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Ben-Gvir told to stop talk of execution for Hamas prisoners

Ben-Gvir told to stop talk of execution for Hamas prisoners by families of Gaza hostages
3 min read
20 November, 2023
Families of Israeli hostages held in Gaza have told Israeli minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and other far-right politicians to stop talking about executing Hamas detainees in Israel.
Far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has been calling for Hamas detainees to be executed [Getty]

Relatives of some of the 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza urged far-right Israeli lawmakers on Monday not to pursue proposed capital punishment for captured Palestinian militants, saying that even talk of doing so might endanger the lives of their captured loved ones.

A number of suspected gunmen were detained after Hamas launched a surprise attack on the Gaza Strip on October 7.

Israel's Justice Ministry said on November 7 that a task force was discussing how to try the Palestinians who had been detained and secure "punishments befitting the severity of the horrors committed" for those convicted.

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has called for the death penalty, which is dormant on Israel's law books.

Some of the relatives of the people held captive by Hamas in Gaza worry the publicity around the capital punishment debate could invite reprisals even as hopes of a deal to free some of them is growing.

"It would mean playing along with their mind games. And in return we would get pictures of our loves ones murdered, ended, with the State of Israel being blamed for it," Yarden Gonen, whose sister Romi is among the hostages, told Ben-Gvir and his party colleagues during a parliamentary panel.

"Don't pursue this until after they are back here," she said. "Don't put my sister's blood on your hands."

'Confused priorities'

Two gunmen who had crossed into Israel during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack were caught by Israeli security forces around a month later, Israel's police announced on Monday. The two had hid out in a Bedouin city in southern Israel.

Israeli authorities have not published the full number of Palestinians detained for infiltrating. The military said it captured more than 300 Palestinians from armed groups in Gaza who have been brought to Israel for interrogation.

The only court-ordered execution in Israel was of convicted Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1962. Israeli military courts, which often handle cases involving Palestinians, have the power to hand down the death penalty by a unanimous decision of three judges, although this has never been implemented.

Over the years, hawkish politicians have proposed easing terms for such sentencing, saying executions deter terrorism.

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Doing this was "more critical now than ever," Ben-Gvir said, "first of all, for the sake of those murdered and who fell in the line of duty and, no less, so that there will be no more people kidnapped".

His proposal is currently moving through the Knesset. 

Linor Dan-Calderon, three of whose relatives are hostages, accused Ben-Gvir's party of having "confused priorities".

"You've gotten mixed up, because we are a nation that pursues life, not one that pursues revenge - even if, in the past, we did something to Eichmann," she said. "I am simply asking you to drop this from the agenda."