Hamas’ Executions Meant to Deter, but Reflect Panic

Palestinian human rights group says executions are extra-judicial and calls on the PA and the resistance groups to put an end to them.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Hamas militants surround suspected collaborators before executing them.
Hamas militants surround suspected collaborators before executing them.Credit: Reuters
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The executions of suspect collaborators – at least 25, among them two women – that Hamas’ security apparatus carried out from Thursday to Saturday were meant to serve as a deterrent, showing that Hamas was still in control.

However, they can also be viewed as a sign of panic among Hamas leaders, following the killing of Mohammed Deif’s wife and two children, as well as the killing of three senior commanders of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam brigades, along with five civilians in adjacent houses.

Without intending to, their declaration of a “new phase in the struggle against informers,” made with the aim of deterring potential collaborators, Hamas and its military wing are showing fear and loss of control.

Hamas security officials said that the condemned had gone through an expedited but legal judicial process, after being caught red-handed. Nevertheless, all the talk of deterrence and a necessary new phase in the treatment of collaborators is addressed not only to suspected collaborators but to the exhausted public, warning it to be careful in anything it says and does. The definition of “informing” and “collaboration” can become very murky in times of war, especially when a war gets bogged down.

An expression of concern about the negative repercussions on the society can be found in an urgent press release by one of Gaza’s leading human rights organizations – the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. PCHR’s statement, published Friday noon, tells that the organization is not convinced that the executions followed the rule of law. It defined them as extra-judicial and called the PA and the resistance groups to put an end to them, “whatever their reasons or motives.”

PCHR Director Attorney Raji Sourani sent urgent letters to a number of Palestinian leaders demanding that they immediately and decisively intervene to stop such extra-judicial executions, saying that “they cause damage to all of us.”

The letter continues: “Although we are aware of the circumstances of the ongoing Israeli offensive, and the direct impact of employing and using collaborators in carrying out extra-judicial assassinations and other crimes by Israeli forces, we need to confirm to the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

The use of the term “extra-judicial assassinations” for both Israel’s actions and these executions is an indication of the gravity attributed to Hamas’ actions by jurists and social activists in Gaza. Amnesty International has also condemned these executions, calling for an immediate halt.

During the first weeks of the war there were a few unofficial reports of executions of people suspected of collaborating with Israel. These reports indicated that they were caught in the process of transmitting information to the IDF or the Shin Bet security service, meaning that these were not people who had been in Hamas custody before being executed. An official but vague confirmation of this came on Friday, in the announcement of the latest executions, which stated that the new situation requires more severe steps than those taken earlier, and that “no suspicion can be ignored.”

It was noted in Gaza that the earlier executions had not been public and that Hamas authorities had made no statements regarding them, in contrast to events in 2008-2009. This gave more credibility to Hamas, suggesting that they had laid their hands on true collaborators, not on scapegoats. The assumed executions were accepted with some understanding.

The names of the executed were not publicized, and in order to spare their families the embarrassment, their bodies were brought to hospitals and added to others who had been killed by Israeli bombing. Human rights group members observed that these people were shot at close range and thus did not include them in the count of casualties of Israeli bombing.

An official statement after Friday’s executions said that the names and faces of thiose executed should not be published in order to protect their families and preserve the “social fabric” in Gaza.

A paper stuck to the wall of the al-Omari mosque in Gaza, where 11 people were executed after Friday prayers, stated that these people had given the enemy information on tunnels, rocket launching sites and houses that were subsequently bombed, causing the deaths of Hamas fighters.

Several Palestinian news outlets quoted a senior Palestinian security official who said that this was a necessary new phase, and that tough new decisions had been made regarding “revolutionary” steps to be taken against those suspected of collaboration. The decisions noted the obligation not to “ignore any attempt to disrupt security measures taken by the resistance.” This is dangerously vague language, which can attribute collaboration to any act of protest or criticism.

According to this source, anyone caught so far or in the future will be brought before revolutionary military tribunals, overseen by experts in security and legal affairs. Such steps are entrenched in law and are taken by all countries in a state of war, he said, hinting that he is not ignoring international opinion and the actions of other countries in past similar circumstances.

However, the photos which Hamas authorities allowed to be released, in which masked armed men are shown before shooting their masked victims, closely resemble another photo which shocked the world in recent days – the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State. In its desire to deter and terrify its own people, Hamas is supplying ammunition to anyone who compares it, for propaganda purposes, to the extremist Sunni group.

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