Hamas arrests Israel spies

2010-09-23 14:21

Gaza City - The Hamas-run government in Gaza said on Thursday it had arrested spies for Israel who had infiltrated armed groups and helped kill top militants.

The revelations capped a months-long public campaign warning residents of the coastal enclave against collaborating with Israel, and followed the arrest of some well-known local figures in recent weeks.

"The relevant bodies have succeeded in acquiring dangerous confessions and revealing a number of agents who were behind the assassination of leaders of the resistance," interior ministry spokesperson Ihab al-Ghussein told reporters.

"We have arrested some agents who were able to infiltrate some of the resistance groups by joining their ranks and attempting to gain the confidence of leaders," he added at a Gaza news conference.

Ghussein then listed several incidents going as far back as 2006 in which spies allegedly helped pinpoint leaders ahead of their assassination by Israeli forces and set off bombs in militant compounds.

One name revealed

In many of the alleged incidents the information provided was incorrect, leading to the killing of civilians, the interior ministry spokesperson said.

However, he declined to say how many alleged agents had been arrested and provided just one name - that of a supporter of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement who fled to the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Ghussein also showed a video of two men, their faces pixelated, confessing to having spied for Israel and describing how they were recruited.

Another interior ministry official, Mohammed Lafi, showed different gadgets he said had been found on the alleged agents, including a camera concealed in a tissue box and a car battery with a phone inside.

"The security services have a strict policy of not speaking about numbers or names or specific situations, but I think it's very clear that we have achieved something," he said.

The news conference did little to address rumours that have gripped Gaza in recent weeks over who has been accused of spying and what might happen to them.

Death penalty for traitors

During its months-long campaign, Hamas demanded that spies turn themselves in and threatened those who failed to heed the order.

The usual penalty for alleged collaborators is death, either dispensed by militants or carried out on court order.

Hamas has executed two alleged collaborators since it seized power in 2007, both in April of this year.

The interior ministry had announced earlier on Thursday that an alleged Palestinian spy had been sentenced to death by a military court, without saying when the sentence would be carried out.

More than a dozen other people have received similar sentences in recent years, according to rights groups.

Hamas militants killed and maimed scores of alleged collaborators during and after the 2008-2009 Gaza war, rights groups said.

Some 1 400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the 22-day Israeli offensive.