Mahmoud D.* was in the midst of his trial when war broke out.
In 2010, Hamas security forces seized Mahmoud from his home, accusing the 19-year-old of collaboration with Israel. Under torture, he confessed, then withdrew his admission in court. After four and a half years in Gaza City’s Katiba prison, Mahmoud’s case was before the justice system. Witnesses had testified in his favor, Mahmoud’s father said, and he was hoping to be reunited with his family and young son.
But no judge would ever rule on his guilt or innocence.
Amid the chaos and destruction of Israel’s war with Gaza in the summer of 2014, masked men took Mahmoud and 10 others from prison in the middle of the night. “Revolutionary Courts” established by the Popular Resistance Committees, a coalition of armed Palestinian groups, accused the prisoners of collaborating with Israel. The men were publicly executed near Al-Azhar University.
One year after the executions, the families are still awaiting a formal investigation into the extrajudicial killings and for the security services to be held accountable. Hamas has both claimed involvement and denied responsibility. The only investigation underway concerns the alleged escape of the prisoners while being transferred from one prison to another. But the lawyers of the executed deny the prisoners escaped, while there is no official documentation at either the Interior Ministry or Katiba prison to back the Revolutionary Courts’ claim that the escapees collaborated with Israel.
The extrajudicial killings were not the first to be carried out during the 50-day war that left over 2,100 Palestinians dead. On August 5, five men were taken from Katiba prison and executed. The next round of executions came days after an Israeli attempt to assassinate Mohammed Al-Daif, commander of Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. On August 20, fighter jets bombed the house containing his wife and son, killing them both, but not Al-Daif. On August 21, Israeli jets bombed a building in Rafah, killing Hamas commanders Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed Al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum.
The following day, Hamas stated that “Revolutionary Courts” had been established to deal with collaborators. After Friday prayers at the al-Omari mosque, masked men relayed the message. They then publicly executed six men.
Later that same day, a further 11 men, including Mahmoud, were executed in cold blood. Eight of the prisoners were charged with collaboration under the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, but had not been formally sentenced by the military courts. One man had been sentenced to life imprisonment, another sentenced to death, but both men were awaiting appeals, while the last victim had been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He had spent a third of his sentence in prison.
According to an Amnesty International report, which documented 17 extrajudicial killings in Gaza last summer, Hamas used the wartime executions to instill fear. Separately from the accusations of collaboration, it used the confusion of war to settle scores, abducting and torturing supporters of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, according to Amnesty. The human rights group accused Hamas of war crimes in connection with the abductions, torture and executions.
After the killings, masked Hamas militants hung a paper above each victim’s head, signed “Palestinian Resistance”: “The traitor [initials of each of the victims provided]; most important clauses for convictions: provided information to the enemy about the locations of guards, tunnels, explosive devices, and homes of fighters, rockets which the occupation bombed and which resulted in many martyrs from resistance fighters. Based on this the revolutionary justice has been implemented.”
Amnesty International’s report put the blame squarely on Hamas. Hamas has denied the allegations, stating the report was “politically motivated.”
Escaped, then Executed?
Photos from top:
Hamas militants surround the bodies of Palestinians after executing them in Gaza City August 22, 2014. Hamas militants killed seven Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel in a public execution in a central Gaza square on Friday, witnesses and a Hamas website said. The victims, their heads covered and hands tied, were shot dead by masked gunmen dressed in black in front of a crowd of worshippers outside a mosque after prayers, witnesses and al-Majd, a pro-Hamas website, said. Another 11 people suspected of collaborating with Israel were killed by gunmen at an abandoned police station in Gaza earlier on Friday, Hamas security officials said. REUTERS/Stringer.
Photos 2 and 3: Hundreds of Palestinians gather in street in downtown Gaza City after people received a fake message on social networks calling for them to attend a public execution of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel on August 22, 2014. Earlier in the day, Hamas gunmen executed 18 Palestinians in two separate rounds of public executions. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX.