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Hamas executes two suspected informants

Executions first since Hamas seized Gaza Strip

The Hamas rulers of Gaza have executed two Palestinians convicted of collaborating with Israel despite objections from human rights groups, hospital and other sources said on Thursday.

The two were executed by a firing squad overnight, said Samir Zakut of the Palestinian Al-Misan human rights group.

Police would not allow journalists to enter the al-Shifa hospital, but medical sources there confirmed the two bodies were delivered during the night.

Hamas government official confirmed the executions after the bodies of two men arrived at a Gaza hospital but did not say how they were carried out.

The Palestinian rights group al-Mizan identified the executed men as Mohammed Ismail and Nasser Abu Freh.

London-based Amnesty International had urged Hamas not to carry out several death sentences against Palestinians convicted of murder and of collaborating with Israel.

Amnesty said proceedings in Hamas military courts do not meet international legal standards.

"The death penalty will be implemented for (Israeli) agents who have been sentenced to death, regardless of the position of rights groups that reject these kinds of sentences," Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad said at the time.

Hamas has approved the death penalty for informers, murderers and drug dealers but has not officially executed anyone since it seized power in Gaza in June 2007, driving out forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas who now holds sway in the West Bank only.

However, several alleged informers were killed by armed groups during the devastating 22-day military offensive Israel launched on Dec.27, 2008, according to rights groups.

Under Palestinian law, execution orders can be carried out only with presidential approval. But Hamas does not recognize Abbas's presidency, and the executions represented a further challenge by the group to his authority.

Abbas has refrained from approving death sentences against Palestinians convicted of capital offences in the West Bank.

The death penalty will be implemented for agents who have been sentenced to death, regardless of the position of rights groups that reject these kinds of sentences

Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad