Hamas's extrajudicial executions of Palestinians suspected of "collaboration" with Israel are a sign that the Islamist movement is beginning to panic in the wake of Israel's successful targeting of its leaders.
But the public executions by firing squad of more than 26 suspected "collaborators" in the Gaza Strip could also turn many Palestinians against Hamas.
Masked Hamas members (dressed in black) prepare to execute local Palestinians who they claim spied for Israel, Aug. 22, 2014, in Gaza. (Image source: Reuters video screenshot)
Hamas has banned the publication of the names of the executed Palestinians "out of concern for the social fabric" of Palestinian society.
In other words, Hamas is afraid that revealing the identities of the executed "collaborators" would spark outrage in the Gaza Strip and possible calls for revenge, especially from the families of the victims.
Hamas says that the suspected "collaborators" were brought before firing squads after being tried before special "revolutionary tribunals" consisting of security experts and officers.
It says that in time of war, there is no room for holding proper legal procedures and that security circumstances require secret trials followed by swift executions.
Yet some Palestinians in the Gaza Strip argue that in the absence of proper legal procedures, it is impossible to tell whether the convicted Palestinians were guilty or innocent.
Sources in the Gaza Strip revealed that some of the executed men belonged to Abbas's Fatah faction and had no connection with Israel.
The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights was the only group that dared to criticize Hamas for embarking on a spree of public executions in front of passersby, including many children.
A statement released by the human rights group said it was following events "with deep concern news about extrajudicial executions in the Gaza Strip."
Noting that among those executed by Hamas were two Palestinian women, the group called on the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to intervene to "stop these extrajudicial executions, regardless of the reason and motives behind them."
Raji Surani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, complained that the public extrajudicial executions "cause harm to all Palestinians" and called for "honoring the rule of law and human rights."
However, "honoring the rule of law and human rights" has been a practice alien to Hamas ever since it seized control over the Gaza Strip through a violent and bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority in the summer of 2007.
Back then, Hamas killed dozens (some say hundreds) of Palestinians, including many from the rival Fatah faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah members who were not killed during the fighting were later tossed from tall buildings or lynched in public squares.
One prominent Fatah activist, Samih al-Madhoun, was dragged to the street and brutally lynched by Hamas militiamen and supporters.
Over the past few days, Hamas officials have gone out of their way to tell the world that their movement is not like the Islamic State terror organization, which has become notorious for beheading almost everyone it finds standing the way of its creating an Islamic Caliphate.
"We are not a religious, violent group," Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in an interview with Yahoo News from his luxurious hotel in Qatar. He said that Hamas, unlike the Islamic State terrorist group, operates only in Israel, the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
What Mashaal forgot to mention in the interview was that Hamas and the Islamic State do have at least one thing in common: they both carry out extrajudicial executions as a means of terrorizing and intimidating those who stand in their way or dare to challenge their terrorism.
Even the Palestinian Authority [PA] now seems to be drawing an analogy between Hamas and the Islamic State and other radical Islamist terrorist groups.
Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior aide to Mahmoud Abbas, strongly condemned Hamas's extrajudicial executions, adding that that they are "reminiscent of the summary executions carried out by Wahhabi militant groups in other parts of the Middle East."
Abdel Rahim added, "The executions were done in cold blood and according to Hamas law, which is: Who is not with Hamas is against it."
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. According to Hamas's logic, all members of the Palestinian government are "traitors" who should also be dragged to public squares and the yards of mosques to be shot by firing squads.
According to the same logic, Abbas himself should also be executed for maintaining security coordination and talking to Israelis.
Hamas does not even need to interrogate or hold a trial for Abbas because he recently announced, during a meeting with Israelis in his office in Ramallah, that "security coordination with Israel is sacred."
Sources in the Gaza Strip said that the executed men were affiliated with Fatah and had been suspected of maintaining contact with senior Fatah officials in Ramallah and some Arab countries. As for the two executed women, the sources said that their only fault was that they had been observed by neighbors asking too many questions about Palestinians who were killed in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip over the past few weeks.
Hamas's hysteria has seen it turn not only on its political rivals in Fatah and innocent Palestinians, but also against its own followers. According to sources in the Gaza Strip, Hamas arrested more than 250 of its own members after Israel last week killed its three top military commanders, Raed al-Attar, Mohamed Abu Shamaleh and Mohamed Barhoum.
The public executions in the Gaza Strip are a sign that Hamas is losing the war with Israel, particularly in the intelligence field. The three slain Hamas commanders are said to have been hiding inside a tunnel 30-meters [100 feet] deep, beneath a house in the southern town of Rafah. But this did not prevent the Israel Defense Forces from locating them and killing them. For Hamas, this is a serious security and intelligence blunder.
That is why Hamas is nervous and anxious to show that it is capable of responding to the targeted killing of its commanders. And there is nothing easier than dragging men and women into public squares and executing them in public after declaring them Israeli "agents."
The extrajudicial executions will be added to the long list of crimes committed by Hamas against Palestinians. But the question remains whether the international community will ever hold Hamas accountable for its war crimes. Judging from the apathy of the international community and the United Nations to Hamas's extrajudicial killings and other crimes, probably not.