Palestinian Areas Descending Into Chaos

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In a sign of spiraling mistrust and lawlessness in Palestinian areas over the past week, two Palestinians were summarily executed for alleged collaboration with Israel, three more were secretly murdered by militants, another two have been sentenced to death, and at least five others have been arrested as suspected informers. And in Gaza on Wednesday, the head of Palestinian TV was shot dead by masked gunmen in an unexplained hit.

The director of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation was killed today when three masked men, armed with weapons equipped with silencers, opened fire on him at close range as he left the Gaza Beach hotel in Gaza City. Hisham Miki, 54, died 15 minutes after the attack. He had headed "Palestine Television" since its founding in 1994 and was a close associate of PLO chief Yasser Arafat.

While the mysterious incident is still under investigation, the Palestinian Authority issued a statement saying he was "gunned down by bullets of treason and betrayal," a suggestion the shooters had ties with Israel. But some Palestinian sources indicated it may have been linked to charges the TV director was involved in corruption with PA officials. Then again, another Palestinian source offered a third theory, saying Islamic extremists may have targeted him for his extensive business dealings with Israelis.

The PA has declared war on suspected Palestinian informers assisting Israel in its campaign to "eliminate" key leaders of armed militias and terrorist cells. At noon on Saturday, PA firing squads executed two men convicted of collaborating with Israel in recent hits on Palestinian operatives. Hours later, a court in Bethlehem convicted two more accused collaborators to death and two more to life in prison at hard labor.

In addition, three corpses of Arab men have been found in the last three days, victims of armed Palestinian militants. On Monday, the body of Muhammed Haled was found near Nablus, shot at the entrance to his home. Palestinian sources said Haled was shot by three masked men on suspicion of collaboration.

On Tuesday, the bullet-riddled body of 40-year-old Mourshed Rafiq Suliman, a resident of a PA-ruled village near Jenin, was found by Israeli police. ISRAEL RADIO reported that he too was killed on suspicion of collaborating with Israel. Palestinian sources said masked men dragged the man from his home late Monday night.

And on Wednesday, a Palestinian was found shot to death in a car in the vicinity El Bireh, near Ramallah, ISRAEL RADIO reported. The man appears to be the latest victim in a wave of Palestinian attacks on Palestinians.

The body of a fourth man was found by PA forces this morning near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in Gaza. The man had been shot in the head under circumstances that are still unclear.

Much like in the first intifada from 1987 to 1993, Arab on Arab violence seems to be running rampant, as law and order breaks down and local militias rule the street. As many as 1,000 Palestinians were murdered by other Palestinians during the earlier uprising. While most were charged with "collaborating" with Israel, many of the killings were actually committed to settle scores in clan feuds and money disputes.

By many accounts, the spree of murders left more Arabs dead at the hands of fellow Arabs than from Israeli forces. This pattern follows the PLO's record over the decades of killing far more Arabs than Jews in its bloody campaign for Palestinian statehood.

The recent spate of murders are not the first hits on suspected collaborators during the renewed intifada. On December 17, for example, an Arab man who had served in the Israeli police years ago and was forced to flee to the Israeli town of Ariel was ambushed by Palestinians during a visit to his home village nearby. He was falsely drawn there by promises to his family that a "sulha" (a traditional Arab reconciliation dinner) was being arranged.

The current situation has deteriorated to the point that any Palestinian associated with Israelis has come under increased suspicion and hostility. Even Palestinian workers have been stoned in recent days when lining up at the Erez crossing point on the way to jobs inside Israel.

Fatah officials in Jerusalem said four more Palestinians turned themselves in to the PA as part of an "amnesty" program. Also on Tuesday, Palestinian Preventive Security forces reported that they arrested a cell of five "collaborators" in Hebron. The group members are accused of having passed information to Israel that helped lead to the assassination of Hamas activists in the city. Palestinian sources told ARMY RADIO that the five members will go on trial at the Court for National Security, where they face possible execution.

Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti said the PA should be in charge of dealing with collaborators, but added that if the PA does not take the necessary action, Fatah would instead.

Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

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