Execution of Hamas commander tied to gay sex

Special to WorldTribune.com

A Hamas commander was executed last month for “moral turpitude” (homosexuality).

Mahmoud Ishtiwi was tortured and then executed on Feb. 7 after at least one terrorist under his command admitted to having sex with him, according to a New York Times report.

The mother and a sister of Mahmoud Ishtiwi stand by a poster bearing his image at their home in Gaza. /Wissam Nassar/New York Times
The mother and a sister of Mahmoud Ishtiwi stand by a poster bearing his image at their home in Gaza. /Wissam Nassar/New York Times

Ishtiwi, who is survived by two wives and three children, was part of a family that is considered royalty in the Gaza Strip for having sheltered a number of wanted Hamas leaders from Israel.

The allegations against Ishtiwi were said to be not only a breach of Hamas’s strict Islamic “moral” code, but to have had major security implications. “If Israeli intelligence had found out about the potentially embarrassing incident involving such a prominent Hamas figure, they could have used it as leverage to force him to help them,” a source said.

Hamas officials suspected Ishtiwi may have assisted the Israeli military to locate Al-Qassam chief Mohammed Deif during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Deif was reportedly injured in an Israeli airstrike, which killed his wife, but managed to escape.

The Al-Qassam Brigades’ military and Islamic judicial committee said only that Ishtiwi was executed for “violating rules and ethics.”

Ishtiwi was initially called in for questioning by Hamas over suspicions that he had embezzled money meant for buying weapons. When the commander confessed to that crime, Hamas officials suspected he was attempting to cover up something bigger, and took him in for further interrogation.

Relatives and other sources say Ishtiwi was tortured extensively, including beatings, whippings, being suspended by his hands from the ceiling for hours on end, sleep deprivation and more.

Some of Ishtiwi’s family members protested outside the home of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in a rare show of dissent in authoritarian-ruled Gaza. The demonstrators were beaten by Hamas police and dispersed.

The Hamas investigation was expanded to include terrorists under Ishtiwi’s command. When one of the jihadists confessed to having had sex with Ishtiwi, investigators concluded that some of the money intended to buy weapons was used as payment in order to keep the jihadist quiet.

Ishtiwi eventually confessed to all charges against him. Relatives who saw Ishtiwi in the days before his execution said he appeared “destroyed,” and had secretly written the word “wronged” on his hand and leg, indicating that his confessions had been made under duress.

Prior to his execution, Ishtiwi’s sister said he told her he had never committed any of the acts he was accused of.

As a last resort, his mother sent a video message to Deif – who the family had sheltered on numerous occasions – begging for clemency. Her pleas were ignored, and Ishtiwi was executed on Feb. 7.

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