Hamas executed 18 people on Friday, some of them in the streets of Gaza City in the middle of the day, after accusing them of collaborating with Israel, according to media linked to the Islamist group, which rules the Gaza Strip.
The killings followed what appeared to be a burst of improved Israeli intelligence-gathering that facilitated airstrikes against Hamas commanders this week.
In one instance, about 20 militants dressed in black and with their faces covered brought six of the condemned men, their heads covered with cloth bags, to an alley near the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City after midday prayers, witnesses said. A militant shot the men in the head one at a time with a pistol, after which he sprayed them with automatic rifle fire, the witnesses said. The bodies were loaded into government ambulances and taken away.
A total of 11 accused collaborators were executed in Gaza City on Friday morning, and another seven were executed around noon, the Hamas-affiliated news service Safa said. Three other executions were carried out Thursday, the news service said.
While Palestinian militants have executed suspected collaborators in past conflicts with Israel, the number of executions over the two days was unprecedented, according to Bahjat Hilu, the Gaza-based spokesman for the Independent Commission for Human Rights, a Palestinian rights group.
A senior Hamas leader has said the group carried out the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June — the first time anyone from the Islamic militant group has said it was behind an attack that helped spark the current war in the Gaza Strip.
Saleh Arouri told a conference in Turkey on Wednesday that Hamas’s military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, carried out what he described as a “heroic operation” with the broader goal of sparking a new Palestinian uprising.
Intensifying its targeted assassinations of militants, Israel’s air force on Thursday bombed a house in Gaza killing three senior Hamas commanders among 19 Palestinians on the 45th day of the deadly conflict.
The three field commanders killed, Mohammed Abu Shamala, Mohammed Barhoum and Raed al-Attar, were key to Hamas operations including smuggling, tunnel construction and also played a role in capturing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, who was later released in a swap deal.
They died in the attack near the southern town of Rafah, sources in Gaza said. Attar was the most senior commander in the south and was seen taking Shalit from the car and handing him over to the Egyptians during the prisoner exchange in 2011