Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 14:11 UK

UN criticises executions of 'collaborators' in Gaza

Gaza police patrol - April 2010
Reports say Hamas is planning to carry out further executions

The head of the UN Human Rights Commission has condemned the use of the death penalty by the militant Islamist movement Hamas which controls Gaza.

Navi Pillay expressed alarm at reports that Hamas was planning to execute more prisoners and called the movement to refrain from further executions.

On Thursday, Hamas executed by firing squad two Palestinian men convicted of collaborating with Israel.

They were the first executions in Gaza since Hamas took over in 2007.

"It is extremely disappointing that Hamas has now returned to the use of the death penalty," Ms Pillay in a statement.

"I call on Hamas to reconsider its position and exhibit respect for the international community's firm rejection of the death penalty, to abolish its use in Gaza, and to fully uphold and promote the right to life," she urged.

Ms Pillay added that the death penalty can be imposed only after fair trials in duly constituted courts, she said, was "practically impossible in current circumstances in Gaza".

The two executed men were convicted of treason and spying for Israel in February last year.

They have been named as Naser Abu Furaih and Mohamad al-Sabaa.

'Palestinian tensions'

Technically, nobody can be executed in the Palestinian territories without the approval of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But Hamas does not recognise Mr Abbas's authority.

The BBC's Jon Donnison, in Gaza, says the executions were a further sign of tensions between the Islamist group and Mr Abbas's secular party which runs the Palestinian controlled areas of the West Bank.

Amnesty International, the human rights organisation, condemned the killings.

"[The] executions are an extremely retrograde step by Hamas," Deputy Director for the Middle East, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said.

"We are gravely concerned for the other Palestinian prisoners in Gaza who have been given death sentences by military courts."

Also on Friday, Israeli soldiers killed a suspected Palestinian militant in Gaza.

The Israeli military said a gunman was trying to attack the troops from the fence between Gaza and Israel when he was fired upon.

The incident is the latest in a week of sporadic clashes along the Gaza border.

On Tuesday, at least two suspected militants were killed and three wounded in an Israeli army strike in Gaza.

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