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.
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.
"The captain called back in the night and said go to the area where those guys were hiding. There I was, describing to the army how to get to the house, where the hiding place was, the secret wall," he said.
"The army went in and then the commander called and shouted at me, `Are you making fun of me? We were there and we didn't find them.' I said, `No, they are there. There's a really secret hiding place. You need to look harder.'"
The Israelis called Wedad.
"It was the woman who pointed the finger to exactly where they were," Jefal said on his video. Wedad does not admit to that final betrayal in her own video confession, but the pair admit to working together to lead the Israelis to the hideout, and only she had been inside the house.
The army blasted through the false wall, and before long the Palestinian militants were dead. A few hours later Capt Azer called Jefal and told him to go to the morgue to check on who the army had killed.
"I called the captain and told him, `You have your three martyrs,'" he said at the end of the recording.
After Ishtaiwi and his colleagues were killed the Aqsa brigades' leaders began hunting for an informer. The men who interrogated Jefal, and then killed him, do not wish to be identified by name.
"We found out that Muham-mad's wife was in a relationship with a man," said one of the brigades' commanders. "When we asked about Jefal we found out that he left his house at 3am. We discovered he had a special pass to get through the Israeli checkpoint. We decided to question him."
There was a final test. The interrogators made Jefal call Capt Azer.
The Aqsa brigades refuse to show Wedad's confession.
On Tuesday Jefal was dragged blindfolded into Balata's main street and thrown to the ground while his captors told the crowd of his confession. When Jefal tried to get away several men fired shots into him. Some in the crowd ran to kick his body.
Attention turned to Wedad. The Aqsa brigades' leaders say they did not kill her, and that it was a matter of family honor. Within an hour of Jefal's death armed men had told the family of her involvement.
Wedad was dragged into the street by her family and was about to be shot when a man pleaded that she not be killed in front of children. Witnesses said she remained silent -- seemingly resigned to her fate after being told of the death of her lover -- as she was hauled into the grounds of one of the West Bank's largest hospitals.
There, an armed man called for Wedad's brothers to come forward.
"You know what you need to do," he said.
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