A military court affiliated with the Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip upheld on Tuesday death sentences issued against three Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.
The Ministry of Interior in Gaza said on its website that the defendants were found guilty of “communicating with hostile foreign entities” in violation of Article 131 of the Palestinian Penal Code of 1979.
It remains unclear when the initial death sentences were issued.
One of the defendants is a 67-year-old man from the northern Gaza Strip who was arrested in February 2015 for allegedly spying for Israel. According to the ministry, the man, who was not identified, was recruited by Israeli intelligence in 1997 to provide them with information on Hamas members and their positions in the enclave. He was sentenced to death by hanging.
The second man, a 44-year-old from Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, allegedly began working with Israel in 2000 and provided Israeli intelligence with information on Hamas and its tunnels network. The ministry said the defendant was also asked by Israel to open a car dealership in Gaza in order to sell Hamas members cars equipped with listening devices. He was also sentenced to death by hanging.
The last defendant, 36, also from Khan Yunis, was sentenced to death by firing squad after he was found guilty of working with Israel since 2011 and providing it with sensitive security and military intelligence during the two wars on Gaza in 2012 and 2014.
The court has yet to set a date to carry out the executions.
Hamas has issued numerous death sentences since taking control of Gaza after the 2007 Palestinian split. Dozens of death sentences have also been carried out since then.
Human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned Hamas’ actions as violating Palestinian law, which prohibits the execution of any death penalty without the approval of the president.
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Hamas-controlled courts in Gaza have issued 194 death sentences since 2007 and carried out 33 of them.
Hamas executed five men in September 2022 — three were convicted of murder and two of collaborating with Israel. The executions were the first since 2017.
On Wednesday, the PCHR reported that a man accused of killing another man during a family dispute was sentenced to death. While also condemning crimes of murder, the organization said perpetrators must receive fair trials.
“The death penalty is not the only [means] to achieve justice or deter crimes,” it added in a statement.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) last carried out five death sentences in 1995. Since then, no executions have occurred in the West Bank. In March 2019, Palestine joined the 1989 UN Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which aims to abolish the death penalty.
In a separate development on Tuesday, the body of a Palestinian fisherman was found off the coast of Gaza City days after he went missing at sea. According to the Palestinian Naval Police in Gaza, Rami Ezzat Bakr went missing on Saturday after his boat was struck by an Egyptian gunboat near the maritime borders with Egypt in the south. Another fisherman who was on board the boat sustained injuries in the incident and was moved to a hospital in Rafah, according to local reports.
Egypt has yet to comment on the news.
According to the Gazan Fishermen's Syndicate, around 4,500 fishermen from Gaza are subject to almost daily attacks, including arrests and shootings, by the Egyptian and Israeli navies under the pretext of fishing outside the designated zone. As part of its siege on Gaza, Israel has restricted the fishing area for Gazans to about 12 nautical miles.
In September 2020, two Palestinian fishermen were killed and another injured after the Egyptian navy shot at their boat off the coast of the southern city of Rafah.