On August 22nd Quentin Sommerville produced a filmed report for BBC television news which also appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Suspected informants killed in Gaza“.
The appearance of this filmed report and an accompanying written one on the BBC News website was particularly interesting because previous announcements in the local media with regard to the execution of four people on July 17th and the execution of thirty more people on or around July 28th had been completely ignored by the BBC despite its plethora of correspondents on the ground at the time. The reason for the anomaly appears to be that this time the information came from Hamas itself, as Sommerville noted in his report.
“On a Gaza City street just after Friday prayers a group of men are led to their deaths. Bound and hooded, they’re made to kneel. As a crowd looks on, they’re shot dead. Hamas, which supplied these pictures, say they were collaborators. It was a bloody day in Gaza; as well as the men killed here, eleven were earlier put to death by firing squad, accused of the same crime.”
The only brief reference to the lack of due legal process comes later on in Sommerville’s filmed report with the written version failing to relate to that topic at all.
“Hamas said the men were sentenced by an emergency court but human rights groups say these were extrajudicial killings. Two women were among the dead.”
The written report ‘explains’ the incident to readers as follows:
“After the first 11 executions, Hamas warned that “the same punishment will be imposed soon on others”.
It added that “the current circumstances forced us to take such decisions”, suggesting a link between the executions and the killing of the three senior Hamas leaders.”
Sommerville also promoted a similar ‘explanation’.
“The deaths come a day after Israel dealt its heaviest blow to the militants: an air strike here in the south of Gaza killed three of its top military commanders. The brutality and the swiftness of today’s killings are an indication of the severity of the blow struck by Israel against Hamas with the killing of its three military commanders. The militants suspect that Palestinians here in Gaza colluded with Israel to bring about these deaths. Today’s shootings are an attempt to disable any network of informants but also to send a message to deter others from collaborating with Israel’s intelligence services.”
Sommerville closes with the following odd remark:
“Hamas is an armed movement but it’s been years since it turned its weapons with such force against its own people. Even so, it warns that more killings will follow.” [emphasis added]
It is not of course apparent how Quentin Sommerville defines “years” or “such force”, but extrajudicial killings and torture by Hamas are by no means a rare occurrence and indeed formed an integral part of its violent take-over of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Some other examples of that practice (by no means all) appear below.
In 2009 Human Rights Watch produced a report which stated that thirty-two suspected collaborators had been killed between December 2008 and April 2009 and at least 49 people from the rival Fatah movement had been shot in the legs by masked gunmen.
In March 2010 Hamas announced that it would reinstate the death penalty in the Gaza Strip. As HRW pointed out at the time:
“Most of those facing the death penalty in Gaza are affiliated with the rival Fatah movement or are people whom Hamas military courts have convicted of collaborating with Israel.”
In November 2012 at least six summary executions took place with Hamas claiming responsibility in a note attached to an electricity pole. Those events got 29 words of coverage from the BBC at the time. In June 2013 the BBC failed to report on two executions and two more in May 2014 were likewise ignored.
As Khaled Abu Toameh recently pointed out:
“Under Palestinian Authority law, all death sentences must be approved by the president of the PA. But in 2005, PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a moratorium on death sentences – a prohibition that did not stop Hamas from pursuing executions under the pretext that the PA president was no longer a legitimate leader since his term had expired in 2009.
It is notable that the latest executions in the Gaza Strip were carried out after the formation of the Hamas-backed Palestinian “national consensus” government a few months ago. These extrajudicial executions show that despite the unity agreement between the two parties, Hamas continues to act as the sole authority in the Gaza Strip, where it has its own security forces, militias and “revolutionary courts.”
It is also ironic that Hamas has chosen to execute suspected “collaborators” at a time when it is seen as part of the “national consensus” government that continues to conduct security coordination with Israel.”
The BBC has a dismal record on reporting abuses of all kinds by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and it is therefore all the more notable that these two reports came about only when Hamas wanted to publicise the executions of suspected collaborators for its own purposes.
It is also remarkable that neither report ventured beyond limited reporting of the incidents themselves to inform audiences with regard to the issue of the absence of due legal process before those killings and their implications given that the Gaza Strip is – officially at least – now ruled by the Palestinian Unity Government rather than the “armed movement” as Sommerville so quaintly dubs an internationally recognized terrorist organization.