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Hamas vows to crackdown on 'collaborators' in Gaza after killing of Mazen Fuqahaa

April 1, 2017 10:22 P.M. (Updated: April 6, 2017 10:21 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Ministry of Interior of the Hamas-run government in the besieged Gaza Strip announced that security forces were planning to launch a crackdown in the coming days against Palestinians accused of collaborating with the Israeli occupation.

Spokesman for the ministry Iyad al-Buzm said in a statement Saturday evening that authorities would crackdown on all "traitors" as part of the ongoing effort to uncover the killers of Mazen Fuqahaa, a Hamas leader who was shot dead in front of his home in Gaza City last week, which was branded by Hamas as an assassination by Israel.

Al-Buzm did not provide further details regarding the investigation, or what the coming crackdown would entail.

Hamas has yet to provide evidence to support their accusation that Israel was responsible for Fuqahaa's killing, and the attorney general in the small Palestinian territory has meanwhile issued a gag order banning publication of any information about the ongoing investigation.

Under Palestinian law, willful, premeditated murder and treason as well as collaboration with the enemy -- usually Israel -- are punishable by death. Gaza military courts issued a number of death sentences last year to Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel, while several alleged collaborators having been executed in Gaza in recent years.

Al-Buzm's announcement came as residents of the coastal enclave remained under a Hamas-imposed lockdown, with authorities denying passage out of Gaza until further notice amid the manhunt.

After a full blockade was imposed the day of Fuqahaa's killing, Gaza’s Ministry of Interior eased restrictions on Monday, allowing medical patients, those traveling to visit their relatives in Israeli prison, women of all ages, boys under the age of 15, men above the age of 45, and three Palestinian Authority ministers to leave the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing into Israel, while all were being allowed to return to Gaza from Israel.

On Friday, Hamas allowed employees of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to leave Gaza through the Erez crossing, the only land crossing between Gaza and Israel for the movement of people, where travel has already been heavily restricted by Israeli authorities as part of a crippling blockade on the coastal enclave in place since 2007.

The ministry has also said that the Rafah border crossing that connects to Egypt -- which Egyptian authorities only open on an occasional basis -- would also remain closed if Egypt decided to open it. Palestinian fishermen have also been prohibited from fishing amid the lockdown.

On Thursday, the Israeli human rights group Gisha, which focuses on defending freedom of movement for Palestinians, especially in Gaza, strongly condemned the restrictions imposed by Hamas authorities.

The organization said in a written statement that “the obstruction of access this week comes on top of severe restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities for upwards of a decade.”

“Even the few lucky residents of Gaza to whom Israel has granted travel permits have been denied movement out of the Strip this week. Among those affected are medical patients in need of life-saving treatment; traders and businesspeople; Palestinians seeking access to consular services, including visa applicants with scheduled interviews; and people who have received permits to visit family under humanitarian circumstances.”

According to Gisha, between Sunday and Tuesday, the daily average number of exits via Erez was 73, less than a quarter of the daily average of 304 exits in February.

The daily average number of entrances to Gaza was 151, slightly more than half of the daily average of 284 entrances during February.

Regarding the ongoing ban on fisherman from going out to sea, Gisha said that Hamas was “harming thousands of families who are dependent on the fishing industry. Fishing has already been limited by Israel’s restriction of Gaza’s fishing zone to six nautical miles offshore.”

The group reiterated in their statement that “security concerns do not give any actor free reign to violate human rights. Freedom of movement is a fundamental human right, and is a basic precondition for the fulfillment of other rights, such as the right to health, to livelihood, and to family life.”
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