GAZA CITY: Hamas gunmen executed 18 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel in the heart of Gaza City yesterday, as the deadly war between the Islamist movement and Israel reached day 46.
The Palestinian emergency services say another 75 people have died in Gaza since hostilities resumed on Tuesday following a nine-day truce. In Israel, two civilians have been wounded by direct rocket attacks.
European governments, meanwhile, are seeking UN action to stop the bloodshed after frantic Egyptian diplomatic efforts failed to secure a durable ceasefire to the worst fighting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since a 2000-05 intifada.
Israel has vowed to continue its campaign of air strikes until it can guarantee the security of millions of citizens who live in daily fear of rocket attacks, and Hamas is defiant over demands that the Jewish state end an eight-year blockade on the narrow Palestinian coastal enclave it controls.
At least 2,091 Palestinians have been killed since July 8, of whom the United Nations has identified 70 percent as civilians, and 67 people have died on the Israeli side, all but three of them soldiers.
In broad daylight outside Gaza’s largest mosque, a day after Israel killed three of the movement’s top militants, Hamas gunmen grabbed six men from among hundreds of worshippers spilling out onto the street, witnesses said.
They were pushed to the ground. One of the masked men shouted: “This is the final moment of the Zionist enemy collaborators,” then the gunmen sprayed them with bullets.
Earlier, another witness saw 11 people shot dead in a square near the remains of Gaza police headquarters, bombed by Israeli warplanes. An 18th person was shot in front of bystanders in a separate incident nearby.
The Hamas-linked website Majd, said the 11 were killed after they “gave information to the Zionist enemy.”
On Thursday, Majd said Hamas shot dead three other men and arrested seven for allegedly reconnoitring targets for Israeli strikes. The Israeli military said yesterday it struck around 30 targets in Gaza since midnight as 45 rocket and mortar shells hit Israel during the same period.
Another seven rockets were shot down, a spokeswoman said.
Israeli air strikes killed five Palestinians in the centre of the Gaza Strip yesterday, two in Deir Al Balah and three in Nusseirat, the local emergency services said.
One strike in Nusseirat hit a house, killing two men aged 24 and 22, while in Deir Al Balah it landed in open farmland, Ashraf Al Qudra said. A drone strike later targeted a 45-year-old man in Nusseirat who died of his injuries in hospital shortly afterwards, Qudra’s office said.
A mortar bomb fired from Gaza killed a four-year-old Israeli child in a border collective farm yesterday, Israeli security sources said.
The boy would be the fourth civilian in Israel to be killed in an attack from the coastal territory since the outbreak of conflict on July 8, and the first Israeli death since an Egyptian-brokered truce broke down earlier this week. More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, most of them civilians. A rocket fired from Gaza hit a synagogue in the Israeli city of Ashdod, wounding three people, police said. Ashdod is around 30km from Gaza.
On Thursday, Britain, France and Germany presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire, and the lifting of Israel’s blockade.
Diplomats said the text was aimed at advancing efforts to reach agreement within the 15-member council after a draft resolution from Jordan met with resistance, notably from the United States. Washington has wielded its veto powers at the UN Security Council repeatedly in the past on behalf of its Israeli ally.
But relations have been strained over the breakdown of US-brokered peace efforts and concerns over the scale of the civilian death toll in Gaza.
The new resolution proposes a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire and supervise the movement of goods into Gaza to allay Israeli security concerns.
It also called for the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas to take back control of Gaza, seven years after his loyalists were driven out of the territory by Hamas. Abbas yesterday held a second day of talks with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Qatar, a Palestinian source said.
Israel yesterday showed no sign of ending its deadly campaign to halt rocket fire by Gaza militants.
The security cabinet authorised the call-up of up to 10,000 army reservists in a new troop rotation, Israeli media reported. Finance Minister Yair Lapid, regarded as one of the less hawkish members of the security cabinet, threatened further deadly attacks on Hamas commanders after three leading militants were killed in a pre-dawn strike on Thursday.
“Hamas leaders need to know that we shall not stop now,” he said in remarks broadcast yesterday by public radio.
“Each and every one of them — the political wing, the military wing, abroad or in Gaza itself — needs to know that he is a legitimate target for assassination as long as they continue... to threaten Israeli citizens,” Lapid said. Thursday’s strike came just 36 hours after Israel tried to assassinate Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif, who has topped its most wanted list for more than a decade. That attack levelled a six-storey building in Gaza City, killing two women and three children, among them Deif’s wife, his infant son and three-year-old daughter.