Hamas-led gunmen in Gaza executed 18 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel on Friday, a day after Israel tracked down and killed three top Hamas commanders, the highest-ranking militants to be killed in the six-week war, Reuters reported.
Seven people were shot dead in front of worshippers outside a mosque in one of Gaza's main squares, witnesses said, the first public executions in the Palestinian enclave since the 1990s. A further 11 were killed at an abandoned police station near Gaza City, Hamas security officials said.
In the public execution, militants wearing masks and dressed in black gunned down the suspects, whose faces were covered and hands bound, as worshippers emerged from the Omari mosque on Palestine Square, one of Gaza's busiest districts.
"The resistance has begun an operation called 'strangling the necks', targeting collaborators who aid the (Israeli) occupation, kill our people and destroy houses," a pro-Hamas website said.
A so-called conviction letter signed by the "Palestinian Resistance" was posted on a wall near to where the bodies of alleged collaborators lay. The notice read:
"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,"
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 organization, said in a statement.
Israel launched an offensive on July 8 with the stated aim of putting an end to cross-border rocket fire from Gaza.
Health officials in the small, densely populated enclave said the Palestinian death toll rose to 2,070 on Friday, mostly civilians, after a father and his son were killed in an Israeli air strike near Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have also been killed in the conflict.
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