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A Palestinian man from the Gaza Strip who allegedly passed on information to the Israeli security forces about Palestinian terror groups responsible for Kassam rocket attacks on Israel has been arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces loyal to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
The 33-year-old suspect, who was not identified by name, is a resident of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.
He was arrested last month by members of the Preventive Security Service, which is responsible, among other things, for combating espionage.
The man, who has been accused of "collaboration" with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), has confessed and will be brought to trial soon on charges of "high treason," a Palestinian security source said. If convicted, he will face the death penalty.
Sources in the Preventive Security Service said the suspected "collaborator" had worked in Israel for many years, during which time he established contacts with criminal elements. He was initially suspected of stealing containers of electrical appliances and frozen meat imported by Palestinian businessmen through the Ashdod port.
During his interrogation, the sources claimed, the man confessed that he had been recruited by the Shin Bet in June 2006 in return for money and a cellular phone. His main mission was to report on the movement and whereabouts of Palestinian gunmen who were firing Kassam rockets at Israel, they added.
"The suspect provided his Shin Bet handler with sensitive and important information about Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip," said a senior Preventive Security Service officer. "He continued to do so until he was arrested on December 21."
He revealed that two other Palestinians suspected of "collaboration" with Israel were arrested by the same force in the Gaza Strip in the past few weeks.
"Our goal is to clean the Palestinian street of all traitors," the officer explained. "We will continue our campaign against anyone who works with the Israelis and we urge residents to inform us about suspects."
The announcement comes only weeks after Abbas pledged to deploy some 12,000 PA policemen in the northern Gaza Strip in a bid to prevent rocket attacks on Israel.
Abbas has repeatedly condemned the launching of rocket attacks on Israel as "harmful" to Palestinian interests, calling on Palestinian armed groups not to provide Israel with an excuse to invade the Gaza Strip.
Like all the Fatah-dominated PA security forces, the Preventive Security Service is under Abbas's jurisdiction. Since its establishment in 1994, the force has arrested hundreds of Palestinians on suspicion of "collaboration" with Israel. At least seven were executed by the PA after being convicted by special security tribunals.
Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip reacted with skepticism to the report about the arrest of the suspected informer. They said they did not rule out the possibility that the Preventive Security Service, which had been accused by Hamas of collaborating with Israel, was now seeking to save its reputation by showing that it was acting against "collaborators" with Israel.
Meanwhile, Fatah and Hamas representatives are scheduled to meet in Gaza City Tuesday for talks aimed at reaching an agreement on the formation of a Palestinian unity government. The decision to resume the talks follows the failure of Sunday's summit between Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus.
Fatah spokesman Abdel Karim Awad said the talks, which will continue for two weeks, would focus on ways of easing tensions between the two parties. He added that Fatah would insist on the dismantlement of Hamas's Executive Force and merging of its members into the PA security forces. He also confirmed that Hamas has agreed to relinquish control over the Interior Ministry, which is formally in charge of the PA security forces, in favor of an independent figure.
Sources close to Hamas named Khader Abbas, commander of the anti-drug police in the Gaza Strip, as a leading candidate for the post of interior minister. They said Abbas, who spent 14 years in Israeli jails for security related offenses, is a former member of Islamic Jihad.
PA officials in Ramallah said the main reason for the failure of the Abbas-Mashaal summit was Hamas's refusal to incorporate its Executive Force into the PA security forces.
They added that the two also failed to reach an agreement on the political program of the proposed unity government.