Sun, Jun 04, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Video reveals a West Bank tale of sex and blackmail

BETRAYALS Before he and a lover were shot in separate public killings, a Palestinian man confessed to becoming an informer for Israel under pressure

THE GUARDIAN , BALATA, WEST BANK

Behind the cracking voice and occasional gasps for air, Jefal Ayesh knows he is a dead man as he describes how his betrayal began. His eyes dart about constantly; his face flinches. At times he is close to breaking down.

Blackmailed into a web of treason woven from their own deceit and sexual transgressions, Jefal and his lover faced the justice of the street this week when the 25-year-old Palestinian father was dragged blindfolded into the heart of Balata refugee camp in the West Bank and shot as the worst kind of traitor -- a collaborator with Israel.

At the execution the mother of one of those he betrayed handed out sweets.

An hour or so later Jefal's mistress, Wedad Mustafa, a 27-year-old mother of four young children, was hauled from her home by her brothers and killed before a crowd in an act designed to restore the family's honor.

Public killings of collaborators are not uncommon in the occupied territories. But behind the deaths of Jefal and Wedad lies a tale of both Israeli blackmail, in an operation to stalk one of the most wanted men in Balata, and of two lovers seeking to get rid of an unwanted husband.

Jefal, a member of a respected family in Balata, left an account -- coerced but persuasive -- of turning traitor. A "confession" video was recorded following interrogation by members of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed Palestinian group responsible for hundreds of deaths in suicide bombings and other attacks and which dominates the refugee camp next to Nablus.

Blackmail

It began, he said, two years ago when his sister asked to meet him for lunch.

"There was a man there -- a Palestinian. This guy said he was intimate with my sister. It was a shock. I asked my sister and she said it was true. Then he showed me a photograph of her in a sexual way," said Jefal, his voice breaking. "He said either I worked with him or he would show this picture around and it would create a scandal and bring dishonor to our family."

Many Palestinian women have been killed by relatives to restore family "honor" stained by extramarital affairs or relationships with men of a different religion.

Jefal agreed to work as an informer for the Israeli army and fell under the control of a captain he knew only as Azer who told him to "watch the big men" of the Aqsa brigades. The Israelis recruit many Palestinians as informers in a general sweep for information, but Jefal seems to have been chosen with a particular target in mind.

Through Jefal's sister, the military learned of his affair with Wedad. Her husband, Muhammad Khamis Ammar, was often with one of the army's most wanted men in Balata, Hammoudeh Ishtaiwi. The military accused him of involvement in suicide bombings, but it particularly wanted him for the killing of soldiers, including the shooting of a paratroop commander during a raid on Balata two years ago.

Through Jefal the Israeli army tracked Ishtaiwi's movements. The key was Wedad. She, too, was blackmailed over the affair. But the lovers apparently also saw an opportunity. If the army got Ishtaiwi, it was likely that Wedad's husband would also be arrested or killed.

Earlier this year the army raided Balata several times, looking for Ishtaiwi. The Aqsa brigades had a safe house in Balata, fitted with false walls and ceilings. Few people knew the house was a hideout, but Wedad came and went with food for her husband. One afternoon she called Jefal to tell him that Ishtaiwi, her husband and a third man, Hassan Hajaj, were in the safe house. Jefal called Captain Azer.

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