JERUSALEM (Jan. 16)
One of the most successful security operations undertaken by the Israel Defense Force in Nablus has encouraged local Palestinians to organize against extremists who terrorize or murder fellow Arabs suspected of collaborating with the Israeli authorities.
A month after the IDF wiped out a gang called Black Panthers, which operated in the Nablus casbah, and arrested every member of a similar gang, the Red Eagles, a Palestinian counterforce has emerged.
It calls itself the General Security Service, and it has served notice it will not tolerate “holding suspects for questioning” or executing them for alleged collaboration.
General Security Service happens to be the name of Israel’s internal security agency, known by the acronym Shin Bet. Its adoption by the Palestinians may or may not have been accidental.
In any event, the group marched through the narrow alleys of the casbah Monday afternoon armed with a rifle and three handguns.
Judging by their nationalist slogans and the colors of the kaffiyehs they wear around their heads, the marchers identify with Al Fatah, the largest and most moderate branch of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Fatah, which is headed by Yasir Arafat, has spoken out several times in the past against the execution of suspected collaborators.
Executions and torture had become almost daily occurrences before the IDF operation. Since then, however, only one local man, Sa’adi Bakri, has been murdered. But 15 people were kidnapped and tortured, though eventually released.
The march through the casbah Monday was seen as an attempt by PLO moderates to regain control from the violence-prone dissidents. So were the leaflets circulated in the West Bank this week, which urged students to attend classes and refrain from staging demonstrations inside the school premises.
“The Palestinian state needs educated people,” the leaflets said.
Hadashot reported Tuesday that Egypt was expected to demand that Arafat, who is now visiting Cairo, declare a three-month moratorium on the assassination of suspected collaborators.
But even if Arafat loyalists obey such an order, it is hardly likely to be heeded by Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist organization, which is the chief rival of the PLO.
Hamas has been responsible for a number of political assassinations, mainly in the Gaza Strip.