Palestinians ‘Tortured’ in Egypt

By Mohamed el-Sawwaf in Gaza

Palestinians who were detained in Egypt after crossing from the Gaza Strip accused Friday, March 21, Egyptian security forces of torturing and abusing them to get tips on the resistance movement Hamas and its armed wing.

"We were beaten, kicked and electrified, to mention but a few examples," Saber Al-Dremli told IslamOnline.net.

Al-Dremil was arrested by Egyptian forces along with dozens of Palestinians after crossing the Gaza border wall into Egypt in January to stock up on desperately-needed supplies as Israel has been slapping a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip since June.

Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June after routing rival Fatah.

Since then, the impoverished Strip has been subject to a massive US-led economic boycott and Israeli sanctions including crippling closures.

Al-Dremil charged that Egyptian security services threw Palestinians in tiny cells without water or toilets.

"For three days we did not pray because we did not have clean water and then we resorted to tayamom (symbolic washing without water)."

Bassam Salah, a policeman in Hamas forces, mentioned the names of Palestinians, who were tortured by Egyptian forces to extract information about Hamas.

The screams of a fellow Palestinian called Sulaiman Abu Garaz still resonate in his ears.

"Abu Garaz was also electrocuted by Egyptian interrogators, who thought that he was a Hamas member, but he was actually a Fatah loyalist," said Salah.

Hamas formally accused Egypt on Thursday, March 20, of torturing its detained members.

Hamas leader Said Siam said that he had "reliable information" that among those being held were "certain heads of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades (the armed branch of Hamas) who have been subjected to the most extreme torture".

Nearly 36 Palestinians, most of whom are Hamas members, are still in the Egyptian custody. They staged earlier this week a hunger strike in protest at the torture and maltreatment in Egyptian prisons.

Egyptian interrogators grilled Palestinians to know the movements of Hamas leader and Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh.

"They gave me a hard time indeed to know everything about Mr Haniyeh," said Al-Dremli, one of Haniyeh’s companions. "Egyptian interrogators considered me a big fish."

"They asked me frequent questions about Haniyeh like his hideouts when he faces an Israeli threat, the names of his close aides and their cell numbers."

Dremli said Egyptian security officers were interested to know everything about the military wing of Hamas like their guerrilla tactics, weapons and whereabouts.

"Is the leader of Hamas’ armed wing Mohamed Deif among those regularly meeting Haniyeh? What were Haniyeh’s orders to Hamas’ armed wing and what is the nature of his differences with (senior Hamas leader) Mahmoud Al-Zahhar?" Dremil listed some of the questions.

"They also asked me about the whereabouts of (captured Israeli soldier) Gilad Shalit."

Salah, the Hamas policeman, spoke of a revolving nightmare when he and his friends were interrogated about Hamas.

"Egyptian security forces were mobilized against Hamas. They harbored extreme hatred against Hamas members," he said.

Only 10 years of age, Jamil Obeid was the youngest Palestinian to be detained by Egyptian security forces after crossing into Egypt with his father.

The Gazan child was thrown into a dingy cell with eight people for ten days in freezing temperature.

Jamil recalls with bitterness how prisoners used to urinate in bottles and had one meal a day.

Jamil himself was neither tortured nor interrogated but he says he used to hear the deafening cries and screams of fellow Palestinians being tortured next door.

"I saw signs of torture on the bodies of those returning to the cell after interrogation."

Photos of Jamil prostrating himself when he returned to Gaza to thank God have become widely circulated on blogs and the Web.

"At this moment," he recalls. "I had only one thing in my mind: I would never again come to Egypt."

(This article was first published by IslamOnline.net, March 21, 2008)

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