Hamas court sentences two Gaza drug dealers to death

It was the first such sentence in Gaza, as until Sunday, only people guilty of spying for Israel or murder had received the death penalty in the Palestinian territories.

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GAZA CITY, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES // A Hamas military court sentenced two Palestinians to death on Sunday for drug smuggling in the Gaza Strip, the first such punishment handed down by the Palestinian judiciary in a narcotics case, officials said.

“The Gaza military court announced the death penalty for two civilians from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, for selling narcotics,” the Hamas-controlled interior ministry said.

One of the dealers was sentenced to death by firing squad and the other by hanging. It said a third suspect was sentenced to hard labour.

Marijuana and prescription painkillers have been flooding into the Gaza Strip, prompting officials from the Islamist Hamas group, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, to seek tougher penalties for smuggling drugs.

Authorities have seized drugs with a street value of around US$1 million (Dh3.67m) over the past few months, the ministry said.

They seized 1,250 packets of cannabis and 400 pills of Tramadol — a powerful opiate-based painkiller — in January alone, it said.

Both convicted dealers were caught smuggling marijuana, opium and tramadol through tunnels under the border with Egypt, according to a list of their charges.

“Such actions represented a threat to Palestinian national security, with its economic and political dimensions,” the court said.

Until Sunday, only people guilty of spying for Israel or murder had received the death penalty in Gaza.

All Palestinian death sentences in theory have to be approved by president Mahmoud Abbas, but Hamas has long refused to accept his legitimacy.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights says around a dozen death sentences have been passed down in Gaza since the start of 2017.

* Agence France-Presse and Reuters