Hamas crackdown on collaborators

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

Audio Transcript:

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston. The Palestinian militant group Hamas is in the midst of a crackdown in the Gaza Strip. The crackdown is aimed at Gazans who have allegedly collaborated with Israel. Hamas officials say many alleged spies have been detained in the crackdown. One of them was sentenced yesterday to death by firing squad. The BBC's Jon Donnison is following the story from Ramallah. Tell us about this roundup, Jon. Who is being taken into detention and what are they accused of doing exactly?

JON DONNISON: It's pretty murky to be honest. Hamas called a press conference this week where they announced that they had uncovered what it referred to as a �spy ring� operating within Gaza and that it had arrested a number of alleged collaborators. However, they are not giving any details of who those people are or indeed, of numbers, how many people are involved. And what people are saying is that some of the people that have been arrested, in particular the person you mentioned who's been sentenced to death this week, is accused of passing on information to the Israelis that would allow them to carry out assassinations of militants and military operations on people operating in Gaza.

WERMAN: So, Hamas has rounded up collaborators and executed them before. It would seem they've got a somewhat obsessive fear about collaboration. Is that fear well founded?

DONNISON: There used to be a time when hundreds of thousands of Gazans would come to work in Israel. When that was happening, there was a far greater potential, if you like, for collaboration because people would be crossing the border. Often when you cross the border, people would say there would be pressure put on them to pass on information in order to give them safe passage, if you like, across the border. Now, things are very different. There is very little interaction between people living in Gaza and Israelis, so one of the things we reported on, on the BBC earlier this year, was the way that Israeli intelligence was using the internet and social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, and basically just email in fact, as ways of monitoring what was going on and potentially building up links with people who might be willing to collaborate. So, I think it is a real paranoia within Gaza and certainly within the Hamas leadership because let's face it, over the past 10 years, scores of Hamas leaders have been assassinated with the assistance of Israeli intelligence and probably Israeli intelligence that's been relying on collaborators.

WERMAN: You indicated earlier, Jon, that Gazans especially would say collaborators are their enemies. But surely this Hamas round up will affect the stability and influence of them as a party. I mean couldn't this be just a bad PR scheme for Hamas in the long run?

DONNISON: Well, it could be. And we understand that 20 members of Hamas themselves have been detained. The other suspicion certainly among some people in Gaza, particularly supporters of Fatah, who are of course, the river secular party of Hamas, many of whom were driven out of Gaza when Hamas took control several years ago. The suspicion is I think that many people from Fatah have been rounded up and this is some sort of tit-for-tat exchange really because you'll be aware that in recent weeks and months, Fatah security forces operating on the West Bank have been arresting hundreds of Hamas supporters on the West Bank. So I think there is a great deal of mistrust between Fatah and Hamas and I think the suspicion, certainly from Fatah members, is well look, if our members are being rounded up in Gaza on suspicion of collaborating, then that is really just in response to what's been happening on the West Bank.

WERMAN: The BBC's Jon Donnison in Ramallah discussing with us the Hamas crackdown on collaborators in Gaza. Thanks very much, Jon.

DONNISON: Pleasure.