Hamas admits killing 'Israeli collaborators'

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Hamas has effectively admitted killing Palestinians suspected of informing Israel on potential targets during the three week bombing and ground offensive in Gaza.

While purporting not to know details, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Islamic faction said yesterday in Gaza City that Israel had relied on "spies" to provide information including on the whereabouts of Hamas leaders. He added: "Maybe some of them were were killed because they wereacting against the population, against the resistance."

Mr Barhoum was speaking in the wake of a report in the Qatari daily A-Sharq which quoted Moussa Abu Marzuk, deputy chief of Hamas's political bureau as confirming that it had executed Gazans suspected of collaborating with Israel.

Mr Barhoum also disclosed that there had been "some investigation and interrogation" of persons accused of informing on the whereabouts of the Hamas interior minister Said Siyam, who was killed when his brother's house in the Sheikh Radwan district of Gaza city was bombed last Thursday.

It was easily the highest profile assassination of a Hamas leader to be carried out during the 22-day offensive. Mr Barhoum said it could not have been carried out without "spies" because Mr Siyam had been "moving from place to place" during the offensive."

Despite suggestions from Fatah that its members have been attacked byHamas Mr Barhoum den ied that the "spies" concerned were Fatah members. Instead he said that the informers had been acting "against Fatah, against Hamas, against the people." He added: "The cause of the spies is the occupation [a term frequently used by Hamas hard-liners to describe Israel]. If there was no occupation there would be no spies."

Meanwhile Ehab al Ghsain, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled interior ministry, was quoted as saying: "The internal security service was instructed to track collaborators and hit them hard. They arrested dozens of collaborators who attempted to strike the resistance by giving information to the occupation about the fighters."

But he denied a statement which Reuters reported had been issued by Fatah in Gaza which said that internal oppression by Hamas had included: "shooting at the feet of Fatah members, brutal crimes of execution and throwing the bodies in the rubble of destruction."

At least two prisoners who escaped from the Soraya gaol when it was bombed by Israel early in the offensive are thought to have been killed in a wave of score-settling, including by the familes of victims of attacks which the alleged collaborators were accused of helping instigate by providinginformation on their whereabouts.