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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 06 December 2023

Relatives of Gaza hostages say stop talk of execution for Hamas detainees

Some of the relatives of the people held captive by Hamas in Gaza worry the publicity around the capital punishment debate could invite reprisals even as hopes of a deal to free some of them is growing

Reuters Jerusalem Published 21.11.23, 10:05 AM
A person holds a poster of Vivian Silver ,top center, as medical staff and health professionals attend a demonstration in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in London, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, calling for an immediate intervention in the case of the hostages kidnapped from Israel on Oct. 7. Vivian Silver, a Canadian-born Israeli activist who devoted her life to seeking peace with the Palestinians, was confirmed killed in Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel.

A person holds a poster of Vivian Silver ,top center, as medical staff and health professionals attend a demonstration in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in London, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, calling for an immediate intervention in the case of the hostages kidnapped from Israel on Oct. 7. Vivian Silver, a Canadian-born Israeli activist who devoted her life to seeking peace with the Palestinians, was confirmed killed in Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel. AP/PTI file image

Relatives of some of the 240 people held by Hamas in Gaza urged far-Right Israeli lawmakers on Monday not to pursue proposed capital punishment for captured Palestinian militants, saying that even talk of doing so might endanger the hostages. A number of suspected gunmen were detained after members of the armed Islamist faction breached the Gaza Strip border on October 7 and went on the rampage, killing over 1,200 people and kidnapping others, Israel said.

Israel’s justice ministry said on November 7 that a task force was discussing how to try the Palestinians who had been detained and secure “punishments befitting the severity of the horrors committed” for those convicted.

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Far-Right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has called for the death penalty, which is dormant on Israel’s law books.

Some of the relatives of the people held captive by Hamas in Gaza worry the publicity around the capital punishment debate could invite reprisals even as hopes of a deal to free some of them is growing.

The hostages have already been threatened with execution by Hamas and are at risk of being hurt or killed in the military offensive launched by Israel in response to the October 7 attack.

“It would mean playing along with their mind games. And in return, we would get pictures of our loves ones murdered, ended, with the State of Israel and not them (Hamas) being blamed for it,” Yarden Gonen, whose sister Romi is among the hostages, told Ben-Gvir and his party colleagues during a parliamentary panel.

“Don’t pursue this until after they are back here,” she said. “Don’t put my sister’s blood on your hands.”

The only court-ordered execution in Israel was of convicted Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1962. Israeli military courts, which often handle cases involving Palestinians, have the power to hand down the death penalty by a unanimous decision of three judges, although this has never been implemented.

Hawkish politicians have, over the years, proposed easing terms for such sentencing, saying executions deter terrorism.

Doing this was “more critical now than ever”, Ben-Gvir said, “first of all, for the sake of those murdered and who fell in the line of duty and, no less, so that there will be no more people kidnapped”. His proposal has moved slowly in parliament. The conservative Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown little interest in advancing it during its long rule.

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