I asked Hamas: 'Why don't you execute me and dump my body in the flames?'

In first insider's account, Fatah general describes how the 'bloodthirsty' Islamists took over Gaza.

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July 27, 2007 00:27
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"Take a look at my left shoulder. Do you see how it's still swollen? Do you know why? It's because of the many rocket-propelled grenades that I fired at Hamas militiamen when they were surrounding us in our headquarters in Gaza City." The shoulder belongs to a Palestinian Authority general who spoke with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday in the first interview of its kind since Hamas's mid-June takeover of the Gaza Strip. The chain-smoking general, who asked not to be identified by name, was one of 13 top PA security commanders who were captured by Hamas on the last day of the fighting. He and his colleagues were released after being held for 12 hours. They were later transferred to Ramallah after receiving permission from Israel to exit Gaza through the Erez border crossing. His hands trembling, the watery-eyed commander recalled, over three cups of Nescafe and more than 15 cigarettes, his final days in the Gaza Strip. "The last three days were the worst," he said. "We were surrounded by hundreds of Hamas gunmen in our bases and offices in the security zone near the Gaza City beach. I had about 35 men with me and we were planning to fight to the end." According to the 50-year-old general, who is one of the commanders of the PA's Force 17 "Presidential Guard," Hamas had been preparing to conquer the Gaza Strip for a very long time. "Everything was carefully planned," he said. "They were closing in on us from all directions. You could see that they were operating according to a good plan." He said Hamas had divided the Gaza Strip into a number of zones that were cut off from each other. "They managed to isolate Khan Yunis from the rest of the Gaza Strip," he said. "Then they isolated Rafah and other cities. They even divided Gaza City into separate zones and kept moving ahead. "Today we know that Syria and Iran helped Hamas plan and carry out the attack on us." Once most of the PA security headquarters fell into the hands of Hamas, he and his colleagues knew it was only a matter of time before Hamas would take control of the entire Gaza Strip, the general said. "Hamas betrayed us," he said. "On the fourth day of the fighting we reached a truce with them to halt the fighting and we agreed to remove all our men from the roofs of towers overlooking strategic security installations in Gaza City. But then we were surprised to see that Hamas militiamen had occupied the main towers in Gaza City and that their snipers were shooting at us." On the day before the Gaza Strip fell into Hamas's hands, many of the general's men abandoned him, he said. "Hamas men were calling through loudspeakers and megaphones inside the mosques for the families to take their sons away," he said. "Many families came to our bases carrying civilian clothes and demanded that their sons accompany them home. They gave them the clothes and asked them to remove their uniforms. "Most of my men took off their uniforms and threw them into the sea. They also threw their rifles and pistols into the sea and went home wearing civilian clothes. They did not want to fight. "I knew that I was wanted by Hamas and that's why I decided to fight to the end. I knew that Hamas was going to kill me anyway and that I had nothing to lose. On Thursday night [June 14], hours before Hamas completed its coup, I managed to fire dozens of rocket-propelled grenades at them. I inflicted heavy damages on them. I taught them a lesson that they will never forget. "But when I finally realized that Hamas's forces were advancing toward our security zone, I decided to leave the area. At around 2 a.m. on Friday morning I ran away toward the Egyptian security delegation's offices on the 10th floor of a tower near my base. I covered my face with a keffiyeh and threw my rifle away. "Shortly after I entered the Egyptians' office, about 30 Hamas gunmen stormed the area and detained me. They did not care about the fact that this was an office belonging to the Egyptian security forces. They dragged me down to the street, where most buildings and houses were on fire. "As we stood there, I asked the Hamas people: 'Why don't you execute me and dump my body in the flames?' Actually I begged them to execute me because I knew I was going to be tortured. Before they put me in a jeep, I saw the Hamas gunmen execute several people right in front of me. They were shooting all the detainees. I was sure that one of them was going to shoot me in the head. But they later blindfolded me and took me to a place where I was held for about 12 hours. "In this place, there were a number of senior security commanders who had also been captured by Hamas. We were all told that we were going to be executed immediately after our interrogation. They asked us many questions and kept us locked in small rooms. We had no idea where we were being held. Some of us were beaten severely," the PA general said. He and his senior colleagues were released around 3 p.m. on June 15, following the intervention of Ahmed Hils, a top Fatah official in the Gaza Strip with close links to Hamas. The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah had warned Hamas against harming the senior PA security forces commanders, the general said. "Hamas knew that if anything bad happened to us, then their entire leadership would be wiped out," he said. "I think that's the main reason why they decided to release us." Asked if he had any plans to return to the Gaza Strip, the general, who has been serving in the PLO security forces for more than three decades, said: "If I go back, Hamas will kill me immediately. I'm wanted by them. My wife and children are still there and Hamas has burned my house. I don't know what's going to happen now, but I'm not optimistic. These Hamas people are murderers and bloodthirsty. They are using religion as an excuse to commit crimes even against their own people."


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