Kidnappings boom in lawless Gaza

A COOK in a seafood restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean in Gaza might imagine he was not employed in a dangerous trade. But Rafiq Yusuf Abu Hasira, working in the popular Salaam restaurant in the centre of the city, found that even a life devoted to preparing fish and shrimp did not save him from the spreading tentacles of the 11 Palestinian security services.

A month ago he was kidnapped by Palestinian Military Intelligence, headed by Moussa Arafat, a cousin of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. Jocular stories circulated in Gaza about intelligence officers objecting to the quality of the food they were served in the Salaam. By another account Mr Abu Hasira's detention was connected to his late brother's alleged links to the drugs trade.

The kidnapping turned out to have a more prosaic explanation. Military Intelligence wanted $50,000 (pounds 31,000) to let Mr Abu Hasira go. They never got it. The Salaam is the favourite eating place of foreign diplomats visiting Gaza and the story of the abduction became well known. On 8 March Mr Abu Hasira was released.

He was lucky. Foreign diplomats estimate that Military Intelligence has carried out 20 kidnappings of local businessmen and refused to release them except for cash. Not surprisingly, many potential targets now only move outside their houses accompanied by armed bodyguards.

"Power in Gaza is flowing to the security services," says one diplomat. "You only do business with their permission." Just at the moment when Mr Arafat is threatening to declare a Palestinian state on 4 May, the civil institutions of his Palestinian Authority are disintegrating. Ministries, courts and even Mr Arafat's political organisation, Fatah, are marginalised.

Mr Arafat has always ruled through multiple and competing security services. His methods in Gaza are little different from those in Beirut 20 years ago. The result is a luxuriant growth of security services, ranging from Preventive Security, the most powerful, to General Intelligence, Force 17, the presidential guard and the Special Security Services. There is even a naval intelligence, though Mr Arafat has no navy. Small in size, even this organisation is to be feared. In 1996 it tortured to death a local businessman in Nablus, a town on the West Bank, using an electric water heater.

The security services ignore the court system. In 1995 Mr Arafat set up special state security courts which supersede the judicial system. Trial is by military officers, is held in secret and there is no appeal, though the Palestinian leader can confirm, increase or reduce prison terms. The special courts also pass death sentences.

Exactly how these special security courts operate is illustrated by the trial of Colonel Ahmad Abu Mustapha, a member of the Palestinian border guards, a video tape of which was seen by The Independent. It is a nasty case. Colonel Abu Mustapha, 54, a Bedouin, was on trial accused of raping a six-year-old boy named Saed Abu Shamaleh in Gaza last month. The victim picked him out at an identity parade.

Proceedings are summary. A witness for the prosecution gives a rambling account of what he knows. There is no cross-questioning. Col Abu Mustapha vigorously denies the charges. He says he was at home asleep when the rape took place. He adds: "I never saw this boy before in my life. I didn't do this. The court isn't acting justly."

Col Abu Mustapha, looking as if he is about to collapse, pleads with the three grim-faced Palestinian officers judging him. He asks them to re-open the investigation. One of the officers says: "Don't give a speech." Col Abu Mustapha replies: "I am not giving a speech. I'm asking the court to reinvestigate. If I had done it I would have gone to the court myself."

He does not finish his plea. One of the blue-uniformed policemen standing behind him in the dock places his hands on Col Abu Mustapha's shoulders and forces him back into his seat.

Col Abu Mustapha is not kept long in suspense over his fate. After a brief adjournment the judges return. They give him 15 years' hard labour for the rape. But for the peculiar offence of "motivating people against the Palestinian Authority" they sentence him to execution by firing squad. There is applause in the court room.

The colonel looks stunned. He looks down as the camera zooms in on his face and a policeman jerks his head back so the cameraman can get a better shot. A few hours later Mr Arafat confirmed the sentence and Col Abu Mustapha was shot dead.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform