Hamas has shot dead 11 suspected informants for Israel, a day after an Israeli airstrike on a house in southern Gaza Strip killed three top Hamas military commanders.
The Hamas-run website Al Rai said the 11 were killed by firing squad and warned that “the same punishment will be imposed soon on others”.
It suggested a link between the killing of the alleged informers and Israel’s targeting of top terrorists leaders, saying that “the current circumstances forced us to take such decisions”.
A Gaza security official said the suspected informants were killed in the Gaza City police headquarters. The official said the 11 had previously been sentenced by Gaza courts.
Al Rai said they were killed after the completion of “legal procedures”, suggesting a hastily arranged hearing.
It marks the third time since the outbreak of the Gaza war six weeks ago that Hamas has announced the killing of alleged collaborators. Yesterday, it said seven people had been arrested and three of them killed on suspicion of working with Israel.
In pinpointing the whereabouts of the Hamas commanders, it is likely Israel relied to some extent on local informers. Israel has maintained a network of informers despite its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, at times using blackmail or the lure of exit permits to win cooperation.
Meanwhile, Israel-Gaza fighting continued for a third day since the collapse of Egyptian-led ceasefire talks earlier this week.
An Israeli airstrike on a Gaza farm killed two Palestinians, a Gaza health official said. By mid-morning, Israel had launched about 20 airstrikes on Gaza, while Gaza militants fired at least 26 rockets at Israel, the Israeli military said.
The renewed exchanges have dashed hopes for a lasting truce after a month-long war that has already killed over 2,000 Palestinians. Earlier this week, Hamas rejected an Egyptian truce proposal under which Israel would gradually ease its blockade of Gaza, without giving specific commitments.
Hamas demands a lifting of the border closure imposed by Israel and Egypt after the militant group’s takeover of the coastal strip in 2007.
A quick resumption of indirect talks between Israel and Hamas in Cairo also seems unlikely, particularly after the killing of the three Hamas commanders. Senior Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said late yesterday that his group would not budge from its demands.
“We will not accept anything less than an end to the (Israeli) aggression and an end to the blockade,” he said in a statement posted by Al Rai. “Anyone involved in cease-fire efforts must understand that our people will not accept anything less than this.”
Despite the crisis, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was in Qatar meeting Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal to push him to return to a ceasefire, and to encourage Qatar to support Egyptian ceasefire efforts, a Palestinian official said.
Abbas was set to travel to Egypt later to meet with Egyptian intelligence officials to discuss ceasefire efforts, the official added.
Since Israel-Hamas fighting erupted on July 8, at least 2,086 Palestinians have been killed in the coastal territory, according to Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra.
Nearly a quarter of the dead – 469 – are children, according to the top Unicef field officer in Gaza, Pernilla Ironside. Of the more than 10,400 Palestinians wounded, nearly a third are children, according to Unicef figures, while some 100,000 Gazans have been left homeless.
On the Israeli side, 67 people have been killed in the past six weeks, including 64 soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker.
The airstrike that hit the livestock farm where two workers were killed, also wounded three Palestinians, al-Kidra said. The Israeli military said its strikes targeted concealed rocket launchers and weapons sites.
In Israel, one civilian was moderately wounded by a rocket that hit the major southern city of Beersheva and another Israeli was lightly hurt by a rocket that landed in the border town of Sderot.
Israel has said that the three Hamas commanders killed yesterday played a key role in expanding the militants’ military capabilities in recent years, including digging attack tunnels leading to Israel, training fighters and smuggling weapons to Gaza.
One of the trio also played a role in the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006. After being held captive in Gaza for more than five years, he was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in 2011.
Israel says the Gaza blockade is needed to prevent Hamas and other groups from getting weapons. The restrictions prevent most Gazans from travelling outside the crowded coastal strip and bar most exports.