A military court in Gaza this week sentenced six Palestinians, including a woman, to death and eight others to prison terms with hard labor for collaborating with Israel.
According to Al Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza, five persons were sentenced to death by hanging and one by firing squad.
“The court also issued eight other sentences of imprisonment with hard labor, ranging from six to 15 years,” Al Mezan stated.
Authorities in Gaza, where the resistance faction Hamas oversees internal affairs, have issued or approved nine death sentences since the beginning of 2018, the rights group said.
Al Mezan stated that despite “the seriousness of the criminal acts committed by the convicted, the death sentences issued should not be carried out but replaced by alternative penalties in line with Palestine’s international obligations.”
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, also based in Gaza, stated that any death sentence carried out without the approval of the Palestinian Authority president, as required by Palestinian basic law, would amount to an extrajudicial killing.
Nearly 30 death sentences have been carried out in Gaza without the PA president’s approval since 2007, when Hamas seized control of the territory after winning legislative elections held the previous year.
Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, stated that “No one should be sentenced to death. Supposedly collaborating with Israel is no excuse.”
He added: “And given Hamas’ unfair courts, its sentencing of six for execution smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law.”
European Union officials also condemned the death sentences.
The body’s missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah stated that “The EU considers capital punishment to be cruel and inhuman, that it fails to provide deterrence to criminal behavior, and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.”
A Hamas spokesperson said that the six sentenced to death on Monday were not directly connected to an Israeli commando unit uncovered in Gaza three weeks ago, triggering more than 48 hours of intense fire over the boundary with Israel.
The spokesperson told the AFP news agency that the convictions were linked “to a communications and eavesdropping device planted by the occupation.”
AFP added: “Six Hamas members were killed when the device apparently exploded after detection near Deir al-Balah in central Gaza in May.”
Israeli commandos posed as medical aid workers
Hamas officials said that undercover forces posing as medical aid workers used forged ID cards of actual Palestinians living in Gaza who were unaware that their identities had been used.
Their cover was blown because the Hamas fighters who checked their IDs were “suspicious as their accents and voices did not match the areas where they said they were from,” a Hamas official told the UK publication The Independent.
Citing a Hamas source, The Independent reported that the undercover unit was in Gaza “to replace listening and surveillance devices that had been laid before.”
An Israeli lieutenant-colonel, a Hamas military commander and six other fighters were killed in a gun battle when the undercover unit was discovered in Khan Younis on 11 November.
The Israeli military launched air strikes to provide cover for the retreating commandos and the forged IDs were found in the destroyed vehicle used by the Israeli agents.
Seven more Palestinians were killed during intensive Israeli bombardment after armed groups in Gaza launched hundreds of rockets towards Israel, killing a Palestinian man in a home in Ashkelon.
PA detains and tortures woman activist
Meanwhile Amnesty International has called on Palestinian authorities to “urgently investigate the torture and other ill-treatment” of a woman detained in the occupied West Bank.
Suha Jbara, described by Amnesty as “a Palestinian, US and Panamanian citizen and social justice activist involved with Islamic charities,” told the rights group “that she was beaten, slammed against a wall and threatened with sexual violence by her interrogators.”
Jbara was arrested during “a violent raid on her home” on 3 November, according to Amnesty, which said “she was asked about collecting and distributing money in illegal ways, an accusation she denies.”
The activist told Amnesty that she had a seizure and lost consciousness during her arrest and was taken to a hospital. There security forces “dragged her out of her hospital bed, barefoot, and transferred her to Jericho Interrogation and Detention Center.”
At the detention center, she was physically abused by a male interrogator.
“He insulted me all the time, used very dirty and violent sexual language, threatened to bring a doctor to look into my virginity and say that I was a whore, and threatened to hurt my family and to take my kids away from me,” Jbara told Amnesty.
Jbara was denied access to a lawyer during her three-day interrogation. On 7 November a judge granted the prosecution’s request to extend her detention for another two weeks and she was transferred to another detention center.
After she began a hunger strike on 22 November, “in protest at her torture during interrogation and unfair treatment by the prosecution and judiciary,” according to Amnesty, she was placed in solitary confinement after a brief hospitalization.
Jbara remains on hunger strike and reported being subjected to various forms of pressure and punishment to end her protest, such as being denied family visits and phone calls.
Amnesty stated that it “is calling on international donors to the Palestinian security sector to review their assistance to Palestinian forces to ensure that it is not facilitating human rights violations and is in line with international standards.”
A recent report by Human Rights Watch, based on two years of investigation, faulted both the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza for widespread use of arbitrary arrests and torture to crush dissent.