Hamas leaders in Gaza have denied a report in the London-based Al-Hayyat according to which the group plans to institute an Islamic penal code including punishments such as crucifixion, lashes and amputations. However, according to the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) organization, the group is lying.

"Contrary to today's denials, official Hamas leaders have proudly announced in the Hamas-run media in the last two months that this Islamic penal code was being prepared,” PMW explained. “Indeed, senior Hamas leaders went so far as to say that when these laws are implemented, they will have force not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria—ed.].”

Heads of the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority in Gaza have specified that the new penal code will have “14 chapters and 220 clauses,” according to PMW. Despite their denials this week, Hamas leaders recently announced that the new code is almost ready.

PMW gave specific examples of recent statements contradicting Hamas' denial of this week's report on its planned Islamic law system. While a statement published in Al Ayyam on Thursday said, “The [Legislative] Council did not discuss any article of the penal code,” Hamas' Minister of Justice said, “This [Islamic penal] code is being discussed at the sessions of the Legislative Council, for a second reading,” less than six weeks earlier.

In a separate statement, senior Hamas justice officials said, “Similar [Islamic penal codes] have already been implemented in a number of Arabic and Islamic states such as Sudan, Yemen, the [Arab] Emirates and Indonesia.”

Preparation of the Islamic penal code was confirmed by the Bureau of Islamic Law in Gaza as well. In mid-November, the group released a statement saying, “The Bureau of Islamic Law is preparing a Penal Code in order to implement Sharia-Islamic Law.” The statement was printed in the Hamas paper Al-Rissala.