- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2001

JERUSALEM — Locked in a spiraling struggle with Israel, the Palestinians have turned their attention to the enemy within: Palestinian collaborators who have been providing Israel with precise intelligence.
The uncanny accuracy with which Israel has carried out a succession of strikes against Palestinian militants has alarmed the Palestinian leadership and infuriated the public.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher joined the criticism yesterday, calling Israel's government a "gang of assassins."
"Israel's policy violates all laws and conventions," Mr. Maher told reporters in Cairo. "It is unprecedented for a government to become a gang which assassinates people, which uses the methods of gangs in assassinating people.
"No civilized government which believes in the law can accept this behavior," he added after a meeting with the U.S. charge d'affaires, Reno Harnish, in Cairo.
Israel, which has been demanding that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat lock up about 100 suspected Palestinian militants, published a list Sunday that named the seven men it most wanted to see behind bars.
Israel's implied warning is that if the Palestinian Authority does not detain these activists, the "wanted" list will become a hit list. Palestinian leaders yesterday rejected Israel's demand.
"It's not an issue of seven or 700. All the Palestinian people are targeted by the Israeli missiles," said Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader who says he was the target of an Israeli missile attack Saturday. "Why should the Palestinian Authority arrest them?"
In an attack Saturday, helicopters fired two missiles and wounded one of Mr. Barghouti's bodyguards, who was traveling in a car outside Mr. Barghouti's office in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
According to Israel, the bodyguard was responsible for several attacks against Israel and was the target of the raid.
Asked whether Mr. Arafat has any reason to fear for his life, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said: "I have this to say to Arafat. Don't worry. Nothing is going to happen to you. I guarantee it. I want you here, leading your people to peace."
Palestinian anger at collaborators was unleashed last week in the wake of an attack by helicopters in Nablus that killed the senior Hamas official on the West Bank and seven others. The Israelis knew at what time the official was holding a meeting and through which windows in the seven-story building to fire the missiles.
Thousands of Nablus residents gathered outside a local prison after the attack and demanded that three Palestinians convicted of spying for Israel be handed over.
Police restored order, but the judges who were to sentence the men in two days moved the sentencing up by one day and pronounced the death penalty, to cheers from the crowd in the courtroom.
Three other suspected collaborators were killed elsewhere on the West Bank during the week by unknown hands.
Officials of the Palestinian Authority, concerned at the spread of lynch law, urged the public to inform the authorities of any suspicions and not to take the law into their own hands.
Palestinian security officials are acutely embarrassed by Israel's success in identifying persons involved in attacks on Israeli targets and in being able to track their movements.
"The Israelis themselves weren't able to prevent the assassination of [former Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin," said one senior official in an interview on Palestinian television.
One Palestinian security official said the Israelis pulled into their intelligence net people who require permits of one kind or another, like students or merchants, and who could thus be pressured to provide information.
Financial incentives and perhaps also rivalries within the Palestinian camp also presumably play a role.
In any case, Israel clearly has an abundance of intelligence sources. The accuracy with which it is able to put its hands on specific individuals would do credit to a security agency working within its own population, let alone one working secretly within a hostile population.
On Sunday, Israeli helicopters fired a missile at a car in Tulkarm, killing a Hamas activist, Omar Madiri, said by Israel to have been on his way with explosives to two suicide bombers about to be dispatched into Israel.
Yesterday, Israeli commandos penetrated the West Bank and brought back, alive, a Palestinian thought to have been one of the suicide bombers.

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