Collaborators: The enemy within

Desperate for money to feed his family, Sami committed the most heinous crime in Palestinian eyes.

    Palestinians regard spying for Israel as a mortal sin

    The 22-year-old Gazan agreed to collaborate with Israel. He

    infiltrated an armed Palestinian group, passed information to

    the Israelis and defused bombs planted by his colleagues to kill

    Israeli soldiers on cross-border raids.

     

    In exchange, Sami obtained a prized Israeli transit permit

    and found steady work in the West Bank.

     

    He led a double life for three-and-a-half 

    years before being arrested a few months ago, and is now

    one of dozens of accused spies held in Palestinian Authority jails.

     

    They fear for their lives because of a rising public clamour

    for the liquidation of collaborators since Israel tracked down

    and assassinated Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmed Yasin and

    Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi.

    Did inside information lead to the
    Yasin and Rantisi assassinations?

     

    Israel's prowess in pinpointing the shadowy movements of

    armed resistance leaders and pre-empting some planned bomb

    attacks by catching perpetrators en route to their target is due

    partly to an increasingly effective network of Palestinian

    informers.

     

    Summary executions

     

    Anti-Israeli groups have put to death at least 30 collaborators

    and in the wake of the Yasin and Rantisi killings in March and

    April threatened an unbridled campaign to wipe out any more they

    could find.

     

    Abu Qusai, a Gaza-based leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs

    Brigades, part of Palestinian President Yasir Arafat's Fatah

    movement, puts the number of collaborators in the dozens rather

    than thousands as some Palestinian officials say.

     

    The Authority balks at summary executions to avoid the risk

    of killing the wrong man as happened in a 1990s crackdown.

     

    "I never thought I would be discovered," said Sami, in an

    interview inside the jail where he awaits trial. He faces a long

    sentence.

     

    He spoke softly and averted his face from the camera,

    betraying his shame and dread about the possible consequences of

    an offence for which some collaborators have been disowned by

    their families in this close-knit community.

     

    "I did not complete my studies because of the difficult

    financial situation," he said in a reference to poverty-stricken

    Gaza where unemployment exceeds 50%.

     

    "I decided I had to

    get an Israeli permit to work in the West Bank to help my

    family."

     

    The price of a permit

     

    Sami's mission was to infiltrate an
    armed group and get information 

    The price, when he went to apply for a permit at an

    Israeli-controlled Gaza border crossing, was collaboration, he

    said.

     

    "The Israeli intelligence officer there asked me to search

    border areas for explosive devices (planted by the opposition groups) in

    anticipation of army incursions," said Sami, not his real name.

     

    To do so, he said he managed without difficulty to enter the

    ranks of an armed faction, which he did not identify, and win

    enough trust to join its armed wing.

     

    While on missions along the frontier with Israel near the

    volatile Palestinian refugee camp of Rafah in southern Gaza,

    Sami would deactivate explosives planted by fighters, some of

    whom belonged to the group he had joined.

     

    "The devices were very primitive and I used only to cut the

    wires leading to the detonators," he said. "I also used to tell

    (Israelis) about the locations of armed groups."

     

    Israel captured Gaza and the West Bank in the 1967 Middle

    East war. It granted Palestinians self-rule in their communities

    in 1993-94 but reoccupied wide areas after violence erupted in

    2000 in the wake of failed talks on Palestinian statehood.

     

    Palestinian security officials say Israeli intelligence

    officers have tried non-stop since then to recruit Palestinian

    workers and travellers at crossings under Israeli control in

    return for money, free movement and sex.

     

    Internal feuding

     

    Armed groups defend their executions of alleged turncoats in

    the West Bank by saying that Palestinian security forces seem

    powerless to act because they have been crippled by the Israeli

    army clampdown on the uprising or by their own internal feuding.

     

    The Palestinian Authority has sentenced many collaborators

    to death since 1994, but only three have been executed.

     

    Some

    lesser spies who turned themselves in and "talked" have been

    freed without charge.

     

    "Nobody dies of hunger here. But hundreds are

    dead because of information passed to Israel by collaborators"

     

    Palestinian security officer

     

    Security officials have urged militants to turn over

    suspects for investigation and prosecution rather than engage in

    vigilantism often driven by rumour, rather than hard evidence,

    or a desire to settle scores.

     

    Jailed collaborators tend to cite financial hardship for

    their recruitment by Israeli intelligence in its war with Palestinian

    factions leading the revolt for statehood.

     

    "That's no excuse. Ninety-nine percent of Palestinians are

    suffering financial problems. Does that make them potential

    collaborators? Of course not," said a senior Palestinian

    security officer.

     

    "Nobody dies of hunger here. But hundreds are

    dead because of information passed to Israel by collaborators."

     

    All affected families continue to receive welfare benefits

    from the Palestinian Authority and Islamic charities.

     

    Despite the risk, collaborators don't earn much.

     

    Sami said

    he used to collect around $220 from time to time

    at secret locations known as "dead zones".

    SOURCE: --Select a value--


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