Hamas and its political rival, the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, were both accused of torture and murder on Monday over the recent deaths of two men. Both died in custody, one in Gaza and the other in Jenin.
According to Hamas, members of the Fatah-led security forces killed Hamas member Abd Al-Haj in a Jenin prison on Sunday. Al-Haj was killed by hanging, two days after being arrested. His body bore signs of torture, members of the Al-Haj family argued.
Al-Haj's relatives accused the PA of arresting Al-Haj for “political reasons.” The accusation was picked up by Hamas legislators in Gaza, who accused the Fatah-led PA of political murder.
"The crime of torturing Mohammed al-Haj to death at the hands of the West Bank security service will have grave consequences and was an attempt to blow up all reconciliation efforts,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told foreign journalists.
PA officials agree that Al-Haj died in custody, but say he committed suicide.
Hamas Accused of Murder in Khan Yunis
At the same time, a PA-based human rights group has accused Hamas of torturing and killing a 51-year-old Gaza man. Jameel Shakura of Khan Yunis died from injuries sustained in a violent beating that took place in Hamas custody, the group argues.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) says Shakura was called in for questioning by armed Hamas men on January 30. The next day, he was delivered to a local hospital with serious injuries, and subsequently died of his wounds.
Shakura's brother said Jameel reported being beaten while in custody. Hamas legislators who paid the family condolences following the death implied that the group was responsible for the death, he said.
Charges to Affect Talks?
The charges of torture, particularly in the Al-Haj case, are expected to cause difficulties in talks between Fatah and Hamas. The rival groups held dual control over the PA until the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, and since then have sporadically held talks with the goal of reunification.
Egyptian officials proposed Monday that Fatah and Hamas renew their negotiations at a meeting in Cairo this month.