Hamas executed 18 suspected informants to Israel Friday, one day after three Hamas leaders were killed in an Israeli airstrike, and two days after a longtime Hamas leader said that the military wing of the organization was responsible for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens that sparked the past six weeks of brutal fighting in Gaza.
Eleven alleged informants were shot to death early Friday at Gaza City police headquarters, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which also said two of the dead were women. Seven more people were killed later in a public execution behind the al-Omari mosque shortly after noontime prayers.
A witness told the Associated Press that masked gunmen with automatic weapons lined the group up against a wall outside the mosque, their alleged crimes scrawled on scraps of paper above their heads. One hooded executioner reportedly said the alleged spies had "sold their souls to the enemy for a cheap price."
The executions followed an Israeli airstrike Thursday that killed Hamas commanders Raed al-Attar, Mohammed Barhoum, and Mohammed Abu Shammala. Mohammed Deif, the head of the group's military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was the target of an Israeli strike on Tuesday. His fate is not known, though Hamas claims he escaped.
More than 2,000 Palestinians, along with 67 Israelis, have been killed in the fighting in and around Gaza that followed the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens who originally went missing June 12. Their bodies were discovered two weeks later in the West Bank, which led to a swift crackdown by Israeli forces.
On Wednesday, for the first time, a longtime Hamas official said publicly that Hamas was responsible for the killings. Saleh Arouri, a founder of the Qassam Brigades, said in Turkey that the Brigades had carried out the operation with hopes that it would ignite a Palestinian uprising. Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility, and no other Hamas leaders have echoed Arouri's claim.
Hamas also said it killed another three alleged spies Thursday, and the group has used extrajudicial killings in the past to deal with suspected informants. But Friday's executions mark the single greatest purge Hamas has instituted in Gaza since it took control in 2007. As Hamas media reported, the group is "choking the necks of the collaborators."
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