Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip executed three men accused of murder on Tuesday morning, disregarding Palestinian legal convention as well as local and international protests by rights groups.
It was the first time Hamas carried out the death penalty for murder since a unified government was installed in the West Bank and Gaza after an agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in 2014. Hamas, however, remained the de facto authority, preventing the PA from extending control over Gaza.
The unity government was disbanded a year later, but Hamas still maintains ties with the PA, and by Palestinian law, Abbas must sign off on any execution. In disregarding the law, Hamas claimed that the executions were needed to preserve “security and stability” in the Strip, and asserted that the protestations by Fatah officials after it announced its plans for the executions were aimed at sowing chaos.
Hamas and Fatah remain openly hostile toward one another, despite ongoing attempts at reconciliation.
Both international and local rights groups had urged Hamas not to carry out the executions. Hamas claimed the sentences were implemented after all necessary legal proceedings were met, including a pre-execution chance for the families of the victims to pardon their relatives’ murderers.
Human Rights Watch condemned Tuesday’s executions. The group’s Israel/Palestine director, Sari Bashi, said in a tweet that the killings were “reprehensible. No one should be executed, certainly not in judicial system rife with torture, coercion.”
Xavier Abu Eid, an adviser to Abbas, also condemned the executions on Twitter.
The Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza announced in a press release that two of the men were charged with murder during separate robberies, and were sentenced to hang. The other executed man, charged with murdering someone who had accused him of owing a financial debt, was sentenced to death by firing squad. The sentences were passed down between the years of 2011 and 2014.
Tuesday’s executions are scheduled to be the first in a series of such measures. On May 22, Hamas official Khalil al-Haya announced that a total of 13 executions were planned, mostly connected to murders during robberies.
During the 2014 summer war between Hamas and Israel, the group extra-judicially killed 23 Palestinians it accused of spying for Israel. Since 2007, it has executed 19 others convicted of murder or collaboration with Israel.
Agencies contributed to this report.