While the world focused on Hamas militants launching rockets from Gaza at southern Israel, the terrorist organization also voted quietly to implement Islamic law in the Gaza Strip, including crucifixion of Christians, according to reports in the Arabic press.
The traditional Muslim criminal code, known as Sharia law, includes penalties such as amputation of limbs for stealing and the death penalty, including crucifixion, for actions Hamas deems detrimental to “Palestinian interests,” including collaborating with Israel.
The new law was reported on the Al-Arabiya Web site and in the London-based Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayat, which wrote that the implementation of Sharia law has “brought criticism and concern from human rights organizations in the Gaza Strip.”
But the media scarcely took notice when the decision was reported during the Christian holidays as fighting between Hamas and Israel escalated in late December.
“Hamas’ endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad,” Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick wrote on Dec. 26. “Here, too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn’t feel neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools.”
Christians are a minority in Gaza, numbering fewer than 2,000 residents among 1.6 million in the Strip. After Hamas came to power, the Islamic group began enforcing sharia law more strictly, though not officially. Christians were the first to feel the squeeze. Some Christian men felt compelled to grow beards and women donned head scarves to downplay their identities as non-Muslims.
Sharia law is implemented fully in some nations, including Iran and Saudi Arabia. When Palestinian voters elected Hamas in 2006, organization spokesman Hamed Bitawi declared: “The Quran is our constitution, Muhammad is our prophet, jihad is our path, and dying as martyrs for the sake of Allah is our biggest wish.”
Palestinian officials in Gaza denied the adoption of Islamic law. However, Palestinian Media Watch, an organization that monitors the Arab press, says 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,” the media watchdog said. “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.”
Media Watch also noted that Hamas newspaper Al-Rissala reported, “The Bureau of Islamic Law is preparing a penal code in order to implement Sharia-Islamic Law.”
Hamas has financial backing from Iran, which supplies the group with rockets and weapons used to attack Israel. Despite espousing separate branches of Islam — Hamas is Sunni; Iran is Shiite — the organization shares the expressed wish of Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe out Israel. The Hamas charter states: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
Israel withdrew unilaterally, both residents and soldiers, from the Gaza Strip in 2005, leaving the territory entirely under Palestinian jurisdiction. Then, in a coup in 2007, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, ousting its rival party Fatah and assassinating Fatah loyalists. Since then, rocket fire launched at Israel’s southern communities increased. In December, a six-month period of calm collapsed and led to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, the bombings and attacks against Hamas militants in Gaza in retaliation for bombings of Israel.
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