At the police headquarters in Gaza City on Tuesday morning, three Palestinians convicted of murder were executed by hanging and firing squad.
In attendance were the families of those the three men had been accused of killing.
Hamas carried out the executions despite multiple attempts by Palestinian human rights organizations to halt the killings.
The executions had been expected to take place publicly, as has sometimes occurred in the past with those accused of collaborating with Israel.
Ten more Palestinians convicted of capital crimes face imminent execution.
Members of the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform bloc of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza approved the 13 death sentences on 25 May, flouting the Palestinian Basic Law and other legal provisions that require the sentences to be ratified by the Palestinian Authority president.
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has not approved any executions in a decade, although courts in Gaza have issued more than 80 death sentences since Hamas took over control over the territory’s internal governance in 2007.
The majority of those executed were convicted in military courts or executed summarily without a judicial ruling, Human Rights Watch said.
Palestinian law permits the death penalty in cases of premeditated murder, treason and collaboration with an enemy, usually Israel.
Saeb Erekat, the Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told PA news agency WAFA that Abbas has abstained from approving any death sentences in order to protect the Palestinian Authority’s international image.
Hamas has defended the executions by invoking an increase in crime in the Gaza Strip. The prosecutor stated the death penalty was meant “to achieve public deterrence and block crime.”
“The aim of justice is not revenge”
In recent months Hamas has implemented the first executions after a suspension of the practice following the formation of a so-called national unity government in June 2014.
But last year, Amnesty International published a report accusing Hamas authorities in Gaza of carrying out a series of covert summary executions during the Israeli assault in 2014.
The group claimed Hamas said that they were collaborators as a pretext to exact political revenge.
In February, the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, executed its member Mahmoud Rushdi Ishteiwi for what it called “behavioral and moral excesses.”
His sister, Buthaina Ishteiwi, told Palestinian media that she believed her brother had been killed following a dispute with his superiors.
Though Palestinian and international human rights groups have emphasized that the executions are illegal according to Palestinian law, they have also urged the Palestinian Authority to abolish the death penalty from its laws in order to bring it in line with international standards.
The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which has long called for the elimination of the death penalty, said that it “is in full solidarity with the victims of murders in the Gaza Strip, however, it highlights that the aim of justice is not revenge but ensuring serenity and the rule of law.”
“This cannot be achieved unless by the strict application of the law and not violating it,” the group added.
Israel’s death penalty
Meanwhile, Israel’s newly installed defense minister Avigdor Lieberman is working towards making it easier to issue death sentences for Palestinians in the West Bank.
While current Israeli military law permits the death penalty when there is unanimous agreement of a three-judge military panel, Lieberman’s legislation would require only majority approval.
Israeli military prosecutors have however avoided calling for death sentences.
And while Lieberman’s law is expected to face opposition, Israeli forces already routinely carry out extrajudicial executions of Palestinians without going through the motions of a trial.