The armed wing of Hamas, the terror group which rules the Gaza Strip, said Sunday it had executed one of its members, with sources familiar with the case calling him a senior official accused of spying for Israel.
“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.
Websites linked to the Palestinian Fatah group had in the past alleged that Eshtawi had led Israel to the hiding place of Hamas commander Muhammed Deif during the 2014 Gaza war, resulting in a failed assassination attempt against him, according to Israel Radio.
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 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.”
עפ"י דיווחים המוצא להורג היה בעמדה בכירה בזרוע הצבאית של חמאס ונעצר לאחר מבצע צוק איתן. pic.twitter.com/DCOOQRPgmF
— Middle East News (@arab_il) February 7, 2016
Eshtawi’s duties included overseeing tunnels that have previously been used to store weapons and carry out attacks against Israel, the sources said.
Last week saw at least three separate tunnel collapses in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian reports, killing several Hamas diggers.
According to the sources, he was in charge of a large unit and was previously a close associate of Deif, the Al-Qassam chief who has been a frequent target of Israeli assassination attempts.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said in late December that nine death sentences had been issued in the Gaza Strip in 2015 and two in the West Bank.
Since the start of 2016, four Gazans have been handed death sentences after being accused of spying for Israel.