Al-Qassam Brigades terrorists (illustration)
Al-Qassam Brigades terrorists (illustration)Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

The "armed wing" of of the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza said Sunday it had executed one of its members, with sources familiar with the case claiming he was a senior official accused of spying for Israel.

"The Al-Qassam Brigades announce that the death penalty pronounced against its member Mahmoud Eshtawi has been applied today at 1600 hours (4 p.m.)," Hamas's "armed branch" said in a statement.

Executions have previously been carried out in Gaza, including in public squares, but it appeared to be the first time Al-Qassam itself had sentenced one of its own through a court martial and executed him. At the end of 2014 Operation Protective Edge Hamas launched an execution spree without trial.

The statement did not provide details on the accusations against Eshtawi other than to say that "the Brigades' military and Islamic judicial committee issued the sentence because he violated rules and ethics."

Eshtawi's duties included overseeing tunnels that have previously been used to store weapons and carry out attacks against Israel, the sources said.

According to the sources, he was in charge of a large unit and was previously a close associate of Mohammed Deif, the Al-Qassam terror chief who has been a frequent target of Israeli assassination attempts.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said in late December that nine death sentences had been issued in Gaza in 2015 and two in Judea and Samaria.

Since the start of 2016, four Gazans have been handed death sentences after being accused of spying for Israel. Gaza has launched three wars against Israel since 2008, shortly after Hamas took power.

AFP contributed to this report.