Hamas has executed 18 Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel after three of its own military commanders were killed Thursday in an Israeli airstrike that may have been conducted on the basis of intelligence given by informants.
Eleven of the suspected informers were killed Friday at an abandoned Gaza police station following a hastily arranged trial and sentencing. Photos on the internet showed bodies lying in pools of blood.The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said that two of the dead were women.
Later Friday seven men were killed outside the al-Omari Mosque in Gaza City after noon prayers. The victims had their heads covered and their hands tied and were shot dead by masked gunmen in front of a crowd of worshipers, the al-Majd pro-Hamas website said, citing witnesses.
Men from Hamas left a note at the scene of the execution to serve as a warning for future collaborators.
“They provided the enemy with information about the whereabouts of fighters, tunnels of resistance, bombs, houses of fighters and places of rockets, and the occupation bombarded these areas killing a number of fighters... Therefore, the ruling of revolutionary justice was handed upon him," it read.
The Hamas-controlled Al Rai website ran a warning that said, “The same punishment will be imposed soon on others.” It added that “the current circumstances forced us to take such decisions,” suggesting a link between the executions and Israeli’s bombing of top Hamas leaders.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights has denounced the killings.
"We demand the Palestinian National Authority and the resistance [Palestinian armed factions] to intervene to stop these extrajudicial executions, no matter what the reasons and the motives are," Raji al-Surani, the chairman of the organization, said in a statement.
Israeli intelligence is widely believed to rely on informers in both Gaza and the West Bank. Collaborators are sometimes lured by money and sometimes coerced or blackmailed.If they are discovered, they are killed and their families, regardless of if they knew or not, are ostracized.
It is unclear how much of an effect Israel’s targeted killings of Hamas leaders will have. Normally senior political and military figures in Hamas stay hidden in networks of tunnels, and avoid using mobile phones.
The population of Gaza have been bombed for almost six weeks and suffered huge causalities. Similar campaigns by Israel in the past have done nothing to weaken support for the militant group, which has de facto control of Gaza.
Hamas’s senior leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said in statement that “despite the pain” of the loss of military commanders “the history of the Hamas movement has proven more than once that it is stronger after every targeted killing of one of its senior members.”
The fate of Mohammad Dief, the chief of the Qassam Brigades – the military wing of Hamas – is still uncertain after an airstrike on his house Tuesday killed his wife and two children. Israeli officials said they were confident that he was killed in the bombing.
Israeli airstrikes and rocket fire from Gaza continued Friday as diplomatic efforts to try and find an end to the crisis moved from Cairo to New York with hopes resting on a UN Security Council resolution drafted by the UK, France and Germany.
The text calls for an immediate ceasefire, the opening of crossings in and out of Gaza, international monitors to prevent weapons smuggling and the construction of secret tunnels and the Palestinian Authority to take over as the governing body of Gaza. However, no date has been set for when the proposal will be debated.
In a separate incident, a mortar bomb fired from the Gaza Strip has killed a four-year-old boy in Israel. The attacks happened on Friday evening in the southern Israeli village of Sdot Negev, close to the border with Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Hamas will pay a heavy price for the boy’s death.