GAZA CITY, Palestine - Hamas gunmen killed large number of alleged Israeli spies Friday, a day after three top military commanders of the group were killed in an airstrike on a house in Gaza, local media said.
The slain alleged informers included seven who were reportedly lined up behind a mosque and shot after Friday afternoon prayers.
The Hamas-affiliated wire news service Safa said 11 of the spies were executed earlier in the morning,
The Hamas-run website Al Rai has warned that "the same punishment will be imposed soon on others".
There was an apparent connection between the execution of the alleged informers and Israel's targeted killing of top Hamas leaders, experts said pinpointing the whereabouts of the Hamas leadership, Israel may have relied on local informers. Three Hamas commanders, Mohammed Abu Shamlah, Raed Attar and Muhamad Barhoum were assassinated on Wednesday, just hours after an attempt was made on the organisation's top militant Mohammed Deif. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement highlighted the importance of the intelligence received in enabling the assassinations to be carried out. "In the name of every Israeli citizen, I thank the Shin Bet, the heads of the intelligence and operational units, and the chief of the organization, Yoram Cohen," he said in a statement released on Thursday .
Israel is said to have maintained a network of informers despite its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
Another targeted airstrike on Wednesday killed the wife and two children of Al Qassam leader Mohammed Deif. The fate of Mr. Deif is unclear, although Hamas officials have indicated he is still alive.
The Al Rai website in a statement said that "the current circumstances forced" the Hamas "to take such decisions".
The local media played up the killings as the beginning of a new crackdown, under the rallying cry of "choking the necks of the collaborators".
"We will not accept anything less than an end to the (Israeli) aggression and an end to the blockade," the statement. "Anyone involved in cease-fire efforts must understand that our people will not accept anything less than this.''
It was the largest number of suspected informers killed by Hamas in a single day since it seized Gaza in 2007.
The Al Majd website, which is close to the Hamas security services, said suspects would now be dealt with "in the field" rather than in the courts in order to create deterrence.
Hamas said it would not release the names of those killed because it wanted to protect the reputation of their families.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said two of those killed Friday were women.
It called for an immediate halt to what it said were "extra-judicial executions".
Meanwhile, the Palestinian death toll rose to 2,090 on Friday, according to Gaza's health ministry.
Some 66 Israelis, including two soldiers, have also been killed in the long drawn conflict that has been raging for the almost past six years.