Hamas, the Islamist movement ruling Gaza, on Tuesday executed three Palestinians convicted of murder, drawing criticism from its rival Fatah, rights groups and the EU.
"The three men were executed early on Tuesday morning by shooting and not by hanging," said a statement from the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza. "It wasn't a public execution."
Only representatives of the families of the three murder victims attended the execution, which took place in the southern town of Khan Younis.
The executions are an escalation in tensions between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose rival Fatah party controls the West Bank.
The death penalty must be approved by the president, under Palestinian Basic Law. As Hamas does not recognize Abbas' legitimacy, it carried out the executions without his signature.
In the last nine years, Hamas has executed dozens of Palestinians found guilty in military courts of collaborating with Israel.
These were the first death penalties carried out by Hamas against people convicted in criminal courts.
Abbas' administration slammed Hamas' move as "illegal."
In 2007, Hamas seized sole control of the coastal enclave by violently overpowering Abbas' forces.
The two sides have been entangled in a power struggle since the Islamists won parliamentary elections in 2006.
Hamas Attorney General Ismail Jabber told reporters in Gaza last week that the executions would "achieve social justice."
Gaza-based political analyst Naji Shurab said the decision "was made to ease and relax popular pressure" on Hamas in Gaza.
The victims' family members have been demonstrating in Gaza over the past two weeks, demanding the execution of the murderers.
"Hamas suffers from a crisis in popular trust," Shurab told dpa.
The United Nations and rights groups expressed concerns over whether the trials were fair.
The European Union condemned the executions.
"The de facto authorities in Gaza must refrain from carrying out any further executions of prisoners and comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority," it said in a statement.