Hamas gunmen have executed at least 17 suspected informants for Israel in Gaza City, Al Jazeera confirmed on Friday. The killings come a day after Israel killed three of the group's top military commanders in an airstrike on a house in the southern Gaza Strip.
A Gaza security official said 11 people were killed early on Friday at the Gaza City police headquarters. At least six more were killed later in the day in a public execution in a central Gaza square, according to a Hamas website and witnesses cited by Reuters. 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.
The Gaza security official said the first 11 men had been sentenced by Gaza courts, The Associated Press reported. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the incident with reporters.
Israel's intelligence services rely, in part, on informers to pinpoint the whereabouts of Hamas leaders.
Using financial inducements, blackmail and threats, Israel has a long and successful history of recruiting collaborators and informers both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
By publicizing the retribution brought down on the 17 people, Hamas appears to be sending a deterrent to other Palestinians.
The news came on a day of further civilian casualties resulting from both Israeli airstrikes and mortar fire from Palestinian fighters.
A 4-year-old child was killed in an attack on a southern Israeli village close to the Gazan border. The boy succumbed to wounds received during an early morning strike. It represents the first Israeli fatality since Egyptian-led cease-fire talks collapsed three days ago.
Meanwhile in Gaza, five Palestinians died in a an Israeli airstrike.
Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health official, said some of the victims were workers at a livestock farm that was hit in the airstrike.
The Israeli military said it carried out 20 airstrikes early on Friday, targeting rocket launchers and weapons sites. It said Gaza fighters fired two rockets at Israel.
Also Friday, funerals were held for the three senior Hamas commanders killed by yesterday’s Israeli air raids.
Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, said Israel killed Mohamed Abo Shamaleh, Raed al-Attar and Mohamed Barhoum in an attack in Rafah on Thursday, little more than a day after an attempt on the life of its leader Mohammed Deif.
The slain commanders' supporters later took over the streets as their funeral procession snaked through Rafah.
Another 31 people were killed in other Israeli strikes in Gaza since on Thursday, raising the overall death toll to 2,087 in 46 days of conflict.
Israel meanwhile said it was rotating 10,000 troops — meaning fresh soldiers were being prepared for possible future operations — a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel's offensive may be an extended operation.
Hamas condemned the strikes, with Sami Abu Zuhri, the group's spokesman, calling them a "big Israeli crime" for which it would pay.
The fighting resumed three days ago after Egyptian attempts to broker an end to the month-long war, with Palestinians firing dozens of rockets and Israel responding with airstrikes across Gaza.
Al Jazeera and wire services. Jacky Rowland contributed reporting.