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Gaza: Rights groups and EU condemn Hamas over 'collaboration' executions

The five executions, the first carried out in the besieged enclave since 2017, were criticised as 'cruel and inhuman'
Hamas's interior ministry provided the initials and years of birth of the five executed Palestinians but withheld their full names (AFP)
Hamas's interior ministry provided the initials and years of birth of the five executed Palestinians but withheld their full names (AFP)

Human rights groups and the EU have condemned the execution by Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, of five Palestinians, including two for "collaboration" with Israel.

The dawn executions, by hanging or firing squad, were the first carried out in the besieged coastal enclave for more than five years.

"On Sunday morning, the death sentence was carried out against two condemned over collaboration with the occupation (Israel), and three others in criminal cases," Hamas said in a statement on Sunday.

"The execution was carried out after the conclusion of all legal procedures.

"The rulings had been final, with implementation mandatory, after all of the convicted were accorded full rights to defend themselves."

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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 Younis in the south of the 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.

'Cruel and inhuman'

Sven Kuehn Von Burgsdorff, the EU'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".

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"Executions are cruel and inhuman and can under no circumstances be justified as they deny the victims human dignity," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Yamen al-Madhoun, coordinator of the field research unit at the Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, denounced the executions as “an inhuman and non-deterrent punishment”.

“Other alternative sanctions must be sought,” he told Middle East Eye. “The obligations of the State of Palestine must be respected under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it acceded in 2018, regarding the abolition of the death penalty."

Ramy Abdu, chairman of Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, tweeted: "In violation of Palestinian law and Palestine's international obligations, the ministry of interior in the Gaza Strip today carried out five death sentences against those convicted of murder and communicating with the occupation.

"We reject the death penalty in principle in light of its use by perverted justice systems. It is an irreversible punishment and irreversible mistakes may occur."

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.

Gaza's Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) 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". 

Since Hamas took control of Gaza, its courts have sentenced around 180 Palestinians to death, and have executed 33 so far, the PCHR said.

Public executions

Hamas has in recent years sentenced numerous people to death for "collaboration" with Israel, but the executions announced on 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.

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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 Authority 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 illegal Israeli settlers.

Hamas, meanwhile, governs more than 2.3 million Palestinians who have lived under a crippling Israeli-led blockade for 15 years.

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