GAZA, April 6, (RTRS): Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement executed three Palestinians on Thursday convicted of collaborating with Israel, hanging the men during a campaign to persuade any Israeli-recruited agents to come forward in return for more lenient punishment. Hamas leaders and officials, along with the heads of Gaza clans and local security chiefs, watched the execution in the courtyard of the enclave’s main police headquarters.
The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said the men, aged 32, 42 and 55, were convicted of treason and spying for hostile foreign parties and had provided information that helped Israel track and kill Palestinians, including leaders of militant factions.
Their trials were conducted by Hamas-run security courts in the past two years and they were put to death after all legal procedures were exhausted, the ministry said. Since seizing control of Gaza from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in 2007, Hamasrun courts have sentenced 106 people to death and executed 22 of them, Palestinian and international rights groups say. New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned Thursday’s hangings. “Hamas authorities will never achieve true security or stability through firing squads or by the gallows, but rather through respect for international norms and the rule of law.” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the group’s Middle East division, said in a statement.
Hamas issued a public ultimatum for “collaborators” to turn themselves in after the killing last month of Mazen Fuqaha, a senior leader of its armed wing, accusing Israel or its local agents of assassinating him. Punishment would be softened for those who surrender and they would remain anonymous, Hamas said, holding out the prospect of protecting their families from the stigma attached in Gaza to cooperating with Israel. Hamas, which has arrested an unknown number of suspects in the investigation of Fuqaha’s death, has not said if anyone has taken up the offer.
Suggesting that Fuqaha was assassinated as a result of internal rivalries, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in public remarks that Hamas should look at its own people to find the killers. Hamas officials said Lieberman was attempting to obscure Israel’s role in the death. Over the years, Israel has established a network of contacts in the Palestinian territories, using a combination of pressure and sweeteners to entice Palestinians to divulge intelligence. Palestinian and International Human Rights groups have repeatedly condemned death penalty, and urged Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to suspend it. Palestinian law says President Mahmoud Abbas, who has no actual control over Gaza, has the final word on whether executions can be carried out.
Palestinian kills Israeli soldier: The Israeli military said a car driven by a Palestinian deliberately rammed two Israeli soldiers, killing one and injuring the other, in the occupied West Bank on Thursday. The death brings to 39 the number of Israelis killed in a wave of Palestinian street attacks that began in October 2015, while at least 242 Palestinians have been killed in Israel and the Palestinian Territories over the past 18 months.
The driver was detained after the incident near the Jewish settlement of Ofra, the army said in a statement. Witnesses told Israeli media that as he approached a bus stop, he accelerated and directed the vehicle at two soldiers waiting there. Israeli government development of settlements in the West Bank has been a focus of friction with Palestinians and contributed to the breakdown of peace talks. Israel disputes the view that the settlements are illegal, and argues it has biblical and historical ties to the land. Israel says at least 162 of the Palestinians killed had launched stabbing, shooting or ramming attacks. Others died during clashes and protests. Israel has accused the Palestinian leadership of inciting the violence.
The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, denies incitement and charges that in many cases, Israel has used excessive force in thwarting attackers armed with rudimentary weapons. Photos from the scene of Thursday’s incident showed the driver, bound, blindfolded and guarded by a soldier, seated next to his damaged car, in the undergrowth behind the bus stop. The vehicle had Palestinian licence plates.