Armed Hamas men broke into a gathering of some 30 Shi'ite worshippers in the Gaza Strip last Friday and brutally attacked them, Haaretz has learned.
The assault was part of a broader crackdown on Shi'ite organizations, including charities, that has been sparked in part by Hamas' fear of growing Iranian influence in Gaza.
The worshippers had gathered in a house in the Sheikh Zayyad neighborhood, between Beit Lahia and Jabalya, to mark Arbaeen, the end of the 40-day mourning period for Imam Hussein, founder of Shia Islam, who was killed in 680 C.E.
Hamas militants arrested 14 of the men and beat up the rest. They continued beating the worshippers even after taking some to a hospital and others to a Hamas detention facility.
One Gazan, Rafik Hamad, told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that a senior security official called him at about 10 P.M. on Friday to tell him that his brother was under arrest at the Sheikh Zayyad police station. At the station, he found his brother suffering from fractures in his arms and legs and other serious injuries.
Hamad accused the Hamas government of persecuting Shi'ite believers.