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PCHR Condemns Kidnapping and Assaulting 3 Citizens by Armed Persons in Khan Younis

Ref: 106/2020

Date: 14 October 2020

Time: 11:15 GMT

Early morning today, 14 October 2020, masked gunmen affiliated with a Palestinian military faction kidnapped 3 citizens while performing al-Fajr “dawn” prayer in al-Ansar Mosque in eastern Khan Younis.  The gunmen forcibly took the citizens out of the mosque to a military site belonging to the same faction, where they were severely beaten with batons and riffles’ butts, causing them physical harm.  Apparently, the assault occurred on grounds of a factional dispute.

PCHR strongly condemns this incident and calls upon the Public Prosecution to open an investigation and take the necessary legal proceedings. PCHR also calls upon the security services to put an end to all practices by the military wings of the Palestinian factions, including arrests and detention, as they are considered a blatant attack on the work and power of law enforcement officers, particularly the civil police which is under the control of the Attorney General and receive orders directly from his office.

According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 05:35, on Wednesday, 14 October 2020, a group of masked men affiliated with al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, raided al-Ansar Mosque in Irmeidah area in Bani Suheilah in eastern Khan Younis, while worshippers were performing the dawn prayer.  The masked men, around 15, beat up and dragged 3 citizens outside the mosque to their pickup trucks (at least 5 vehicles), where there were at least 20 other gunmen.  The 3 citizens, blindfolded and handcuffed, were taken to a military site belonging to the Brigades in western Khan Younis, where they were beaten with batons and riffles’ butts.

Half an hour later, the gunmen took one of the three detained citizens, identified as Kamal Salem al-Brim (40), and drove him to Belal Mosque in Khan Younis refugee camp.  They told him to go home and informed him that he was wrongfully detained.

At approximately 07:00, the gunmen released the two other citizens: Ammar Ra’fat Abu al-Ola (36), who sustained fractures in his right-hand and bruises all over his body; and his brother, Mohammed Ra’fat Abu al-Ola (35), who suffered fractures in his right-leg and bruises all over his body and face. They were released to a relative and he took them to Naser Hospital in Khan Younis.

Ammar Ra’fat Abu al-Ola (36), said to PCHR’s fieldworker that about 10 masked gunmen were dressed in black and wearing al-Quds Brigades headbands, stormed the mosque and severely beaten him while performing al-Fajr prayers, and dragged him out of the mosque. As his brother, Mohammed (37), attempted to help Ammar, they assaulted him and dragged him out of the mosque too. Abu al-Ola added, “the gunmen took me, my brother and our neighbor and friend Kamal Salem al-Brim and put each one of us in a different vehicle. As soon as they put me in the car, they blindfolded me and covered my face with a bag and handcuffed my hands to my back. Then, they started beating me with their riffles. After 10 minutes of driving, they stopped in a yard, I later found out that it was a site belonging to al-Quds Brigades, west of Khan Younis. We were beaten with sticks and riffle’s butts, I was hit in the knees and hands, and I felt my bones breaking in my right arm.” At approximately 07:00, they were released after several bodies intervened with the military faction. They went to Naser Hospital in Khan Younis where it was found that he sustained fractures in his right hand and bruises all over his body; his brother sustained a fracture in his right leg and bruises all over his body and under his eyes.

The Ministry of Interior in the Gaza Strip issued a press release saying that they are following the incident of a group of gunmen attacking worshipers in the Ansar mosque, east of Khan Yunis, during “al-Fajr” prayers on Wednesday, and that the competent authorities have opened an investigation into the incident.

PCHR confirms that the attacks by gunmen against civilians are considered crime and assault on the rule of law that requires a firm position and response from concerned authorities to stop it and spare the Palestinian community from sliding into security chaos and taking the law into own hands.

Hence, PCHR calls upon the Attorney General in the Gaza Strip to move immediately and open a serious and speedy investigation in the incident and hold those responsible accountable, to safeguard the rule of law and reestablish the power of the security services.