Hamas tells ‘collaborators’ to turn selves in amid hunt for assassins
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Hamas tells ‘collaborators’ to turn selves in amid hunt for assassins

Offering amnesty, Gaza terror group says campaign underway to pursue 'agents' for Israel after killing of terror commander Mazen Faqha

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: A Hamas gunman holding an alleged 'collaborator' in Gaza, moments before the suspect is shot to death, on August 22, 2014. (screenshot: YouTube)
Illustrative: A Hamas gunman holding an alleged 'collaborator' in Gaza, moments before the suspect is shot to death, on August 22, 2014. (screenshot: YouTube)

Hamas said on Tuesday it would offer amnesty to Gazan “agents” for Israel if they turned themselves in to the security forces over the next week.

The offer comes amid a crackdown by Hamas on “collaborators” with the Israeli army following the recent assassination of one of its terror chiefs, Mazen Faqha, which it blames on Israel.

“For the sake of national and social responsibility, the interior and national security ministry will open the door of repentance to those who have fallen victim to the occupation and its intelligence services,” a statement by the Hamas-run Gaza interior ministry said, alluding to the idea that some Gazans are coerced by the Israeli army to work for it.

The “door of repentance” will be open for just one week starting Tuesday, the statement said.

Illustrative: A gallows is prepared for an execution in Gaza, 2013 (AP/Gaza Interior Ministry)
Illustrative: A gallows is prepared for an execution in Gaza, 2013 (AP/Gaza Interior Ministry)

The statement calls on “collaborators” to turn themselves in to the “nearest person in direct relationship with the security services.”

Those who do turn themselves in, the ministry said, “will be provided legal and security protection and their cases will be handled with complete confidentiality and outside of the security headquarters.”

Those who do not turn themselves in will “be in the hands of the security services and considered forewarned,” the statement ends.

In the Hamas-controlled Strip, an arrest for purported collaboration with Israel means an almost-certain death sentence.

Human Rights Watch and other watchdogs have condemned the summary execution of collaborators in Gaza.

In November 2012, Hamas men on motorcycles were filmed dragging bodies of accused collaborators through the streets of Gaza.

On Monday, the Palestinian news agency al-Majd al-Amani, which is linked to Hamas’s military wing, said a large campaign was already underway to capture “collaborators,” and that a group had already been arrested.

Since Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip in 2007, 96 death penalties have been handed down, mostly by military courts and often for spying on behalf of Israel, said Hamdi Shaqura of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Many, but not all, of the death sentences have been carried out.

At least 21 death sentences were handed down in Gaza in 2016 alone.

Hamas leaders have been vowing revenge against Israel ever since Faqha, one of its chiefs, was shot dead on March 25 near his home in Tel el-Hawa, a neighborhood in southwestern Gaza City, with a silencer-equipped weapon. He sustained four bullet wounds to the head during an ambush in his underground parking garage, reports in Gaza said.

Mazen Faqha, upon his release after the Shalit deal in 2011. (Screen capture Twitter)
Mazen Faqha, upon his release after the Shalit deal in 2011. (Screen capture Twitter)

Israel has not acknowledged any involvement in the assassination of Faqha, and on Sunday Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman intimated it was an inside job.

“Hamas is known for its internal assassinations — let them look there,” he said.

Abu Obeida, a spokesperson for Hamas’s military wing, quickly rejected Liberman’s insinuation.

“We affirm that no one is responsible for the crime apart from the Zionist enemy, and it will not succeed in any of its declared or hidden attempts to disclaim or to shuffle the cards,” he said.

Faqha, 38, originally from the West Bank, had received nine life sentences for planning a 2002 suicide bombing in Israel in which nine people were killed and 52 were wounded.

He was freed as part of the 2011 prisoner exchange for captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and deported to Gaza. He was believed to have been responsible for recent Hamas terror cells in the West Bank.

In a speech broadcast at a memorial service for Faqha in Gaza last week, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said that “If Israel decided to change the rules of the game, we accept the challenge.

“The Zionist occupier took from us a great hero and for this we will not sit quietly,” he added.

AFP contributed to this report.

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