Hamas executed three 'collaborators' today - but can we be sure they were guilty?

Published April 6th, 2017 - 02:13 GMT
Hamas police escort an ambulance that was reported to be carrying the bodies of three men executed for "collaboration" with Israel, Gaza City, 6 April 2017. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
Hamas police escort an ambulance that was reported to be carrying the bodies of three men executed for "collaboration" with Israel, Gaza City, 6 April 2017. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Those Palestinians who have passed information to the Israeli authorities, known as “collaborators”, have long faced exile, injury or death if they are discovered.

Even during the First Intifada - an uprising largely remembered as being peaceful - hundreds of Palestinians were killed on charges of collaboration.

The current leader of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, was jailed by Israel for killing collaborators during the First Intifada.

While killings are not currently at that level, threats against collaborators have redoubled in the wake of the unsolved assassination of Mazen Fuqaha, a Hamas commander, in Gaza on 24 March.

The Hamas authorities blame Israel for the killing, and have sworn to clamp down on those they believe are spying for Israel.

The authorities offered an amnesty period of one work for collaborators to turn themselves in or face the consequences, and have put up billboards warning them to stop their activities.

A picture taken on April 6, 2017 in Gaza City shows a woman walking past a banner reading in Arabic : "For those who fell into the trap of collaboration with the occupation. Stop, hold on and consider your religion, your homeland, your people.. or else... (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

A picture taken on April 6, 2017 in Gaza City shows a woman walking past a banner reading in Arabic : "For those who fell into the trap of collaboration with the occupation. Stop, hold on and consider your religion, your homeland, your people.. or else... (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

It is in that context that three men - identified only as A.M., 55; W.A., 42; and A.Sh., 32 - were hung to death by the Hamas authorities in Gaza this morning.

While none of the three were directly accused of taking part in the Fuqaha assassination, the executions are widely being seen as part of the promised crackdown:

Rights groups, however, are unhappy with the executions. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said in a statement that the executions violated Palestinian law because they had not been ratified by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, of which Abbas is the head, in 2007.

PCHR also said that people accused of collaboration were also subjected to torture and denied access to lawyers after their arrests, thus throwing into doubt the safety of their convictions.

Omar Shakir, the Israel/Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement posted to Twitter that, “The death penalty is a barbaric practice that has no place in a modern state. The abhorrent executions project weakness, not strength.”

Amnesty International also criticized the executions because the men were civilians found guilty in "unfair" military courts. In a prior report, the organization had also found that “collaborators” had been executed by Hamas before their trials were even concluded.

Such condemnations did not seem to affect public opinion in Gaza, however, with the executions celebrated under the hashtag “clean your country”.

The below tweet was typical of expressions of support:

Retribution… The promise of God, a religious duty, and a national duty… so no mercy to those who betrayed and sold and abused [their nation]... Until you cleanse the country from corruption.

With Hamas under pressure to respond to a killing in the heart of their territory, and the weight of public opinion solidly behind them, it seems likely that Gaza will see more “collaborators” arrested and killed in the coming weeks.

Whether they will truly be guilty or not is another question.

Jacob Burns

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