Three days after the mangled body of a senior Hamas official was found among the ruins of the Shejaiya neighborhood in the Gaza Strip, conflicting reports emerged on Thursday regarding his mysterious death, a report by the Times of Israel said.
Hamas claimed that Ayman Taha, a former spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, was killed in an Israeli airstrike that "targeted him in the apartment where he was with several others in Gaza City," according to a report by i24news, an Israeli news agency. However, a report by Al-Quds, a Palestinian daily, reported that Taha was executed by a Hamas firing squad earlier this week for maintaining contacts with the intelligence services of Egypt and other Arab countries.
Taha was reportedly killed by several shots to the head and chest, reports said, citing local hospital officials, adding that the incident was banned from being published by Hamas until Thursday, when the information was released to the public. Hamas said on Thursday that it had executed several Palestinians suspected of spying for Israel.
"Spies were executed after they were caught red-handedly informing on the whereabouts of the resistance (or) disrupting the work of resistance men and defusing ambushes prepared against the enemy," a Hamas security service member said, i24news reported, citing Al-Arabiya.
Taha was reportedly the son of one of Hamas' founders and was a well known spokesman for the Palestinian cause before his arrest by Hamas in February on suspected corruption charges, for allegedly buying villas in Gaza with embezzled money. Taha was then held in a Hamas detention facility in the Gaza Strip, with Hamas stating that the arrest was due to “financial issues” while insisting that his imprisonment was an internal matter and was not related to security concerns with “enemies.”
Taha had previously been held in Israeli prisons from 2003 to 2007 before becoming a spokesperson for Hamas after the Islamist group took over the Gaza Strip in 2007. Later, he coordinated with Hamas’ leadership between their base in Gaza and the group’s leaders abroad. Egyptian security personnel had detained Taha in 2009, according to Reuters, for attempting to smuggle $11 million into the Gaza Strip across the border at Rafah.
Hamas, which has previously been criticized by human rights groups for executing suspected spies without a trial, has neither admitted nor denied reports of Taha’s execution.