Family of Hamas man executed by group blames ‘personal’ gripe
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Family of Hamas man executed by group blames ‘personal’ gripe

In open letter to Mashaal, relatives ‘accuse influential figures’ within military wing of being behind the killing

Lee Gancman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, at the funeral of fellow terrorist Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on  February 3, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, at the funeral of fellow terrorist Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on February 3, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The family of a commander from Hamas’s military wing who was executed by the terror group has denounced the killing as “treachery” and said it was due to a “personal” issue.

In an open letter addressed to Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal, family members of Mahmud Eshtawi “accuse influential figures within Hamas and the [Izz al-Din] al-Qassam Brigades of being behind their son’s death, due to personal differences,” the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds reported Monday.

Eshtawi’s mother also sent Mashaal and Hamas military commander Muhammed Deif a video pleading for her son’s life, Al-Quds said.

Sources familiar with the affair have described Eshtawi as a senior field commander for Hamas, and said he was executed after accusations of spying for Israel.

The execution was also condemned by a Hamas commander who took to Facebook on Monday to accuse the military wing of “distorting the image of jihad.”

Websites linked to Hamas’ rival Palestinian group Fatah had in the past alleged that Eshtawi led Israel to the hiding place of Deif during the 2014 Gaza war, resulting in a failed assassination attempt against Deif, according to Israel Radio.

“The al-Qassam Brigades announce that the death penalty pronounced against its member Mahmud Eshtawi has been applied today at 1600 hours,” Hamas’s armed branch said in a statement on Sunday.

The Eshtawi family told media that they had been begging for the release of their son, who had been in Hamas custody for a year, and kept receiving “empty promises” for his release. They said that even up to two hours before the execution they had been meeting frantically with senior Hamas figures who assured them that a solution to the issue would soon be found.

They also said that they received a letter from their son prior to his execution, in which he described being tortured and forced into confessing to acts he did not commit.

In the letter to Mashaal, the Eshtawi family also stressed the role of their son in important jihadi missions such as the building of tunnels, and the carrying out of the “famous” Nahal Oz attack in which Hamas gunmen emerging from a tunnel, infiltrated an Israeli army post and killed five soldiers.

A video of the attack filmed by one of the gunmen was widely broadcast by Arab and Palestinian media outlets.

A screenshot from the video showing Hamas gunmen infiltrating an IDF base inside Israel near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, July 28, 2014. (YouTube: screenshot)
A screenshot from the video showing Hamas gunmen infiltrating an IDF base inside Israel near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, July 28, 2014. (YouTube: screenshot)

Executions have previously been carried out in the Gaza Strip, including in public squares in the Palestinian territory, but it appeared to be the first time Al-Qassam itself had sentenced one of its own through a court martial and executed him.

The statement announcing Eshtawi’s death did not provide details on the accusations against him other than to say that “the Brigades’ military and Islamic judicial committee issued the sentence because he violated rules and ethics.”

Eshtawi’s family is not the only group criticizing the execution, with dissenting voices coming from within the group itself. A Hamas commander, Youssef Farhan, wrote regarding the execution on his Facebook account Monday morning that “the recent actions by the the Al-Qassam Brigades are distorting the image of jihad.”

“What right do they have to execute people. Are they the government? Where are the legal authorities? Where are the judges?” he asked.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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