Militiamen on Thursday dumped the bullet-riddled body of Ayman Taha, a former prominent Hamas figure, outside Gaza City's Shifa Hospital.
The body remained on the ground for nearly an hour before other militiamen came back and took it to an unknown destination.
Palestinians who were at the hospital were too afraid to remove the body.
A few hours later, Taha's body was handed over to Shifa Hospital by a number of Hamas militiamen.
Palestinian journalists said that Taha had been executed for spying on behalf of an Arab intelligence service and involvement in financial corruption.
Prominent Hamas leader Ayman Taha during a November 2012 television interview. (Image source: photo credit: YouTube video screenshot)
According to the journalists, Taha was executed by a firing squad three days ago. They said that he died instantly of gunshots to the head and chest.
Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin al-Qassam, arrested Taha in 2013 on suspicion that he had served as an informant for the Egyptian General Intelligence Service.
Hamas sources said then that, in addition to the espionage charges, Taha was also suspected of involvement in a "big corruption scandal," but did not elaborate.
Sources in the Gaza Strip said on Thursday that Taha was executed because Hamas feared he might implicate some of its leaders in many corruption scandals. "The man knew too much about the senior leaders of Hamas," said a veteran journalist living in Gaza City who had close ties with Taha. "Hamas leaders used to take him with them on their visits to different countries."
Hamas has never denied that Taha was being held in custody.
Shortly after his arrest, Hamas announced that Taha was being interrogated over his "behavior and exploitation of his influence to gain illegal profit."
Although Hamas never named the Arab intelligence party to which Taha was allegedly linked, Palestinians familiar with the case have pointed at Egypt's General Intelligence Service as being responsible for the recruitment of the slain Hamas figure.
The Taha affair has seriously embarrassed the Hamas leadership. His arrest last year came as a shock to Hamas leaders and followers, who noted that this was the first case of its kind since the Islamist movement was founded in 1988.
What was even more embarrassing was that the slain man was the son of Mohammed Taha, one of the most prominent leaders of Hamas and former director of the Islamic University in Gaza City.
Interestingly, Taha was executed for collaboration with the Egyptians exactly at the same time that senior representatives of Hamas were negotiating in Cairo with the head of Egypt's General Intelligence Service about ways of achieving a permanent cease-fire with Israel.
The execution is apparently aimed at sending a message to the Egyptians that Hamas would not tolerate Cairo's attempt to meddle in the internal affairs of the Islamist movement. A Hamas source said that the arrest of Taha was a "severe blow" to the Egyptians because they had lost one of their most important informants inside the movement.
The execution of Taha is likely to aggravate tensions between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities. Needless to say, the new regime of President Abdel Fattah Sisi already considers Hamas a hostile party and threat to Egypt's national security.
But what is even more interesting – although not surprising – about the Taha affair is Hamas's attempt to distance itself from any responsibility for his death.
In fact, some Hamas officials are now seeking to shift the blame toward Israel.
Shortly after Palestinian journalists reported the execution, Hamas published a brief statement "mourning" the death of Taha, who it claimed was "martyred" during an Israeli air strike on an apartment in Gaza City.
Hamas had no explanation, of course, as to why the man had been hit in the head and chest by bullets that were apparently fired from close range.
The attempt to blame Israel is seen in the context of the movement's effort to prevent retaliatory attacks by Taha's powerful clan. The family had previously denounced the arrest of its son and called for his immediate release.
Taha is not the only Palestinian to be killed by Hamas in the past few weeks. According to various reports, Hamas has executed several Palestinians on suspicion of "collaboration" with Israel since the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip.
Yet Hamas has not officially admitted that it carried out these executions, as is the case with its former top representative, Ayman Taha. Hamas is also unlikely to ever admit that its men killed any Palestinian during the past few weeks. Instead, Hamas will add the people it has murdered to the list of "casualties of Israeli aggression."
The international media, for its part, will simply endorse the Hamas story because it is more convenient to blame Israel than to get into trouble with a radical Islamist movement that carries out extra-judicial executions.