Hamas executed three people reportedly by firing squad and hanging this morning, in a move that defied protests from the UN and will likely deepen tensions with the Palestinian government in the West Bank.
The Islamist group, which has controlled the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, said it had executed three alleged murderers at dawn.
The executions were not carried out in public even though Hamas had threatened public killings when it announced the death sentences earlier this month.
Two of the men were shot dead by firing squad while a third, a policeman, was hanged, security sources told Reuters.
“To achieve public deterrence and block crime, the relevant authorities implemented at dawn on Tuesday execution rulings against three convicted of horrifying murders,” Hamas’s prosecutors office said.
The group said earlier this month that it has 13 people on death row and intended to carry out further executions.
“Today’s executions of three men in Gaza are deeply troubling,” said Sari Bashi, of Human Rights Watch. “No one should be put to death, certainly not as part of a legal system in which torture and coercion are common.”
More than 40 people have been executed in Gaza since Hamas took power in 2007, according to Human Rights Watch, including 23 convicted of “collaborating” with Israel during the 2014 Gaza War.
The executions highlight the deep and ongoing division in Palestinian politics between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Under Palestinian law, executions are forbidden without the permission of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. However, Hamas has repeatedly defied the Palestinian Authority since it took control of Gaza in 2007.
“Carrying out the executions represents a flagrant violation of the Palestinian basic law,” Ahmed Brak, the Palestinian Authority attorney general based in the West Bank, told Reuters.
He said those who participated in the executions were complicit in murder and would be subject to law at the “local and international level”.
Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 resulting in much of the international community suspending international aid to the Palestinian government.
Political tensions between Hamas and Fatah, which had long been the dominant faction in Palestinian politics, spilled over into gun battles in the streets of Gaza in 2007.
Fatah officials were expelled from Gaza and Hamas has ruled there without elections ever since.