Hamas terrorists prepare to execute a man in Gaza (file)
Hamas terrorists prepare to execute a man in Gaza (file)Reuters

A Hamas commander who was executed in February was tortured and then killed after at least one terrorist under his command admitted to having sex with him.

Hamas sources gave few details of the reasons behind the execution at the time, with some saying the Al Qassam Brigades commander was accused of spying for Israel, while an official statement from the Brigades' military and Islamic judicial committee said only that he was killed for "violating rules and ethics."

According to a New York Times investigation Mahmoud Ishtiwi - who hailed from a prominent pro-Hamas family and was responsible was for a range of operations, including overseeing weapons smuggling through Hamas's tunnel network - was initially called in for questioning by Hamas over suspicions he had siphoned off money meant for buying weapons.

When Ishtiwi surprised interrogators by immediately confessing to that crime, they suspected he was attempting to cover up something bigger, and took him in for further interrogation. Relatives and other sources say he was tortured extensively during that period, including beatings, whippings, being suspended by his hands from the ceiling for hours on end, sleep deprivation and more.

So bad were his conditions that family members protested outside the home of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a rare show of dissent in authoritarian-ruled Gaza. Demonstrators were beaten by Hamas police and dispersed.

According to the report - details of which were confirmed by a Hamas official close to the investigation itself - the investigation was eventually expanded to include terrorists under Ishtiwi's command.

When one of them confessed to having had sex with his commander, investigators concluded that at least some of the money was used either as payment for the "favor", or in order to keep him quiet. Apart from breaching Hamas's Islamic "moral" code, the revelations had major security implications: if Israeli intelligence had found out about the potentially embarrassing incident involving such a prominent Hamas figure, they could have used it as leverage to force him to help them.

Specifically, Hamas officials suspected Ishtiwi may have helped the IDF locate elusive Al-Qassam chief Mohammed Deif during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Deif was reportedly injured in an Israeli airstrike, which killed his wife, but escaped alive.

Ishtiwi eventually confessed to all the charges against him - but relatives who saw him in the days before his execution say he appeared "destroyed", and had secretly written the word "wronged" on his hand and leg, indicating that his confessions had been made under duress.

Shortly before he was killed, his sister said he told her he had never committed any of the acts he was accused of.

As a last resort, his mother sent a video message to Mohammed Deif himsef - who the family had sheltered on numerous occasions - begging for clemency.

Her pleas were ignored, and Ishtiwi was executed on February 7.