Hamas executes 18 in killing spree

Victims 'were lined up and shot' outside mosque as an example

Robert Tait

Published 23/08/2014 | 02:30

Hamas shot dead 18 suspected collaborators yesterday in a public killing spree provoked by the Israeli assassination of its most senior military commanders.
Seven people were killed outside the Omari mosque in Gaza City's Palestine Square in a display apparently designed as a deterrent for other would-be informants. Masked militants clad in black shot the victims, whose faces were covered and hands tied behind their backs, as worshippers emerged from Friday prayers, witnesses said.

"This is the final moment of the Zionist enemy collaborators," one of the gunmen announced, before firing.

The crimes of the condemned were set out on a "conviction notice" pasted on to a nearby wall. "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," it said. The gruesome episode - the first public execution-style murders in the coastal territory since the 1990s - came after Hamas confirmed the killing of another 11 people in the grounds of Gaza's bombed-out police headquarters. Two of those put to death were said to be women.

It was also reported that a further three alleged informants were killed on Thursday.

A pro-Hamas website said the killings were part of an operation called "strangling the necks" with the goal of "targeting collaborators who aid the [Israeli] occupation, kill our people and destroy houses".

Human rights campaigners denounced the shootings as "extra-judicial killings" carried out by "death squads" without due process.

"These executions are plainly against the law and have to be stopped," said Hamdi Shaqqura, deputy director of the Gaza City-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).

"It has never been more important for Gaza to obey the rule of law and human rights than during this current military onslaught.

"Unfortunately, there's a very angry mood against collaborators, accusing them of being behind the crimes and assassinations committed by Israel, so generally the public is supportive."

The identities of those killed were still unknown last night, with human rights workers trying to establish whether they included several people already condemned as collaborators before the conflict with Israel began on July 8.

PCHR's field workers were being prevented from seeing the bodies at Gaza City's Shifa hospital by a heavy security presence, according to Mr Shaqqura. There have been previous unconfirmed reports of collaborators being shot in recent weeks, including one episode in which five unidentified bodies were dumped in the grounds of Shifa hospital.

The latest wave appeared to be a reaction against Israel's success in finding members of the Islamist movement's military leadership after weeks of strikes whose main casualties were civilians, including women and children.

Three of Hamas's top commanders, Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum, were killed on Thursday after Israeli missiles destroyed a house in which they were staying in the southern city of Rafah.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, attributed the assassinations to "superior intelligence".

Israel also targeted Mohammed Deif, Hamas's reclusive military leader, on Wednesday in a strike that killed his wife and two children and levelled a six-storey building in Gaza City. Israeli officials said the strike was ordered after intelligence showed Mr Deif had emerged from weeks of hiding.

He and other Hamas leaders are believed to have sought refuge in deep underground bunkers to escape assassination attempts.

Hamas insists that Mr Deif - who has survived five previous attempts on his life - is still alive, but has provided no proof of his whereabouts.

Several alleged informers were killed during previous military conflicts between Hamas and Israel. In one notorious episode following the eight-day war of November 2012, a supposed collaborator was dragged through Gaza City's streets by men on motorcycles after being shot.

During the present conflict Israeli forces have dropped leaflets giving phone numbers and email addresses for Gazans to contact with information about the location of militants, tunnels and rocket-launching sites.

Analysts say Israeli intelligence agents use low-level bribery - such as modest sums of money or permits to enter Israel - as well as blackmail to lure informers.

Meanwhile, Britain, Germany and France have drafted a document intended as the basis of a potential UN Security Council resolution aimed at bringing the hostilities to a halt. The document, which proposes returning Gaza to Palestinian Authority control, rebuilding the territory's shattered infrastructure and restarting peace talks on the basis of 1967 borders, is said to have gained US support. Last night two Palestinians were killed in another Israeli air strike in Gaza as fighting continued for a third day after the collapse of Egyptian-led ceasefire talks, a Gaza health official said.

Ashraf al Kidra said the victims were workers at a livestock farm which was hit in the attack.

The Israeli military said it carried out 20 air strikes, targeting rocket launchers and weapons sites. It said Gaza militants fired two rockets at Israel.

Earlier this week, Hamas rejected an Egyptian ceasefire proposal under which Israel would gradually ease its blockade of Gaza.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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