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Rights Groups Say All Sides Violating Gaza Rights


Four different human rights groups have issued reports on rights violations in the Gaza Strip, with all major players - Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian militant group Hamas - accused of wrongdoing.

In a joint statement Wednesday, Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said all four parties are violating the rights of Gaza residents by preventing them from crossing into Egypt through the Rafah border post.

In a separate report, Human Rights Watch said Israel may have committed a war crime by using white phosphorous in densely populated areas during its military offensive in Gaza earlier this year.

Finally, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights on Wednesday called for an investigation into the death of a 20-year-old prisoner who may have been tortured to death by Hamas security forces in Gaza.

The center said Jamil Assaf died of kidney failure in police custody Tuesday, and his body showed signs of severe beatings. He was detained earlier this month by Gaza security forces controlled by Hamas.

The Reuters news agency quoted a spokesman for the Hamas-run Gaza police force as saying authorities are investigating Assaf's death.

In the Human Rights Watch report, the group said Israeli troops fired white phosphorous shells "indiscriminately" over heavily populated areas, where they could easily harm civilians. The group said that kind of use of the munitions violates international law, which says white phosphorous can only be used to create a smoke screen for troops in open areas.

The report said the United States provided the white phosphorous shells that Israel used in Gaza, and should launch its own investigation.

White phosphorous burns at extremely high temperatures on contact with oxygen, and can severely burn people it touches.

In the report on the Rafah crossing, the two groups said Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian residents are being used as "pawns in political negotiations," with all sides preventing passage for "political reasons," while "denying their own accountability."

The groups said that Israel bears the most responsibility, but that all four parties are contributing to the continued closure of the Rafah crossing at Gaza's border with Egypt.

The Rafah crossing is the only one that bypasses Israel, which has imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized control of the Palestinian territory in 2007.

Earlier this year, Israel carried out a military offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, many of them women and children. Thirteen Israelis also died during the operation.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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