JERUSALEM—Hamas enforcers publicly executed some 25 alleged informers said to have spied for Israel on Friday but what Gaza residents subsequently saw over the weekend suggested that the flow of information to Israeli intelligence from Gaza has not been noticeably affected.
On Saturday, a thunderous explosion and a cloud of roiling black smoke marked an air attack on a 12-story apartment building said by Israel to house a Hamas command center along with around 40 families.
A small warning rocket had been fired at the roof of the building 10 minutes ahead of the airstrike, according to Israel. Hamas said the warning was five minutes. Everyone got out in time, though Gaza officials said a dozen people were hurt in the rush. The building was completely destroyed.
Today, another explosion was followed by the sight of American currency floating over the streets of Gaza. An Israeli missile had struck a car containing a satchel full of American dollars and killed the senior official in charge of money transfers for Hamas, Mohamed al-Ghoul.
Other targeted assassinations of Hamas operatives over the weekend led to a number of smaller apartment or office buildings leveled. In all cases, said Israeli spokesmen, after warnings that enabled everyone inside to get out in time.
There has been considerable criticism within the Palestinian camp of the public executions. The alleged informers were shot in the street as bystanders watched. A senior official of the Palestinian Authority, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, called the executions “unlawful and offensive to our people and our families.”
Many believe that those executed were members of the rival political camp, Fatah, and not spies. Israeli officials said the executions reflect panic within Hamas and the loss of leadership following Israel’s assassination last week of several leaders of its military wing. It was those assassinations that touched off demands by Gaza residents that Hamas find the spies tipping off Israel about the leaders’ whereabouts.
Both sides significantly ramped up their fire. Israel warned Gaza residents to distance themselves from their places of residence if they were being used in any way by Hamas, whether to fire or store rockets or mortars, or for meetings. Such buildings, it said, would be leveled.
Hamas, whose rockets have had almost no impact on Tel Aviv or other central cities because of Israel’s anti-rocket defense system, began to focus its fire almost entirely on the villages and kibbutzim bordering the Gaza Strip, which are not protected by the system because they are too close to Gaza for it to kick in.
Because of the constant rain of mortars and rockets, most residents of the border communities have decided to seek shelter at kibbutzim in northern Israel. The death Friday from mortar fire of a 4-year-old boy on a kibbutz whose parents were packing for the move apparently played a role in the adoption by Israel of its more aggressive policy.