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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Gaza's ruling Hamas movement executed three Palestinians on Thursday convicted of killing a commander in the Islamist group's armed wing while acting on Israel's orders.

Hamas' military prosecutor said the three men admitted to receiving orders from Israeli intelligence officers to track and kill Mazen Fuqaha on March 24 in Gaza City.

A military court convicted one of carrying out the shooting and the two others of providing Israel with information about Fuqaha's whereabouts.

Two of the men, aged 44 and 38, were hanged while the third, 38, a former security officer, was shot by firing squad, the Hamas-run interior ministry said.

The executions took place in an open yard of Gaza's main police headquarters, witnessed by leaders from Hamas and other Palestinian factions, as well as heads of Gaza clans.

Israel has established a network of contacts in the Palestinian territories, using a combination of pressure and sweeteners to entice Palestinians to divulge intelligence.

The Shin Bet security service, which carries out covert operations against Palestinian militants, did not respond to a request by Reuters for comment.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in an interview with Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper soon after Fuqaha's killing, said his death was part of an internal power dispute within Hamas.

Israel jailed Fuqaha in 2003 for planning attacks against Israelis, sentencing him to nine life terms. He was released in 2011 in a group of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners who Israel freed in exchange for a captured soldier.

Israeli media said that after Fuqaha's release and exile to Gaza he continued to plan attacks by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian and International human rights groups have repeatedly urged Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to suspend use of the death penalty.

Palestinian law says President Mahmoud Abbas, who has no actual control over Gaza, has the final word on whether executions can be carried out.

Hamas has sentenced 109 people to death and executed at least 25 since 2007, when the group seized power in Gaza from Abbas in a brief civil war.

Human Rights Watch's executive director of the Middle East division, Sara Leah Whitson, denounced what she called Hamas' "reliance on confessions, in a system where coercion, torture and deprivation of detainees' rights are prevalent."

(Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; editing by John Stonestreet)

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