Palestinian militants in a West Bank refugee camp shot and killed two alleged collaborators with Israel early Saturday, Palestinian officials said. Mobs then kicked the bloodied corpses and dragged them through alleys before trying to tie them to an electrical tower.
The scenes, widely shared on social media, were reminiscent of the chaos in the occupied West Bank during two Palestinian uprisings against Israeli rule that erupted in 1987 and in 2000, respectively, each lasting several years. During these periods of heightened conflict, there were frequent killings of alleged informers, at times with bodies displayed in public.
Saturday’s killing in the Tulkarem refugee camp laid bare the pressures tearing at Palestinian society as the Israel-Hamas war worsens what has already been a bloody year for the territory. Deadly Israeli military raids, settler attacks and Palestinian militancy in the West Bank have surged since Israel mounted its devastating offensive in Gaza in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 bloody rampage through southern Israel. Over 230 Palestinian have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank in the past seven weeks alone, most of them during Israeli army raids targeting militants.
A Palestinian security officer said a local militant group in the camp, in the northern town of Tulkarem, accused two Palestinians of helping Israeli security forces target the group in a major army raid that killed three key militants on Nov. 6. The two alleged informers were in their late 20s and early 30s, respectively, and one was from the camp, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
A second Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason, confirmed that Palestinian security forces were aware of the incident. The public prosecutor’s office said it would have details in the coming days about a police investigation into the killings.
The local militant group – affiliated with the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed offshoot of the secular nationalist Fatah party – posted a cryptic statement just after the two men were reported killed. “We did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves,” it said.
The family of one of the accused informers sought to distance itself in a statement Saturday, calling its disgraced relative a “malicious finger that we have cut off without regret.”
“We affirm our complete innocence,” the family added, “and we won’t allow anyone to blame us for his guilt.”
A Palestinian journalist in the camp, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said residents of the camp beat and stomped on the corpses after the two were shot and killed by militants in the streets. Videos show hundreds of Palestinians flocking to the entrance of the camp, gawking and filming with their phones as men try to hang the mutilated corpses from an electrical tower.
It apparently proved too difficult and residents ended up tossing the bodies over the walls of a U.N. school in the camp, tying their feet to a chain-link fence, the journalist said. They were not taken to the hospital, she said.
Purported confession videos surfaced online showing the two men, worn out, their eyes downcast, describing their recent interactions with Israeli intelligence officials who they said paid them thousands of dollars for information.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service has a long history of pressuring Palestinians to become informers, including by blackmail or by promising work or entry permits for Israel. The Shin Bet did not respond to a request for comment on the killings.