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Society must be defended

Society must be defended

Unpopular with some human rights organisations, the execution of Israeli collaborators in Gaza highlights how deep Israel's intelligence war goes, writes Saleh Al-Naami


For six years, the killing of Amr Abu Setta, one of the leaders of a Palestinian resistance group in southern Gaza, remained a mystery. While there were many tales about how he died, there was consensus that Israeli intelligence was in one way or another behind his murder. The Israeli army accused him of being responsible for the deaths of a large number of occupation soldiers. A few months ago, the mystery was solved.

It became apparent that the person who placed the explosives under Abu Setta's car is Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed Ismail, a Palestinian working for Israeli intelligence. Ismail detonated the explosives via remote control upon orders from Israeli intelligence, killing Abu Setta and one of his aides. Ismail used his connections with some people in Abu Setta's circle to place the explosives that ended the life of this highly respected leader in Gaza. Ismail confessed to his involvement and received a death sentence from the military court in Gaza. He was executed 15 April.

This was not the only crime to which Ismail confessed. Other than collaborating with occupation forces, he admitted causing the death of a number of wanted Palestinian resistance activists by placing stickers on their vehicles to enable unmanned Israeli planes to target them.

According to a statement of the Ministry of Interior in Gaza, Ismail confessed to plotting the assassination of Hossam Hamdan, the son of prominent Hamas leader Ahmed Hamdan. Israeli intelligence killed the younger Hamdan in another operation. The collaborator also revealed that he assisted the Israeli army by going to Rafah, deep in southern Gaza, to defuse explosives placed by the resistance targeting Israeli forces that had penetrated the area.

This was the first time that an execution was carried out since Hamas began governing Gaza single-handedly in the summer of 2007. Another man, Salama Mohamed Abu Freh, who is a resident of Gabalya, was also executed after confessing to collaborating with the Israeli occupation forces. Abu Freh admitted that upon orders from Israeli intelligence he specialised in monitoring the border between Gaza and Israel and reported anyone who approached it.

Since 2002, Abu Freh began participating in military invasions after receiving military training in the occupied territories in 1984. Abu Freh further revealed that during the last war on Gaza, he participated in the Israeli invasion of Gabal Kashef, the Ottoman region and the recent invasion of eastern Gabalya, where a large number of civilians were killed. In return, Abu Freh received sums of money.

A senior Palestinian security source told Al-Ahram Weekly that the confessions of these two agents revealed the type of missions that are assigned to Israeli agents in Gaza. "Without these agents, occupation forces would not be able to succeed," he asserted. "Accordingly, espionage must be stamped out. We have decided to invest a lot of energy to curtail the damage done by collaborators with Israel." The source revealed that Israel manipulates economic and social conditions, as well as its control of the borders, to convince as many young Palestinians as possible to conspire with it.

Khalil Al-Hayya, a prominent Hamas figure, defended the death sentences asserting that the incumbent government will continue executing Israeli agents as part of its legal mandate. "Society has a right to defend itself against this danger," Al-Hayya argued. "We cannot ignore the issue of agents any longer; they were given an opportunity to mend their ways and rejoin their people. We cannot tolerate this issue anymore." He suggested that the education system should play a pivotal role in shielding young Palestinians from the manipulations of Israeli intelligence.

But lawyer Mustafa Ibrahim criticised the executions as beyond the basic mandate of Palestinian law, explaining that the law states that no execution can be carried out without the approval of the Palestinian president, and this did not happen. Ibrahim believes that the executions could negatively influence national reconciliation because Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will consider them a signal that Hamas is not serious about ending inter-factional divisions.

Nonetheless, like others who are critical of the execution orders, Ibrahim understands the gravity of the issue of Israeli agents and the need to neutralise them. In fact, harsh measures against collaborators are popular among Palestinians, to the extent that 94 per cent living in Gaza support them. According to the Palestinian Human Rights Centre, Palestinian courts issued 17 death sentences over the past year -- three in the West Bank and the rest in Gaza. Minister of Interior in Gaza Fathi Hammad stated that his cabinet decided to carry out death sentences against Israeli agents regardless of opposition from human rights organisations.

But despite these executions, the Israeli general intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, continues to develop new methods to recruit Palestinians to spy on its behalf. One day before the executions took place, the Gaza Ministry of Interior announced that it uncovered an espionage network that uses Internet websites. It revealed how Israeli intelligence uses the needs of the people under siege to recruit agents, and that the ministry has undertaken a massive awareness campaign to confront this.

Spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Interior Ehab Al-Ghassan warned against "falling into the trap of collaboration through the misuse of social Internet websites such as Facebook, Twitter and others." Al-Ghassan stated that Israel uses these websites to gather information about citizens and blackmails them into becoming agents. "Unfortunately, some citizens write everything about themselves on these websites, which include all their circles of friends and family, giving the occupation a wealth of information for free," he said.

Al-Ghassan continued that according to the security apparatus it is apparent from monitoring the activities of the Shin Bet and the confessions of agents that Israeli intelligence uses social websites extensively to recruit agents. Among its methods is "easily accessing these websites and gathering information, added to what intelligence they already have, and then blackmailing their targets and attempting to recruit them." The spokesman added that, "the target feels the Israelis know everything about him and quickly complies out of fear that they will retaliate against him with the information they have.

Sometimes, the Israelis do not directly recruit agents but obtain information surreptitiously. Some Gazans have reported that Israeli intelligence have called their landlines and cell phones using overseas numbers, posing as researchers from international or Palestinian research centres overseas, polling them about sensitive security issues pertaining to domestic Palestinian security.

Gamal Sarha, 28, from Al-Nossayrat Refugee Camp in central Gaza told the Weekly that he was surprised to receive a call recently from someone claiming to be from an Arab research centre based in London. The caller quizzed him about resistance movements and how Palestinians view them, which made Sarha certain that the caller was connected to the Israeli intelligence. One question asked was: "What would you do if resistance fighters stood by your house, would you tell them to move away or protect them?"

Another young man said that a woman speaking Arabic called claiming to be from an agency in the West Bank, and wanted him to respond to a questionnaire over the phone. All the questions revolved around the resistance and how the people respond to it; he refused to answer the questions after suspecting that the caller was connected to the Israeli intelligence.

All signs indicate that despite the fierce campaign underway against Israeli collaborators, Israel's intelligence apparatus is determined to continue developing new methods and tools to acquire vital information about the Palestinian resistance. This means that the issue of Israeli agents will remain on the Palestinian political and social agenda for a long time to come.

The link: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2010/995/re3.htm

 

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