GAZA CITY - Hamas authorities have been burning piles of narcotics and cannabis in a yearly sweep against drugs in the beleaguered Gaza Strip.
Officers in military fatigues on Monday poured gasoline and set alight more than 1 million tablets of opioid painkiller tramadol, about 1,500 slabs of hashish and 900 grams of opium.
With residents suffering under a decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade since the militant Hamas took power, authorities say drug use has grown among Gaza's 2 million residents as people look for an escape from harsh living conditions, soaring unemployment and travel restrictions.
Hamas says it is fighting the endemic relentlessly. On Monday, it sentenced 17 people convicted of drug trafficking to hard labor prison terms of 10 years to life.
Last year, Hamas legislators endorsed the death penalty to curb drugs.