Six men, accused of being "Israeli spies," were dragged through the streets of Gaza city and executed in front of a frenzied mob today, even as Israeli jets dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate certain areas in preparation for strikes.
The six Palestinian men were executed after a brief trial and their bodies dumped in the street.
According to Sky News, the six men were executed at an intersection in Gaza. Witnesses said masked gunmen pulled them out of a van, forced them to lie on the ground and shot them.
Sky News chief correspondent, Stuart Ramsay, reported: "We understand six men were taken into a square... and were executed in front of crowds."
After the men were shot, five of the bodies were piled up and left in the open. An angry mob stamped and spat on the bodies. Gunmen took a sixth body, tied it to a motorcycle and dragged it through the main streets, while an agitated crowd bayed menacingly "Spy! Spy!"
Reuters reports the Hamas military wing claimed responsibility, posting a sign to a pole on which the names of the men were scrawled.
Israel allegedly relies on a network of spies to identify targets.
According to a security source quoted by the Hamas Asqa radio, the men "were caught red-handed." The source continued: "They possessed hi-tech equipment and filming equipment to take footage of positions." The men were accused of providing intelligence that helped the IDF locate key Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives for assassination.
The Daily Mail reports the incident happened as Israeli planes dropped leaflets in the heavily populate areas of the north and south of the city.The leaflets contained warning that the residents should evacuate specified areas.
According to Sky News, the leaflets urged civilians to evacuate "11 villages north, south and east of Gaza to move into central areas for their own safety."
The Daily Mail reports the leaflets included details of streets to be cleared. It said: "The Israeli Defense 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 Hamas internal ministry denounced the leaflets, describing them as "propaganda to terrify Gazans. " The authorities urged the people to remain in their homes.
Al Jazeera provides a translation of the leaflet:
To the residents of Sheikh Ijleen, Tal al Hawa, Remal al-Janoub, Zeitoun neighbourhood, Shoujaiyat al-Tourkman, Shoujaiyat al-Jadida:
The Israeli military is not targeting any of you and does not want to hurt you or members of your family.
For your own safety, you are requested to evacuate your houses right away and to move towards Gaza City through Cairo Road, Arab League Road, al-Aqsa Road, al-Qadisiya Road, Em el Leymoun, Salaheddine, al-Mansoura, Khalas, Baghdad.
The deployment in Gaza City is limited in the west of Salah al-Din Road, north of Omar al Moukhtar Road, east of Nasr Road, and south of al-Qods Road.
This confrontation is temporary and once it ends everyone will go home.
Obeying the orders of the Israeli military will result in you, civilian residents, not being hurt
The Israeli Defence Army Leadership
Analysts say the message may be evidence of preparation for a land offensive, but may also only be a way of putting pressure on Hamas to yield grounds in the negotiations for a ceasefire being brokered through Egypt.
According to the Daily Mail, both Israel and Hamas are taking hardline stance in the negotiations with Israel demanding an end to rocket fire from Gaza and an end to weapons smuggling through tunnels across the border with Egypt. Israel also wants a guarantee that Hamas will not attack Israel through Egypt's Sinai region.
Hamas on the other hand is demanding an end to the attacks. It is also demanding that all restrictions of trade and movement of people imposed by Israel since Hamas seized power be in 2007 be removed