Last update - 01:06 04/08/2008     
      Rights group to court: Don't send Fatah refugees back to Gaza  
      By Tomer Zarchin, Avi Issacharoff, Yuval Azoulay and Amos Harel, Haaretz 
Correspondents and Reuters  
      Tags: Hamas, Fatah, Gaza, Israel  

      The Association for Civil Rights in Israel on Sunday petitioned the High 
Court of Justice to order the defense ministry to halt the deportation of Fatah 
members who fled the Gaza Strip over the weekend. 

      Deputy Supreme Court President Eliezer Rivlin has ordered Defense 
Minister Ehud Barak to respond to the petition by Monday afternoon. 

      "The matter of the petition, by its nature, cannot be deferred," wrote 
ACRI attorney Oded Feller in the petition. "Continuing [the process of] 
returning the asylum-seekers to Gaza is liable to endanger their lives, 
well-being and freedom." 
      Feller said putting the asylum-seekers at such risk constitutes a serious 
violation of human rights, and added that Israel should take other steps that 
don't endanger their lives if they pose a security risk to the state. 

      He said neither Barak nor Attorney General Menachem Mazuz responded to 
his requests on the matter on Sunday. 

      Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday refused to grant West Bank 
asylum to dozens of supporters who fled Hamas-ruled Gaza to Israel under 
      fire, during fierce factional fighting. 

      Abbas stood his ground, with aides explaining that he felt his embattled 
Fatah group must maintain a presence in Gaza. 

      However, there were concerns that the returnees could face mistreatment 
by Hamas. 

      Hamas confirmed it detained the first group of 32 who were sent back to 
Gaza on Sunday, and said it had released all but five in that group. 

      The wrangling over the fate of the 188 Fatah refugees came a day after 
the bloodiest day of Hamas-Fatah fighting since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 
June 2007. In all, 11 people were killed and dozens wounded during a Hamas raid 
on a Fatah stronghold in Gaza City on Saturday. 

      Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority on Sunday urged a complete 
international boycott of Hamas and said it would work toward removing all 
recognition of it as a political movement, Israel Radio reported. 

      A Fatah representative in Ramallah, Fahmi A-Zahrir said Hamas must be 
taken out of the Palestinian Authority's legal demarcation, adding that the 
Islamist group had lost its right to political existence. 

      Hamas arrests Fatah men returned to Gaza by Israel 

      A Hamas official on Sunday said a group of Fatah men returned by Israel 
to the Gaza Strip were immediately detained by the Palestinian militant group's 
security forces. 

      Israel on Sunday returned to Gaza 32 members of a group of over 150 
Fatah-linked men who had fled clashes with Hamas on Saturday, and was also 
planning to send the remaining men back to the coastal strip. 

      "After the occupation refused to receive most of those who fled Gaza, 
dozens have returned and the Palestinian police have taken them into custody," 
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. 

      Israel sent the group back on Sunday after Abbas and Palestinian 
Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad withdrew an earlier request for Defense 
Minister Ehud Barak to allow the Gazans entry to Israel and then to transfer 
them to the West Bank. 

      The infighting with Hamas left at least nine people dead and more than 80 

      Egypt was also a party to the PA's request on Saturday for Israel to 
allow entry to the men, who belong to the Hilles clan which is affiliated with 
Abbas' Fatah faction. 

      A spokesman for Barak said the wounded would remain in Israel for 
treatment and the rest would be returned to the Hamas-held territory. 

      Fatah leader Hussein Al-Shaikh, the senior civil affairs official in the 
Palestinian Authority, said: "We are discussing with the Israelis how to allow 
the people to return to Gaza." 

      Defense sources said it was likely that Fayyad and Abbas' backtracking is 
connected to power struggles within Fatah. The security establishment was 
examining on Sunday morning ways to ensure the safe return of the remaining men 
who fled Gaza. 

      Clan head: Hamas can't handle our powerful presence 

      Ahmed Khiles, the head of the clan, was among the group initially let 
into Israel. He was lightly wounded when he entered Israel, and was taken to 
the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva for treatment. One of his sons had 
been arrested by Hamas, while another was evacuated with him into Israel. 

      Hamas has a problem with my family because it is big and powerful," said 
the 56-year-old Hilles. "They don't want powerful people in the Strip." 

      Another member of the group, Atef Helles, one of the wounded, told 
Reuters television from his hospital bed: "Hamas raided our family, burnt our 
houses and terrified our children. That's why we ran from Gaza. 

      "They [Hamas] wanted some people from this area but we refused to hand 
them over," he said. "They attacked the area and fired rockets and grenades at 
us. Many were killed and wounded." 

      Saturday's fighting erupted when Hamas forces surrounded the Shejaia 
district of Gaza City to arrest 11 people suspected of a role in bombings that 
killed seven people, including five Hamas militants, on July 25. 

      Hamas security forces and members of the Hilles clan then exchanged 
mortar shell and machine gun fire all day Saturday in what was the most violent 
round yet of Hamas' weeklong crackdown of political rival Fatah. 

      Twelve of the wounded were children, hospital officials said, and eight 
people were in critical condition. 

      Related articles: 

      a.. ANALYSIS / Gaza infighting could topple Israel-Hamas truce 

      a.. Top IDF officer: Gaza was never close to a humanitarian crisis 

      a.. Study: Both Hamas and Fatah guilty of human rights violations 


Kirim email ke