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17 Israeli collaborators executed in Gaza as bombardment continues

Hamas forces killed the convicted collaborators on Friday as analysts say both sides feel political pressure to continue, justify the death, damage already wrought
Smoke trails mark the path of Palestinian missiles fired from Gaza City on Thursday (AFP)

At least 17 Palestinians were executed in Gaza on Friday, after being convicted of collaborating with Israel, according to the Hamas-affiliated al-Rai news agency.

The suspects were killed at Gaza’s police headquarters, the Associated Press reported. They were arrested after an Israeli strike killed three senior Hamas leaders early on Thursday.

Two of the bodies were seen at al-Azhar University and several others taken to al-Shifa hospital, Ma’an News reported. On Thursday, Hamas executed three and arrested seven other suspected collaborators.

Collaboration with Israel is punishable by death under Palestinian law. Israel uses information passed to them by Palestinians to plan arrests and carry out assassinations against political and military figures.

All execution orders are required to be approved by the Palestinian Authority president, however, Hamas do not view incumbent Mahmoud Abbas as legitimate due to his four-year term ending in 2009.

Outgoing UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has previously decried the judicial process for death sentences in Gaza as “deeply flawed”.

News of the executions came as Israeli air strikes killed four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Friday, two in Deir al-Balah and two in Nusseirat, an emergency services spokesman said.

The strike in Nusseirat hit a house, killing two men aged 24 and 22, and that in Deir al-Balah open farmland, Ashraf al-Qudra told reporters.

The latest deaths come as the Israeli army said Friday that its troops hit 160 targets since the collapse of a temporary ceasefire on Tuesday while a Hamas leader said assassinations make the movement stronger.

The Qassam Brigades responded to Thursday's assassinations of three Hamas leaders by firing rockets in the early evening at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. The group had earlier warned international airlines to halt flights to the airport on Thursday morning, but the morning passed without incident.

"We assure everybody that we will continue to move ahead, even with the pains we feel at the absence of our leaders in the field," Ismail Haniyeh, deputy head of Hamas' political office, said late Thursday.

"The history of our movement had proved that it becomes stronger after the assassination of its leaders," he added in a statement.

Analysts say the racheting up of fighting between Israelis and fighters in Gaza reflects a long intractable conflict that is in a moment of particular political deadlock.

Some say a deal may have been close during negotiations in Cairo earlier this week, but now that both sides have returned to fighting, neither can afford to step back politically as they are under pressure to legitimise the death toll on both sides.

"You are stuck with it now because both sides know that they need a ceasefire, but both of them might be questioned for what they did. 'Was it really necessary to get what you could have gotten years ago?'" said Yossi Mekelberg, an associate felllow at Chatham House's Middle East and North Africa Programme. 

"Everyone knows what needs to be done and no one has the courage to do it," Mekelberg said. "It’s an analogy for the whole conflict."

At least 2,086 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 Israelis have been killed since fighting began on 7 July.  

UN warns renewed violence threatens aid delivery

As fighting continued, UN aid workers stepped up calls on Thursday for an urgent Gaza ceasefire, warning that spiralling violence endangered their ability to respond to the needs of the 1.8 million affected population.

The head of UNICEF's field office in Gaza, Anne-Claire Dufay, told AFP that renewed hostilities were threatening the delivery of aid to hundreds of thousands of children with acute needs.

"We urgently need a few hours of ceasefire per day so we can provide support to affected children and families," Dufay told AFP.

Work to repair infrastructure damaged during the six-week Israeli offensive has temporarily halted since hostilities resumed on Tuesday as truce talks unravelled, she said.

UNICEF teams had also had their movement restricted, Dufay said.

"In the current context we should at least have a few hours a day for a humanitarian ceasefire corridor," she said.

Ramesh Rajasingham, head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Gaza and the West Bank, said there was an "urgent need for an immediate ceasefire".

The number of displaced Palestinians has risen to 435,000, the UN says, since truce talks collapsed in Cairo.

The United Nations warned that the number of displaced is expected to increase further with an extra 23,000 people already seeking shelter at 82 UN and seven government schools.

Rajasingham said constant movement between homes and shelters, when ceasefires begin and end, was traumatic, particularly for children.

"It is extremely difficult for us to do our job, to save lives, protect and assist those in need, including for medical staff to save lives, of aid workers to meet needs, for specialists to clear unexploded munitions, or for technicians to repair damage to infrastructure vital to the population," he said.

"In the long run, a permanent halt in violence stemming from a durable ceasefire is crucial to mitigating the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip," he added.

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