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Israel Relocates ‘Collaborators’

Times Staff Writer

Israel on Monday evacuated about 250 people, nearly all of them Bedouin, from an Israeli-guarded village in the Gaza Strip that was tainted by its reputation as a haven for Palestinians who collaborated with Israel.

The evacuees from the village of Dahaniya, at Gaza’s southern tip, will receive compensation to help them resettle, the Israeli army said without specifying the sums involved.

The evacuees had gone to Israel’s Supreme Court to demand relocation, saying their lives would be in danger if they stayed in Dahaniya after Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza in the next few weeks. Israeli authorities decided to move them even though the court case was still pending.

“It is accepted on the Palestinian street that everyone who comes from Dahaniya is a collaborator,” their lawyer, Chaim Mandelbaum, told reporters Monday. “They are regarded as enemies of the Palestinian people.”

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The Israeli security services make extensive use of Palestinian informants, who are often coerced or bribed into helping the Israelis hunt militants. Dozens of suspected collaborators have been killed by other Palestinians.

The Dahaniya villagers, most of them very poor, were transported to the dusty encampment of Tel Arad, near the Israeli town of Arad southwest of the Dead Sea. There, under a blazing sun, Israeli troops set up big canvas tents and unloaded tattered bedding and cheap cookware from metal shipping containers.

Permanent homes will be built for those who want them, Israeli authorities said. Another Bedouin clan, which agreed to accept the Dahaniya villagers, lives a semi-migratory life in the Negev desert near Arad.

Those who were moved on Monday, members of about 20 interlocking clans, have Israeli citizenship. About 200 other Dahaniya residents with Palestinian identity cards, who could be tainted by the village’s reputation, will be moved elsewhere in Gaza and receive financial compensation, the army said. Details of their relocation are likely to remain secret for security reasons.

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“We feel obliged to these people,” said Shlomo Dror, an army spokesman. “I believe we wronged them in a way when we brought the collaborators to Dahaniya, and people thought of them all as collaborators, too.”

Many of the original informants who lived in Dahaniya, whose entanglements with Israel date back to the first Palestinian intifada, from 1987 to 1993, were relocated to Arab towns inside Israel during the mid-1990s.

The Bedouin of Dahaniya were mainly refugees from the Sinai who were uprooted from homes when the peninsula was handed back to Egypt following its 1979 peace accord with Israel.

“We have been moved from place to place,” said Sheik Abed Shtawi, a spokesman for the Dahaniya villagers. “This is a hard situation for us.” But, he added: “I see my future as a Bedouin and an Israeli citizen.”

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Times special correspondent Ilan Mizrahi in Tel Arad contributed to this report.


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