By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) -Gaza's ruling Hamas Islamists executed five Palestinians on Sunday, two of them on charges of espionage for Israel that dated back to 2015 and 2009, the enclave's Hamas-run Interior Ministry said.
The dawn executions, by hanging or firing squad, were the first in the Palestinian territories since 2017. Past cases of capital punishment being carried out in Gaza have drawn criticism from human rights groups.
The ministry statement did not provide full names for any of the condemned men. It said three had been convicted of murder. The two convicted spies, aged 44 and 54, had given Israel information that led to the killing of Palestinians, it said.
The Israeli Prime Minister's Office, which oversees the country's intelligence services, declined comment.
"The execution was carried out after the conclusion of all legal procedures. The rulings had been final, with implementation mandatory, after all of the convicted were accorded full rights to defend themselves," the statement said.
Reuters could not immediately corroborate this.
Palestinian and international human rights groups have condemned the death penalty and urged Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to end the practice.
Palestinian law says President Mahmoud Abbas has final word on whether executions can be carried out. But he has no effective rule in Gaza.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned the executions by Hamas as a violation of Palestinian law. It said the move was also a violation of international commitments by Palestinian authorities.
Since Hamas took control of Gaza, its courts have sentenced around 180 Palestinians to death, and have executed 33 so far, the PCHR said.
(Writing by Nidal AlmughrabiEditing by Frances Kerry and Raissa Kasolowsky)