September 4, 2022 at 4:32 p.m. EDT
The Hamas movement ruling the Gaza Strip announced on Sunday that it executed five Palestinians, including two for “collaboration” with Israel and three for murder, the Hamas-run Ministry of International Security said in a statement Sunday.
Sunday’s executions marked the first since 2017. The ministry released the birth years, but not the names of those executed. Two were executed by hanging, and three by firing squad. The executions for collaboration are the first carried out in the Palestinian coastal enclave for more than five years.
Hamas’s interior ministry provided the initials and years of birth of the five executed Palestinians but withheld their full names. The two executed over “collaboration” with Israel were men born in 1978 and 1968.
The older of the two was a resident of Khan Yunis in the south of the blockaded Gaza Strip. He was convicted of supplying Israel in 1991 with “information on men of the resistance, their residence… and the location of rocket launchpads”, Hamas said.
The second was condemned to death for supplying Israel in 2001 with intelligence “that led to the targeting and martyrdom of citizens” by Israeli forces, the statement added.
The three others executed had been convicted of murder, the statement said.
The executions came after “all degrees of litigation have been exhausted” and the “convicts were granted their full right to defend themselves,” the statement read.
Other human rights groups have condemned the frequent issuance of death sentences in Gaza, and have called for the abolition of the death penalty altogether.
The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights called the practice “a form of inhuman punishment contrary to international legal standards” late last month after a 22-year old was sentenced to death by hanging for premeditated murder.
Last October, the United Nations, which views both Gaza and the West Bank as occupied Palestinian territory, issued a statement calling out “serious concerns” that death sentences handed down in that year lacked fair trial guarantees.
The last official executions in the Gaza Strip came in 2017, when authorities publicly executed three people for assassinating a Hamas military leader — an assassination that triggered a crackdown on alleged collaborators with Israel.
Nearly 3,000 were invited to watch the killings, the New York Times reported in 2017. Before his execution, one man said, “I want to apologize to my people,” according to the Times.
Hamas, a militant group, has held control over the Gaza Strip since 2007 — after winning legislative elections and fiercely clashing with forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority. Under Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority exerts limited self-rule in the West Bank. Abbas has signed international treaties aiming to ban the death penalty in 2019.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights expressed “deep concern” over Sunday’s executions in a statement, saying that they violated Palestinian law. The group said it “affirms the importance of prosecuting the collaborators with the occupation, considering them complicit in war crimes,” but added that “rule of law is above all and execution of death sentences in violation of law jeopardizes justice values.”
Sven Kuehn Von Burgsdorff, the European Union’s ambassador to the Palestinian territories, expressed concern over the executions.
“Hamas must respect Palestine’s obligations under international human rights law,” he said, noting the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority’s “moratorium on capital punishment”.
“Executions are cruel and inhuman and can under no circumstances be justified as they deny the victims human dignity,” he said in a statement.
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, described the executions as “abhorrent”.
“Death as government-sanctioned punishment is a barbaric practice that has no place in the modern world,” he wrote on Twitter.
First executions in years
Gaza’s Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said the executions were “in violation of Palestine’s international obligations”.
The centre said it “demands the authorities in the Gaza Strip do not use the death penalty, and replace it with life imprisonment with hard labour”.
Hamas has in recent years sentenced numerous people to death for “collaboration” with Israel, but the executions announced Sunday are the first carried out since May 2017.
Three Palestinians — Ashraf Abu Leila, Hisham al-Aloul and Abdallah al-Nashar — were executed then over their involvement in assassinating a Hamas military leader.
The men were publicly executed, with hundreds of people allowed to watch the sentences being carried out.
They had been arrested just weeks earlier over the killing of Mazen Faqha, who was allegedly shot dead on behalf of Israel.
While Hamas keeps the death penalty on the statute books, Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank have not carried out such a sentence in recent years.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, has signed up to the United Nations treaty opposing the death penalty.
Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas have been divided since 2007, following the outbreak of fighting between the Palestinian factions.
The Palestinian Authority operates in the West Bank, home to nearly three million Palestinians who live alongside 475,000 Israeli settlers.
Hamas, meanwhile, rules over 2.3 million Palestinians who have lived under a crippling Israeli-led blockade for 15 years.
Hamas takes a rigid approach toward alleged collaborators with Israel. The Jewish state, along with Egypt, has put the enclave under blockade since the terror group took power in a bloody coup in 2007. Israel says the blockade is a necessary measure to limit the ability of Gaza’s terror groups to arm themselves.
Palestinian law requires approval from the Palestinian Authority president for the death penalty, but Hamas in Gaza has carried out executions without permission from Mahmoud Abbas.
According to July figures from Israeli rights group B’Tselem, Hamas had by that time sentenced 13 people to death since the beginning of the year, but not carried out any executions. The last executions Hamas carried out, according to B’Tselem, were three in 2017.
The international community has repeatedly criticized Hamas’s use of the death penalty.