Fatah 'hawks' use Israeli tactics to keep order in Gaza

STANDING among the mangled remains of the new extension to her home, an elderly Palestinian woman was pleading for justice and space to live. Such cries are familiar in the Gaza Strip, where refugees live in cramped misery, and where Israeli forces often destroy homes as punishment for so-called security offences.

This woman's anger, however, was levelled at a new Palestinian 'iron fist' policy - not at Israel. Her family had built an extra room on a tiny plot of vacant sandy land. Armed and masked Palestinian 'police' had just flattened the paltry structure, saying the plot belonged to the Palestinian state-in- waiting. 'We trust our leaders. But what of my tragedy,' cried Manzouna al Araj. Her son said: 'We were all colleagues in prison. Our leadership should help us.'

As the delay in implementation of the Gaza-Jericho peace accords drags on, the proposed self-rule areas exist in legal limbo. Yesterday, Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, suggested that agreement on terms for withdrawal would be reached when he meets Shimon Peres, the Israeli Foreign Minister, in Cairo on Sunday, although doubt was cast on this by Yossi Sarid, Israel's peace negotiator. 'I don't think that in Cairo the agreement will be signed at this stage,' Mr Sarid said.

In the meantime Fatah, the main faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has implemented its own peremptory way of keeping law and order in Gaza.

These Palestinians see no shame in using Israeli methods against their own people. 'We have no prisons, no courts, no law. What can we do?' asks Hassanain Zanoon, the Fatah leader in Rafah. Factional in-fighting was punished recently by placing a refugee camp under curfew. 'Israelis destroyed houses which belonged to our fighters. We do it because they are built on our government land,' says Mr Zanoon. 'It's different. If we don't prevent people building on it now there will be no space for roads or markets. It will be chaos.'

Mr Zanoon's small bare office is Rafah's police station, court and social services bureau, manned by ex-prisoners, working for no pay, serving Mr Arafat's cause by keeping what they term 'order' until he arrives. They issue summonses to 'criminals' to come for 'interrogation'. Committees of 'specialists' then decide if the punishment fits the crime and Fatah 'hawks' - the group's armed wing - implement the sentence.

Drug dealers are shot in the knee and gun-runners placed under house arrest. 'We have many problems to solve. These problems were never solved by the Israelis,' says Mr Zanoon, passing a note to a 'hawk' with an M16 rifle.

Solemnly, the 30-year-old explains that the office had just summoned a trader selling Walkers Highland Shortbread that had passed its sell-by date. The merchandise was destroyed. A man who had beaten his wife was summonsed. 'We asked him to come here and he promised not to hit her again and signed an agreement. We are keeping an eye on him now. He is treating her well.'

Electricity bills, like tax bills, have always been torn up by most Gazans, loath to put money into Israeli coffers. Now the Palestinian leadership is helping Israel to collect, knowing people must get used to paying taxes. 'We don't impose collective punishment by cutting everyone off - only those who can afford to pay,' says Mr Zanoon.

The PLO law and order effort is being hampered by a new problem, however: rebellion among its own ranks of Fatah Hawks. A break-away group named after a 'martyr', Abu Rish, has declared new war on the Israelis. Now the mainstream Gaza leadership is contemplating disciplining the Abu Rish faction. Mr Arafat cannot afford such in-fighting in his own ranks.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: We are currently looking for a Geog...

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee