Some in the crowd stomped and spit on the bodies. A sixth corpse was tied to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets as people screamed, "Spy! Spy!"
The Hamas military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam, claimed responsibility in a large handwritten note attached to a nearby electricity pole. Hamas said the six were killed because they gave Israel information about fighters and rocket launching sites. Hamas did not provide any proof of the alleged collaboration.
The killing came on the seventh day of an Israeli military offensive that has killed more than 130 Palestinians, both militants and civilians, as well as five Israelis. Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes, targeting rocket-launching sites, weapons caches and homes of Hamas activists, in response to repeated Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli cities. Hundreds of Palestinian rockets have rained down on Israel in the past week.
In selecting its targets for airstrikes, Israel relies on unmanned spy planes, or drones, but also on a network of Palestinian collaborators who feed information to their handlers from Israel's domestic Shin Bet security service.
Israeli defense officials say Palestinian informers have been recruited ever since it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast War. Some are recruited with promises of work permits or money, while others are blackmailed into collaborating.
There is broad consensus among Palestinians that informers for Israel deserve harsh punishment, and it is rare to hear someone speak out against killings of alleged collaborators. Such public killings have been carried out in the West Bank and Gaza since the first intifada – or uprising – against Israeli occupation in the late 1980s.
Human Rights Watch and other international rights groups have condemned such extrajudicial killings, as has the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza City-based group. Human Rights Watch says Hamas has also tortured suspected collaborators.
Tuesday's killings took place in Gaza City's Sheik Radwan neighborhood.
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