Palestinian militants of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas' armed wing, take part in a rally in Gaza City.
(photo credit: MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
Izzadin Kassam, the armed wing of Hamas, is facing a split following the execution earlier this week of a top commander, Muhammad Eshtaiwi.
Hamas said that it executed Eshtaiwi for “moral and behavioral trespasses.” He was a senior commander of Izzadin Kassam and was in charge of some of its tunnels in the Gaza Strip.
On Thursday, a hitherto unknown group called “the Free Kassam Brigade” issued a statement in which it strongly condemned the execution of Eshtaiwi and called for an investigation.
Sources in the Gaza Strip said that the group consists of members of Izzadin Kassam who belong to Eshtaiwi’s family.
The group claimed that Eshtaiwi was found guilty of “treason” for “contacting” leaders of Hamas abroad. It pledged allegiance to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who is based in Qatar.
The sources said that several members of Izzadin Kassam have expressed outrage over the execution of Eshtaiwi.
They pointed out that he had played a major role supervising tunnels that were built to store weapons and attack Israel.
The new group and several Hamas operatives demanded an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the execution.
Eshtaiwi’s family said in a statement this week that their son was the victim of a personal dispute with his commander. The family rejects the charges against Eshtaiwi and pointed out that he had been tortured while in detention.