A demonstrator in Gaza City holds a Palestinian flag during a rally calling on rivals Hamas and Fatah to end their political division.
A Hamas-administered court in the Gaza Strip sentenced eight Fatah members to various prison terms on Wednesday, for “undermining revolutionary unity.”
“The special military court... sentenced eight individuals today for undermining revolutionary unity,” a statement on the Hamas-run Interior Ministry website read, clarifying that the convicted men collected information on “the resistance factions, its structures, and tunnels.”
The court said that four of the eight defendants started collecting data in late 2014 and were arrested shortly thereafter, without providing details on the four other convicted men.
All of the convicted men belong to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority security forces, which have not operated in the Gaza Strip since Hamas took over the coastal enclave in an armed coup in 2007.
Three of the convicted men were sentence to life imprisonment at hard labor, while the rest were served sentences of between seven and 10 years at hard labor.
Fayez Abu Eitah, a Fatah official in the Gaza Strip, blasted the verdict.
“We forcefully deplore and denounce the Hamas court’s ruling in Gaza, which came at the expense of eight Fatah members, on the basis of false and absurd claims,” Abu Eitah, co-vice chairman of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, said in a press release.
Abu Eitah dismissed the independence and legitimacy of the Hamas-operated courts.
“These rulings are arbitrary and political... and are a part of Hamas’s continued provocations against the Palestinian people,” Abu Eitah remarked, calling on Hamas to immediately release the eight men.
The rulings come after two meetings in the last couple of weeks that brought together Hamas and Fatah officials in Beirut and Moscow, where the rival parties agreed on the “necessity” of forming a unity government and a Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s parliament, that includes Hamas.
Grant Rumley, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told The Jerusalem Post
that the court’s verdict indicates that Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is unlikely to take place anytime soon.
“This ruling shows just how far apart the two major Palestinian parties are from reconciliation. Both sides are ultimately beholden to the more hard-line factions within their parties, and in this current climate those factions view the rivalry with the other party as ongoing and zero sum,” Rumley said.
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