By David Williams / DailyMail.co.uk
Six men accused of being ‘Israeli spies’ were dragged through the streets of Gaza City and executed in front of a chanting mob today as Israel warned Palestinians to evacuate some areas of the territory in apparent preparation for a ground invasion.
Witnesses said the six were taken to an intersection in the north of the city where they were summarily shot for providing intelligence that helped Israel pinpoint key figures in Hamas and the Islamic Jihad targeted by their warplanes.
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.
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.
Significantly, Egypt’s president Mohammed Mursi, who has been vocal in his support for the people of Gaza and whose Muslim Brotherhood was mentor to the founders of Hamas, predicted a breakthrough ceasefire could be reached tomorrow and that negotiations were yielding ‘positive results.’
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.
BEWARE: Video is graphic.