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Hamas investigates "honor" killing of 3 sisters

GAZA (Reuters) - A Hamas security force said on Monday the brother and cousin of three sisters who were stabbed to death last weekend were suspects of what was likely to have been an “honor killing” and ordered the men jailed.

Witnesses said unidentified men dumped the bodies of the women in a pre-dug grave in a cemetery late on Saturday and informed Hamas’s Executive Force. Medics said the sisters had multiple stab wounds.

The deaths of the women, who were aged 16 to 22, were the first such killings in Gaza since Hamas seized the area in June after routing loyalists of President Mahmoud Abbas.

The deaths pose a challenge to the Islamist group, which many credit with bringing a sense of security to Gaza, whose 1.5 million population suffer severe economic hardships.

“There is a law and no one should take the law into his hands,” said Executive Force Spokesman Islam Shahwan. “The defendants will be jailed and brought to justice”.

Shahwan said a preliminary inquiry showed the brother and cousin to be suspects in the killing of the sisters and that their motive was likely a desire to protect family honor.

“Honor killings” are usually carried out to punish women suspecting of committing acts seen as dishonorable to the family, such as being the victim of a rape or sex crime, refusing an arranged marriage or cheating on a husband.

Such killings are occasionally seen in the Arab and Muslim world.

RIGHTS GROUPS CONDEMN KILLINGS

Palestinian human rights groups in Gaza called on Monday for tougher punishments for those who carry out such crimes.

They said the deaths of the sisters brought to 12 the number of women killed in similar ways in 2007, in addition to 30 others who died in internal factional bloodshed and violence between clans, or extended families.

Bringing any suspected felons in Gaza to trial in the near future may be difficult as courts there have not functioned and Abbas ordered the Palestinian attorney general not to cooperate with Hamas following its takeover of the territory.

The al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights urged prosecutors to resume their jobs in order to look into crimes in Gaza. A Hamas official said Ismail Haniyeh, who Abbas had sacked as prime minister, could soon appoint a new attorney general in Gaza.

The leading Palestine Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said short jail terms were to blame for the reoccurrence of such killings.

Some human rights groups said killers sometimes use the pretext of protecting family Honor to gain a short court ruling in a Muslim regime, where adultery is forbidden, while their motive is to deprive women from inheritances left by parents.

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