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Photos, videos and audio recordings of the recent battles near the Ibn Taymiyyah mosque in Rafah provide rare documented evidence of the brutality of Hamas’ suppression of its political opponents. Hamas forces executed opponents, wounded nearby civilians, fired RPGs at the Ibn Taymiyyah mosque and removed casualties from ambulances evacuating the wounded.
On the afternoon of August 14, a violent confrontation broke out near the Ibn Taymiyyah mosque in Rafah between Hamas forces and Salafist (fundamentalist Islamic) opponents. The confrontations began with a sermon delivered by Sheikh Abd al-Latif Musa, who strongly condemned the Hamas administration and proclaimed an Islamic emirate in “Palestine”. [Sheikh Abd al-Latif Musa is a religious leader accepted by opposition groups striving to impose, immediately and by force, Islamic religious law (sharia’); the Islamization of Gaza by Hamas is apparently not proceeding quickly enough for them.] In response to what it perceived as a challenge to its rule, Hamas forces broke into the mosque and evacuated it by force, not hesitating to shoot at the mosque deliberately and inflict serious damage. The battle took place in a densely populated area. According to a report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (August 15), 28 people were killed, more than 100 wounded and more than 100 detained (including some of the wounded). Among the dead and wounded were civilians who were in or near the mosque at the time.
In suppressing their political opponents at the mosque, the Hamas military arm, the Iz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, employed indiscriminate and disproportional force. Although Hamas closed off the area and prevented the entry of journalists and others, eyewitnesses and Hamas opponents managed to record conversations of the military force operating in the area and to photograph executions (using cell phones) carried out by Hamas. The recordings and photographs were later uploaded onto private websites affiliated with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, and subsequently broadcast on Israeli TV. They provide rare, first-hand evidence of the brutality employed by Hamas in dealing with its opponents in the Gaza Strip, even if it means killing civilians or attacking Islamic symbols and places of worship, such as an established and revered Gaza mosque.