The four men in traditional Arab garb didn’t attract the attention of Ahmed Khalil, 27, when he drew near his farm not far from the town of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza. They looked like the vegetable merchants who usually come to buy produce in the early hours of the day. But as soon as they approached, two of them fired at his head with pistols equipped with silencers. He died immediately.
The four men, disguised as Palestinians, were members of the most recent death squad formed by the Israeli government in Gaza to eliminate Palestinian fighters. The four thought that Khalil was a member of the resistance movement on his way to carry out an operation against an Israeli target, Israeli military sources later said. The Southern Zone Command of the Israeli army said that the death squad was formed on instructions of the Israeli mini-cabinet, which urged the army chiefs of staff to take more aggressive action against the resistance in Gaza, so as to end the firing of local-made rockets at Israeli settlements.
The new death squad is code-named Samson. It is a new edition of the Arabists, or units made up of men in Arab garb with orders to attack resistance men deep inside Palestinian territories. On the outskirts of Gaza, members of such squads often abduct farmers and hand them over to Israel’s internal intelligence service, Shabak, for interrogation. There, the men are routinely coerced to supply information about the resistance. Yediot Aharonot recently admitted that Palestinians were being blackmailed by the Shabak into working as informers.
Such units have been operating for a long time in the West Bank. They are called Duvdevan (Hebrew for cherry) and are responsible for most of the target killings of leaders of the Palestinian resistance. Israeli television has just aired a documentary on the training of such units. Experts in makeup, language training and undercover operations help train Duvdevan members. The latter are often disguised as vegetable merchants and told to drive around in Mercedes pickups, the same type of vehicle favoured by Palestinian merchants. The occupation army now has the Arabists as well as the Samson units working undercover in Palestinian territories.