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
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine