JERUSALEM—In a rare public reference to intelligence sources by an Israeli intelligence officer, an official of the Shin Bet intelligence agency said today that not one of the Palestinians executed by Hamas last month for allegedly spying for Israel was in fact an Israeli asset.
"Not even one of the 27 was a source," the official told the Times of Israel. He noted that all 27 (the number of those executed has sometimes been given as 38) were in prison when the operation began and therefore were in no position to offer information about the location of rocket launch sites or of Hamas leaders.
The summary executions were carried out in public places in the wake of the targeted assassination of three Hamas leaders by Israeli warplanes on Aug. 21. A senior Hamas official has said that public demands in Gaza to find and execute the spies who allegedly tipped off the Israelis about the leaders’ location had led to the killings a day later. The shackled prisoners were dragged into the street and shot in front of crowds.
An official of Fatah, the political rival of Hamas and the mainstay of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank, hinted on Palestinian television that those executed were members of Fatah, some of them former officers in the PA security apparatus. "Did you (Hamas) interrogate them?" asked Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee. "Where are their confessions? Or did you perhaps execute those who once interrogated Hamas men?"
Tirawi equated Hamas with the executioners of the Islamic State. "What’s the difference if you behead or if you shoot?"
The Shin Bet official said the executions were intended "simply as a deterrent." He said that during the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which began in 2000 and lasted several years, dozens of Palestinians were executed by militants as alleged collaborators with Israel. Of them all, said the Israeli official, "only one-and-a-half" had actually been an Israeli source.
The official dismissed Hamas’ claims earlier in the Gaza confrontation to have arrested dozens of suspected collaborators, some caught with cellphones and SIM cards allegedly supplied by Israel. He said such arrests and charges often stem from family feuds and other rivalries.