(CNN)Hamas has cracked down on popular protests in Gaza, carrying out beatings, arbitrary arrests and torture against protesters, human rights workers and journalists, Amnesty International said.
Hamas accused of violent crackdown on Gaza protests
"The crackdown on freedom of expression and the use of torture in Gaza has reached alarming new levels," said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. "We are sending a clear message to the Gaza authorities today that we are watching, and we will work to ensure that all those responsible for these violations are held to account."
The protests -- dubbed "We Want to Live" -- began last week, when hundreds of protesters gathered in refugee camps such as Jabaliya and Deir al-Balah, and in Gaza City and Khan Younis.
Men, women and children were among the demonstrators complaining about the dire economic situation and living conditions in Gaza, where youth unemployment runs at about 70%.
According to Amnesty, hundreds of protesters suffered ill-treatment during the Hamas clampdown, including one of its own research consultants, Hind Khoudary, who was detained and interrogated for three hours, Amnesty said, during which she was accused of being a spy and working as a foreign agent.
Ghazi Hamad, a Gaza Hamas leader, acknowledged that the group's security forces had made "some mistakes," but insisted Hamas does not accept violations of human rights. The Islamist group has ruled Gaza since a bloody battle in the enclave saw the Palestinian Authority, which is controlled by Hamas's secular rival Fatah, driven out in 2007.
"Unfortunately, some people are exploiting the humanitarian crisi