Israel's allies fight their own war: Robert Fisk, in Tyre, asks if the 'South Lebanon Army' is intent on sabotaging the peace process
For months, the SLA's men - many of them blackmailed into working for the Israelis by threats against their families - have been expressing their fear that an Israeli-Lebanese peace would leave them at the mercy of their Hizbollah and Palestinian antagonists. Several have already made private accommodations with Hizbollah leaders - in some cases, their own relatives - to be spared 'execution' on the day the Israelis leave. But a hard core of pro-Israeli militiamen appear determined to stoke their enemies' hatred in the months before peace.
It all started earlier this month when four members of the Marxist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine tried to infiltrate the Israeli-occupied zone in an attempt to cross the Israeli frontier and seize hostages - to be released for Palestinians in Israeli jails. 'Sergeant' Khalil Huran, Shadi Hussein, Ghaled Mustapha and 'Sergeant' Hussein Yassin, loaded down with rifles and anti-tank weapons, were inside the UN's area of operations near the Muslim mountain town of Cheba on 11 March when they became separated in the darkness. Mustapha was captured by SLA men while Yassin got cold feet and surrendered to Norwegian troops of the UN's peace-keeping force in Cheba. Huran and Hussein, however, sought shelter in a cave. By dawn, Huran was dead, apparently shot by the Israelis and SLA. Hussein, 19, was trapped in a graveyard, out of ammunition after a gun battle with SLA agents.
Since the events took place in an area where the occupation zone and the UN's area overlap, there were independent witnesses to what happened next. Surrounded by SLA 'security' men, Hussein stood up, dropped his Kalashnikov rifle, placed his hands on his head and surrendered, shouting out verses from the Koran as he walked towards his captors.
He had only walked a few yards, however, when the senior SLA officer, also a Muslim, raised his own rifle and fired a full clip of ammunition into Hussein's stomach. The Israelis, who were not involved in the murder, privately conceded that something went dreadfully wrong with the operation to capture the Palestinians. The UN force commander in southern Lebanon, a Norwegian general, angrily protested to the Israelis that the SLA 'execution' was a flagrant breach of human rights.
The sheikh of Cheba ordered villagers to abandon the Id al-Fitr feast - held to mark the end of Ramadan - and in his mosque referred to Hussein's killing as a 'massacre'. He was arrested by the Israelis next morning; but in an unprecedented act the parents of the SLA officer who shot Hussein published a communique in the city of Sidon, blaming their son for the murder and disowning him 'for all time.'
Then last week, after an ambush in which two Israeli soldiers were killed, Israeli gun batteries manned by SLA men opened fire on the towns of Sidon and Nabatieh, killing two children, three women and a streetsweeper - in clear breach of an Israeli-Hizbollah ceasefire agreement last July. And suddenly the Israelis in southern Lebanon let it be known that they did not authorise the artillery fire. That same week, two Israeli newspapers carried long articles in which anonymous Israeli 'military sources' described the SLA as 'undisciplined' and 'unprofessional', and arguing that the militia now endangered Israeli security.
The implications of all this were not lost on United Nations officers, who are increasingly fearful that around 100 SLA men may be moving out of Israel's control - and may therefore represent a threat to UN personnel. 'Maybe the Israelis are playing some game with us,' one resident said. 'But it looks as though some of the SLA know they will be accused of collaboration and shot when the Israelis go - and so they are trying to keep the Israelis engaged in Lebanon, sabotaging any peace treaty. Perhaps they hope that they will become so hated that the Israelis will be forced to 'rescue' them and take them to Israel when there's a peace.'
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
- 5 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Greece elections: Greek PM Alexis Tsipras takes aim at 'neo-liberal' Europe as country gears up for prolonged austerity battle
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Pornhub star Mia Khalifa receives death threats after being ranked the site's top adult actress
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Leaked documents show Ukip leaders approve NHS privatisation once it becomes more 'acceptable to the electorate'
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This number one supplier of Coo...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Forecast Analyst is required to join a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We require a teacher of Science in this com...