The armed wing of Hamas has executed 18 Palestinians Friday for allegedly collaborating with Israel during the Gaza war, Gaza sources said, after a website close to the movement reported three were killed and seven arrested Thursday.
Friday's killings came a day after Israel killed three top Hamas military commanders in an airstrike on a house in southern Gaza Strip. Israel's intelligence services rely, in part, on informers to pinpoint the whereabouts of Hamas leaders, and
Hamas has vowed revenge for their deaths.
Hamas militants killed seven Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel in a public execution in a central Gaza square on Friday, witnesses and a Hamas website said, the first public executions in the Palestinian enclave since the 1990s.
The victims, their heads covered and hands tied, were shot dead by masked gunmen dressed in black in front of a crowd of worshippers outside a mosque after prayers, witnesses and al-Majd, a pro-Hamas website, said.
Near the scene of the execution, Hamas' men attached a note serving as a general indictment for the '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,"
The Hamas-run website Al Rai said earlier that 11 others were killed by firing squad and warned that "the same punishment will be imposed soon on others." They were killed by gunmen at an abandoned police station in Gaza earlier on Friday, Hamas security officials said.
It suggested a link between the killing of the alleged informers and Israel's targeting of top Hamas leaders, saying that "the current circumstances forced us to take such decisions."
The Majd website quoted a senior security official in the enclave as saying seven people had been arrested on suspicion of scoping out targets for Israel and that three others had been shot dead. No date was given for the executions or the arrests but the statement was made Thursday.
Earlier on Friday, 11 suspected collaborators were shot dead at an abandoned police station, a Hamas security official said. At the site, Reuters saw two bodies being loaded onto an ambulance before being told to leave the area.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza denounced the killings.
"We demand the Palestinian National Authority and the resistance (Palestinian armed factions) to intervene to stop these extra-judicial executions, no matter what reasons and the motives are," Raji al-Surani, the chairman of the organisation, said in a statement.
Al Majd website reported on August 6 that "a number" of Palestinian collaborators had been killed, again without giving a date.
Al Rai, however, said they were killed after the completion of "legal procedures," suggesting a hastily arranged hearing.
On July 13, witnesses in the southern city of Rafah reported seeing gunmen kill a man in the middle of the street in another incident which appeared to be the execution of a suspected collaborator.
Israel and Hamas have been at war since July 8 in a conflict that has killed 2,075 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side.
Under Palestinian law, collaborating with Israel, murder and drug trafficking are punishable by death. In May, Hamas announced the execution of two men accused of being collaborators, saying they had been executed in accordance with the law.
In principle, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, is supposed to approve all executions. Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since winning elections in the enclave in 2007. Although it handed the reins of power to a Ramallah-based administration in early June, it remains the de facto power in Gaza.
Reuters, AFP and AP contributed to this report