewman Gilad Schalit inside Israel in 2006 and have been holding him since then in Gaza, the Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamic organisation. Negotiations over a deal that would see Israel win Schalit’s release by freeing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including militants convicted of deadly attacks against Israelis, have stalled.
Hamas released a video of Schalit in October 2009 to prove the soldier was alive. His current condition is unknown.
Yesterday’s statement from Human Rights Watch notes Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, including limitations on visitation rights for some Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, but says violations by one side “do not justify violations by the other”.
Schalit’s parents have begun a new effort to rally public support for a deal to release the army sergeant.
They have urged the release of Palestinian prisoners and criticised Israel’s government this week for a recent decision to ease a blockade on the Gaza Strip, saying the blockade was an important bargaining chip for their son’s release.
Israel arrested dozens of Hamas officials and legislators after Schalit’s capture, which came just months after the Islamic group won Palestinian parliamentary elections, and carried out another wave of arrests the following year.
Many of the Hamas officials have since been released but several dozen remain in detention, according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Four of the Hamas politicians released from prison are expected to be forced from their homes in Israeli-controlled east Jerusalem after the Israeli gover nment stripped them of their residency rights, saying the men are senior members of a terror organisation.
The men could be forcibly evicted by police as early as this week.
Jerusalem police would not comment on a planned time for an eviction.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Hamas rival whose government in the West Bank has itself cracked down on members of the Islamic group, called the Israeli move a “dangerous precedent” and said Israel was creating “the biggest obstacles yet on the path to peace”.– Sapa-AP
CAPTIVITY: A painting of Israeli army soldier Sergeant Gilad Schalit near a Jerusalem solidarity tent calling for his release by Hamas.