GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas announced Thursday that it put to death three men accused of assassinating a senior member of the terror group in March.
Mazen Faqha, a Hamas terror chief, was shot on March 24 outside his Gaza home. Hamas accuses the three suspects of collaborating with Israel and sentenced them to execution on Sunday.
Israel has not confirmed or denied the accusations.
Hamas’s Interior Ministry said two of the accused were hanged and one was killed by firing squad Thursday.
The chief suspect, identified as Ashraf Abu Leila, 38, was sentenced to hang after being convicted of the murder in a Sunday court ruling. Hisham al-Aloul, 44, was also sentenced to hang, and Abdallah al-Nashar, faced the firing squad.
A shaky video shot from a distance by a private news site purporting to show the execution was circulating online and broadcast live on Facebook.
The footage showed some sort of public square lined with black-clad men.
Hamas slammed the broadcast, warning against publishing the footage.
“The interior ministry warns against publishing any footage or photos from the execution of the agents of the occupation involved in the assassination,” the Hamas-run ministry said in a statement. “Anyone who violates this will face legal measures.”
The Gaza Now news agency, which live-streamed the execution from a distance, quickly responded to Hamas’s warning, saying that it had “not received any decision from the Interior Ministry or from the Media Office in Gaza to prevent the filming of the execution,” the site tweeted, adding that it had broadcast from the same site on Wednesday.
Some 3,000 people were reportedly invited to attend the event.
Human Rights Watch condemned the executions in a statement.
“Rushing to put men to death based on an unreviewable decision of a special military court days after announcing their arrests and airing videoed confessions smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said.
“Reliance on confessions, in a system where coercion, torture and deprivation of detainee’s rights are prevalent, and other apparent due process violations further taint the court’s verdicts. Death as government-sanctioned punishment is inherently cruel and always wrong, no matter the circumstance.”
After Faqha’s killing, Hamas set up checkpoints throughout Gaza and barred all residents and foreign aid workers from leaving the coastal strip and going to Israel.
It has since eased some of the restrictions.
The death of Faqha, a shadowy senior figure in Hamas’s military wing, shocked Hamas, which has ruled Gaza with an iron fist for the past decade.
Faqha, 38, was killed in the garage of his apartment building in March after dropping off his family. Hamas said the killer used a weapon with a silencer, allowing him to escape undetected.
Faqha had been in charge of forming cells for Hamas’s military wing the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in the West Bank — overseeing, from Gaza, efforts to carry out terror attacks against Israeli targets from the West Bank.
He had spent years in an Israeli jail for terrorist activities including orchestrating a 2002 suicide bombing in which 9 Israelis were killed, before being released to Gaza as part of the 2011 Shalit prisoner exchange deal.
Hamas accused Israel of killing Faqha through collaborators and launched a manhunt.
Earlier this month, the group announced it arrested 45 alleged collaborators with Israel, including three purportedly involved in killing Faqha.