Hamas, the Islamist movement ruling Gaza, on Tuesday executed three Palestinians convicted of murder, drawing criticism from its rival Fatah, rights groups and the EU.

"The three men were executed early on Tuesday morning by shooting and not by hanging," said a statement from the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza. "It wasn't a public execution."

Only representatives of the families of the three murder victims attended the execution, which took place in the southern town of Khan Younis.

The executions are an escalation in tensions between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose rival Fatah party controls the West Bank. 

The death penalty must be approved by the president, under Palestinian Basic Law. As Hamas does not recognize Abbas' legitimacy, it carried out the executions without his signature.

In the last nine years, Hamas has executed dozens of Palestinians found guilty in military courts of collaborating with Israel.

These were the first death penalties carried out by Hamas against people convicted in criminal courts. 

Abbas' administration slammed Hamas' move as "illegal."   

In 2007, Hamas seized sole control of the coastal enclave by violently overpowering Abbas' forces.

The two sides have been entangled in a power struggle since the Islamists won parliamentary elections in 2006.

Hamas Attorney General Ismail Jabber told reporters in Gaza last week that the executions would "achieve social justice."

Gaza-based political analyst Naji Shurab said the decision "was made to ease and relax popular pressure" on Hamas in Gaza. 

The victims' family members have been demonstrating in Gaza over the past two weeks, demanding the execution of the murderers. 

"Hamas suffers from a crisis in popular trust," Shurab told dpa.  

The United Nations and rights groups expressed concerns over whether the trials were fair.

The European Union condemned the executions.

"The de facto authorities in Gaza must refrain from carrying out any further executions of prisoners and comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority," it said in a statement.

Related stories

Latest news

Bayern round the clock - German champions launch own TV channel

Bayern Munich fans will be able to follow goings on at the Bundesliga record champions in a new way from next week when the club launches its own television channel.

'Weather bomb' hits transport, cuts power to 56,000 homes in Ireland

Storm Doris brought winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour to large areas of Ireland and Britain on Thursday, disrupting transport links and causing power cuts to tens of thousands of homes.

Croatia's registered unemployment rate rises to 15.4% in January

The registered unemployment rate in Croatia rose from 14.8% in December 2016 to 15.4% in January 2017, increasing for the fourth month in a row, the National Bureau of Statistics (DZS) said Thursday.

Norway's telecom group Telenor to leave Indian market

Norwegian telecommunications group Telenor said Thursday it was leaving the Indian telecom market and transferring its businesses there to Bharti Airtel.

Iraq claims advance in retaking Mosul airport from Islamic State

Iraqi forces wrested back half of Mosul's airport from Islamic State Thursday, shortly after entering the facility during their ongoing campaign to drive the extremist militia from its last key stronghold in the country.

Rights group: Video shows Cambodian police beating election candidate

A video posted on YouTube shows eight Cambodian paramilitary police beating a man identified as an opposition candidate at a Phnom Penh shopping mall, a rights group said Thursday. 

Malaysia asks Interpol to issue alert for suspects in N Korean death

Malaysia on Thursday requested that Interpol issue an alert for four North Koreans suspected of involvement in last week's killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

British suspect arrested in Deutsche Telekom hacking

A 29-year-old British citizen suspected of involvement in a cyberattack that left nearly 1 million Deutsche Telekom customers without services last year has been arrested, German federal police said on Thursday.

Eight killed as bomb targets restaurant in Pakistan’s Lahore

A bomb ripped through a high-end restaurant in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Thursday, killing eight people, officials said, marking another attack amid a surge in violence by Islamist militants that has ended months of fragile calm.

Philippine court orders arrest of top Duterte critic

Senator Leila De Lima, one of the most outspoken critics of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, was on Thursday ordered arrested on illegal drug charges by a Philippine court.

Hrvatski Telekom reports 2016 net profit of HRK 934 mn

Hrvatski Telekom (HT) generated a net profit of HRK 934 million in 2016, which is 1% more than in 2015, the telecommunications company said on Thursday in a report on its financial results in 2016.

FDI in Croatia totals EUR 1.2 bn in Jan-Sept 2016

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Croatia totalled EUR 1.227 billion in the first nine months of 2016, which is 552 million or 82% more than in the same period in 2015, analysts at Raiffeisenbank Austria (RBA) said in a report on Thursday, citing data provided by the Croatian National Bank.