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Civil war fear over Arafat revenge on 'collaborators' By Alan Philps in Jerusalem

A HUNT for people suspected of "collaborating" with Israel is sweeping through Palestinian territories, with dozens arrested and six killed by firing squad or vigilantes. Human rights activists fear that Palestinians are heading for civil war as the anger directed at Israel for the past three months is turned on the enemy within. Yesterday the body of a man suspected of collaborating with the Israelis during the 1987-93 intifada was found riddled with bullets at the village of Ajja, near Jenin.

The signal for the manhunt was given by the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, when he authorised the execution by firing squad of two men convicted by a military court of helping Israel kill Palestinian militants. They were executed on Saturday, one in public.

Palestinian police said yesterday they had arrested 40 "collaborators" in Hebron and seven in Nablus. The extremist Hamas group, which opposes any peace agreement with Israel, said it would strike "with an iron fist" against spies and traitors. Hamas defined a collaborator as any Palestinian official who engaged in security co-ordination with the Israelis - which was routine until the start of the current uprising at the end of September.

The execution of "collaborators" is popular with Palestinians, who are incensed that Israeli hit squads, using a network of informers, have killed at least 10 militants as part of an officially sanctioned assassination policy.

Bassem Eid, of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, said: "If revenge is encouraged, it will lead to civil war. We must blame President Arafat for ratifying the death sentences. I think he had no idea what negative consequences it would have."

Two more men are awaiting execution after being convicted on Saturday by a military court in Bethlehem of helping the Israelis to kill a Palestinian gunman in November. The trial was a farce by any standards. The court appointed a defence lawyer from the military prosecutor's office who spoke only once. The men were convicted on confessions but they proclaimed their innocence in court.

Their execution awaits Mr Arafat's confirmation, which he is expected to delay because of the outcry abroad. However, there is no sign of an end to vengeance by freelance gunmen. They have killed four suspected collaborators so far.

An estimated 1,500 collaborators were killed during the 1987-93 intifada by secretive groups of enforcers. The same men appear to have returned to their old activities. Arab residents of east Jerusalem have been shocked by the appearance of leaflets with a list of 97 names of suspected collaborators, who now fear for their lives.

-- Martin Thompson (, January 16, 2001


Israeli military chiefs demand call up of reserves

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM Wednesday, January 17, 2001 TEL AVIV Israel's military chiefs are pressing the government for a major mobilization of the reserves to allow many combat units of the standing army to leave the West Bank and Gaza Strip and train in preparation for a regional war.

The effort comes as the military is expressing frustration with government policy toward the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Jewish settlers have joined the fighting between Israeli and Palestinian forces in the Gaza Strip.

The settlers uprooted trees and torched greenhouses, cars and other property of Palestinians who neighbored the Gush Katif bloc of settlements in Gaza. The attack on Monday was in retaliation for the abduction and killing hours earlier of a Jewish settlers.

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz and members of the General Staff have urged Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who is also defense minister, to order a major reserve call-up to ensure that the standing army is prepared for war this year. The military has termed 2001 as a "year of readiness" for regional war.

"The situation is very difficult because the process of training and preparation is vital to building the military," said Brig. Gen. Yiftah Ron, chief of staff of the Ground Forces Command. "And we will pay a heavy price for stopping training."

Military sources said the army began the mobilization late last month, moving up plans that were to have been implemented in March. The reservists will allow regular units to return to their base for two weeks of exercises as well as a week of rest.

The commanders said that after six months of being in the field, the troops are exhausted and are beginning to make mistakes. This includes excessive shooting toward Palestinians.

Less than one-third of the number of Israeli troops in the West Bank are reservists. In Gaza, about 15 percent are reservists. Military sources said commanders want to raise this percentage but Barak is said to be concerned that the deployment of insufficiently trained reservists could result in greater casualties.

Military sources said senior commanders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are also frustrated over Barak's inconsistency in fighting the Palestinian revolt. The sources said Barak demands instant results after Palestinian attacks only to rescind security measures hours later when PA officials agree to cooperation. The sources said the cooperation is not implemented.

In Gaza, Israeli police arrived but failed to stop the settlers. Two settlers were arrested and were to be remanded in a court in Beersheba.

Settlement leaders said they have been under siege by Palestinian attacks over the past few months. They said Palestinians have regularly attacked Israeli motorists and property in Gaza settlements.

President Moshe Katsav and Israel's chief rabbis called on Jewish settlers to exercise restraint and not launch revenge attacks on Palestinians. "We call on all Israeli citizens not to take the law into their hands and to ensure restraint," Katsav said.

Overnight Tuesday, Palestinian forces held gun battles with Israeli troops in the Muwasi area, where settlers torched Arab property hours earlier. Gun battles were also reported around Khan Yunis and the Islamic opposition Hamas group asserted that a bombing attack destroyed two Israeli army jeeps.

The violence led to a decision by Israel to postpone talks on security cooperation and a peace accord with the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians said Israel has again divided Gaza into four sectors, closed border crossings and the airport and accused Jewish settlers of attacking a Palestinian motorist in the West Bank.

The rampage came as Fatah leaders said they would continue their attacks of Israeli positions in the Gaza Strip despite PA talks with Israel to restore security cooperation. The leaders said the effort is meant to stop Israel's occupation of Gaza.

At the same time, the Palestinian Authority said collaborators are surrendering to PA police in wake of the execution of two Palestinians over the weekend. The PA has offered a pardon to any Palestinian collaborator who surrenders and provides a full accounting of his activities for Israel.

PA officials said seven Palestinians have surrendered to authorities and have offered information on their relations with Israel.

The PA effort comes amid continued assassination attempts on Palestinian field commanders. On Tuesday, Palestinian sources said a suspected Palestinian collaborator, Murshid Kassem, was killed by PA agents.

Over the weekend, Israeli agents failed in an assassination attempt of Fatah secretary-general Yazid Huweihi. Huweihi heads the northern Gaza branch of the movement.

-- Martin Thompson (, January 16, 2001.

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