Palestinians 'use torture regularly'

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Torture is used regularly on Palestinians detained by the Fatah-dominated security forces in the West Bank and by their Hamas counterparts in Gaza, two human rights reports say.

Between 20 and 30 per cent of the people arbitrarily detained in Gaza and the West Bank have suffered severe beatings, whippings, been made to stand or sit in painful positions for hours, and other degrading punishments, according to the Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq. It says that three people have died in Gaza and one in the West Bank during the detentions since the split that followed Hamas's enforced takeover of the Gaza Strip 13 months ago.

Each group has arbitarily detained about 1,000 people.

Fatah security forces rounded up dozens of Hamas supporters in the West Bank yesterday in response to similar detentions of up to 200 Fatah adherents by Hamas in Gaza. The Gaza detentions followed an explosion on Friday that killed five Hamas militants and a five-year-old girl. Al Haq's report about "politically motivated" detentions is corroborated by another to be published by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) tomorrow, which highlights two Gaza cases involving "multiple gunshots at close range" at the legs of detainees.

The HRW researcher Fred Abrahams also said that the international community, which has pledged $8bn (£4bn) to the Western-backed, Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, has "a heavy responsibility to make sure [its] security forces don't use torture and respect human rights".