Hamas leaders said they had hanged two Palestinians found guilty of spying for Israel over a decade, making them the first to be executed since the end of a month-long amnesty for informants in April.

Sixteen Palestinians have been executed in Gaza for spying since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

Hamas, which rejects any recognition of Israel as a legitimate state, says the executions are aimed at discouraging Palestinians from impoverished Gaza selling Israel information such as the whereabouts of top militants or weapons depots.

Human rights activists say such executions violate Palestinian law, which says that any cases of this sort must be reviewed by President Mahmoud Abbas, but Hamas does not recognize the Western-backed Abbas as having authority in Gaza.