The names of the men are said to have been scrawled on the road after they had been questioned by Hamas security officials about who provided the ‘human intelligence’ necessary to pinpoint targets for ‘precision’ attacks that have 118 Palestinians – half civilians, including women and children, dead – in seven days of military operations.
The content of the Egyptian plan is unknown, but both Israel and Hamas have presented conditions and Egyptian intelligence officials are meeting representatives from Israel and Hamas separately.
Israel – concentrating on arms and weaponry demands
Israel demands an end to rocket fire from Gaza and a halt to weapons smuggling into Gaza through tunnels under the border with Egypt.
It also wants international guarantees that Hamas will not rearm or use Egypt’s Sinai region, which abuts both Gaza and southern Israel, to attack Israelis.
Hamas – wants attacks halted and restrictions lifted
Hamas wants Israel to halt all attacks on Gaza and lift tight restrictions on trade and movement in and out of the territory that have been in place since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.
Israel has rejected such demands in the past.
Hamas Aqsa radio quoted a security official as saying the men had been ‘caught red handed’ with ‘hi-tech equipment and filming equipment to take footage of positions.’
Gunmen chained the body of one of the alleged collaborators to a motorcycle and dragged it throughout the main streets of Gaza City in a warning to others who ‘betrayed’ Palestinians.
The executions came as Israel carried out more than 150 more strikes in Gaza and dropped leaflets in the heavily populated north and south of the city warning Palestinians to evacuate certain areas.
The leaflets include a ‘grid’ of streets to be cleared, adding : ‘The Israel Defence Forces are not targeting any of you and they do not want to harm you or your families. For your safety, you are required to evacuate your residences immediately and move towards central Gaza city.’
The move was seen as preparation for a possible land offensive but also a means as increasing pressure on Hamas to give ground in its demands over the terms of a ceasefire agreement being brokered in Cairo through Egypt.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to the region yesterday to meet with leaders in what was seen to be a key move by President Barack Obama to ensure Israel pulls back from a land offensive.
Mrs Clinton is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and Egyptian leaders in Cairo.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that Israel is exploring a diplomatic solution, but wouldn’t balk at a broader military operation.
‘I prefer a diplomatic solution, he said, ‘But if the fire continues, we will be forced to take broader measures and will not hesitate to do so.’
He added : ‘If a long-term solution can be put in place by diplomatic means, Israel will be a willing partner.’
UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon is already locked in talks in the region and warned yesterday : ‘This must stop, immediate steps are needed to avoid further escalation, including a ground operation. Both sides must hold fire immediately … Further escalation of the situation could put the entire region at risk.’
As Ban spoke in Jerusalem, residents ran for cover when Palestinians fired a rocket towards the holy city for the second time since the fighting started last Wednesday.
TV pictures showed terrified people sheltering behind walls and beside cars.
The rocket, which set off sirens in the city, landed harmlessly in an open area on the outskirts in one of the longest rocket strikes fired from the Gaza.
Jerusalem had previously been considered beyond the range of Gaza rockets – and an unlikely target because it is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest shrine.
Israeli officials feared Gaza’s Hamas rulers will try to stage similar attacks deep into Israel’s heartland ahead of any possible truce.
Three Israeli civilians have been killed and dozens wounded since the fighting began last week, the numbers kept down by a rocket-defence system that Israel developed with U.S. funding. More than 1,000 rockets have been fired at Israel this week, the military said.
Shortly after the Jerusalem attack, an Israeli airstrike destroyed a car in Gaza City killing five people and seriously wounding four others. Six Palestinians died yesterday, health officials said.
In a sign of the difficulty diplomats will have in forging such a cease-fire, a man identified as Mohammed Deif, Hamas’ elusive military commander, urged his fighters to keep up attacks on Israel.
Speaking from hiding on Hamas-run TV and radio, Deif said Hamas ‘must invest all resources to uproot this aggressor from our land,’ a reference to Israel.
Deif is one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing and was its top commander until he was seriously wounded in an Israeli airstrike in 2003. He was replaced as the de facto leader by Ahmed Jabari, who was assassinated by Israel last week in the opening salvo of its latest Gaza offensive.
Foreign Secretary William Hague warned the Commons the ‘window’ for a negotiated two-state solution between Gaza and Israel would soon be closed.
He said: “There is no military resolution to the crisis in Gaza or to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace becomes harder to achieve with each confrontation, each loss of life.
‘The only way to give the Palestinian people the state that they need and deserve, and the Israeli people the security and peace they are entitled to, is through a negotiated two-state solution and time for this is now running out.
‘This requires Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations, Israel to stop illegal settlement building, Palestinian factions to reconcile with each other and the international community, led by the United States, and supported by European nations to make a huge effort to push the peace process forward urgently.’
Meanwhile, The conflict showed signs of spilling into the West Bank, as hundreds of Palestinian protesters in the town of Jenin clashed with Israeli forces during a demonstration against Israel’s Gaza offensive.
Two Palestinian protesters were killed in anti-Israel demonstrations in the West Bank on Monday, according to Palestinian officials. Separate clashes occurred yesterday in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government, during the funeral for one of the dead.
Successive Israeli governments have struggled to come up with an effective policy toward Hamas, which is deeply rooted in Gaza, a densely populated territory of 1.6 million.
Neither Israel’s economic blockade of the territory nor bruising military strikes have cowed Gaza’s Islamists, weakened their grip on the Palestinian strip their ability to fire rockets at the Jewish state.
An Israeli ground invasion would risk Israeli troop losses, and it could send the number of Palestinian civilian casualties ballooning – a toll Israel could be reluctant to risk just four years after its last invasion drew allegations of war crimes.
President Barack Obama and other Western leaders have urged Israel to avoid a ground war.
Still, with Israeli elections just two months away, polls show Israeli public sentiment has lined up staunchly behind the offensive Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has launched.
Israel and Gaza’s militants have a long history of fighting, but the dynamics have changed radically since they last warred four years ago.
Though their hardware is no match for the Israeli military, militants have upgraded their capabilities with weapons smuggled in from Iran and Libya, Israeli officials claim.