Hamas tortures and executes man suspected of spying for Israel
Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, address a press conference in Gaza City on 22 November 2012. (Twitter)
Hamas, the Gaza-based Palestinian militant group has killed one of its own members amidst claims he provided Israel with information about the hideout of Mohammed Deif, the leader of the group's military wing, during 2014's Operation Protective Edge.
Hamas announced the execution of Mahmoud Eshtewi and claimed it was punishment for offenses of conduct and ethics. They did not provide details of the nature of the offense, but it is likely that Eshtewi was suspected of collaborating with Israel.
Eshtewi, originally from Zeitoun in eastern Gaza, was a battalion commander of the Hamas military wing. Eshtewi was detained by Hamas over a year ago as part of the investigation into the attempted targeted killing of Deif. During his detention, Eshtewi began a hunger strike and his family protested in front of the house of Ismail Haniyeh, deputy political leader of the group.
This execution is the first instance of Hamas publicly announcing a proceeding against one of its own members.
During the Operation Protective Edge attack on Gaza, Israel launched several missiles at a home in Sheikh Radwan neighborhood where Deif was believed to be holing up. The attack killed Deif's wife and son and broke the ceasefire in place at the time. Although Israeli officials admitted to targeting Deif in a civilian home, they did not provide details of his well being following the attack. To date, it remains unclear if Deif survived but Hamas maintains Deif is alive and well.
Hamas said on Twitter that Eshtewi was killed after he confessed. They added that the decision to execute Eshtewi, detained in January 2015, was finalized by its "military and religious judiciary," a department previously unheard of.
Four attempted assassinations left Deif handicapped. In 2001, Israel attempted to assassinate Deif for the first time, but he escaped and survived. The second attempt came a year later when an IDF Apache helicopter launched two missiles at Deif's car. One missile struck a vehicle and Deif sustained wounds to the head and in other places. Deif survived and had to undergo rehabilitation therapy underground.
In 2003, shortly after Deif became active again, a private meeting of the Hamas leadership was held at the home of Marwan Abu Ras in Gaza City. Deif attended the meeting along with Ismail Haniyeh and Ahmed Yassin, among others. Based on intel obtained by Israel, a fighter jet dropped air strikes on the house however all the senior leaders, including Deif, survived.
The last attempted assassination of Deif took place in 2006. On July 12, the Hamas military leadership met in a house in Gaza. Israeli forces bombed the building killing ten people. However the Hamas leaders survived. Deif was injured again and underwent the amputation of some of his limbs.
Amnesty International has called for an investigation into allegations of torture prior to the execution of Eshtewi.