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Hamas says holding 45 Gazan 'collaborators' with Israel

  • Published at 10:04 pm January 9th, 2019
Gaza-Hamas-security services
Palestinian Hamas-hired police officers walk at Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip January 8, 2019 Reuters

The ensuing fire fight claimed the lives of an Israeli army officer and seven Palestinian militants

Gaza's Hamas rulers said on Tuesday that its security services had arrested dozens of Palestinians since a botched Israeli raid inside the strip, accusing them of aiding the Jewish state.

The November 11 special forces operation, which Israel said was an intelligence-gathering mission, turned deadly when the undercover soldiers were spotted near Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip.

The ensuing fire fight claimed the lives of an Israeli army officer and seven Palestinian militants, including a local Hamas military commander.

"The security services were able to arrest 45 agents after the security incident east of Khan Yunis last November and they are under investigation," Hamas interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum said in a statement.

He did not say if any of those arrested were suspected of involving in the November incident.

Following the Khan Yunis shootout, Hamas published photos of eight people and two vehicles it said were linked to the Israeli operation, prompting the Israeli army censor to appeal to the public and media not to republish the images.

"Hamas is attempting to understand and analyse the incident that occurred in Gaza on November 11 and any information, even if it seems harmless by those who distribute it, can endanger lives and put state security at risk," the army said at the time.

Hamas, which launched a major investigation into the botched Israeli mission, did not identify those in the pictures.

The incident prompted Hamas to vow revenge and led to the deadliest escalation between the two sides since a 2014 war.

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired some 460 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel, as well as an anti-tank missile that hit a bus Hamas says was being used by Israel's army.

In all, some 27 Israelis were wounded, three of them severely.

A Palestinian labourer from the occupied West Bank was killed when a rocket hit a building in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.

Israel hit back with widespread air strikes in the Gaza Strip that saw seven Palestinians killed in 24 hours.

A November 13 ceasefire brokered by Egypt ended the fighting that had raised fears of a fourth war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008.

In December a Gaza military court sentenced six people, including a woman, to death for "collaborating" with Israel.

But the interior ministry said they were not directly related to the November incursion.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 28 executions have been carried out in Gaza since Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave in 2007 from rival faction Fatah.

Hamas and its allies have fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade.

Israel says the measure is necessary to isolate Hamas and prevent it from obtaining weapons, though critics say it amounts to collective punishment of the territory's two million residents.