As the fight between the Israeli army and Palestinian resistance groups entered its third year, special army units [in Arabic known as Mustarebeen, in Hebrew as Dovdovan] continue to hunt for resistance operatives.
The mission assigned to them is to arrest or eliminate resistance operatives. They are specially trained, never exposed to media, and always disguise as local residents.
Around 10 A.M. Monday morning, April 12, 2004, a Mercedes Benz lorry parked in front of the Arab Bank Branch in Al-Khader village, south of Bethlehem. Two, Arab looking, men jumped of the car and started downloading box into the bank yard.
At this point, a third man arrived shouting at them and demanding that the should remove the boxes away, as the three shouted loudly at each other, the Bank guard, Firas Abu-Alia, approached them in an attempt to solve the problem.
Suddenly, the three, with guns in their hands, jumped on Abu-Alia and pushed him to the ground. Four more men jumped from the lorry cabin and attacked Abu-Alia.
After severely beating him, they tied his hands and threw him inside the lorry. At that instant, more than 20 army vehicles arrived, accompanied the lorry, and moved out of the Palestinian Authority area.
Abu-Alia was the newly appointed leader of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s military wing, in Bethlehem. He only took this position 10 days ago as army arrested the former brigades’ leader Jamal Hamamerah from inside a hospital in the city.
Dovdovan operatives took advantage of a Palestinian cultural attitude. Palestinians are tempted to intervene if a problem erupts, even if the ones involved are not known. Abu-Alia acted as they expected and mission was completed.
Evidently Dovdovan operatives had accurate information on whom he was, where he was at that minute, and his cultural habits and immediate reactions.
Three months ago, another Mercedes Benz lorry entered into Aiad refugee camp in Bethlehem and killed Hamas Operative Mohammed Odeh. This time the mission was to eliminate, they only needed accurate information where he was and a disguise to enter the camp without being noticed.
A similar lorry was used in the failed attempt to arrest Islamic Jihad leader in Bethlehem Mohammed Shihada, 5 months ago.
The lorry disguised as a vegetable selling one, a common seen in Bethlehem streets due to the imposed closure, arrived to few meters from Shihada’s home.
By mere chance, a local car arrived from the opposite direction of the narrow road. When asked to move back, the car driver refused to do so and exchanged shouts and curses with the lorry driver.
Meanwhile, children gathered and noticed guns hidden under the clothes of the lorry’s passengers. Kids started throwing stones at the lorry and shouting ‘Mustarebeen, Mohammed run away’. Mohammed managed to escape, but the taxi driver was severely beaten.
In a similar story a Volkswagen stopped at a Gas Station in Bethlehem. As Nidal Abu-Aker, a local leader in the Popular Front (PFLP), who worked in the station, approached the car to fill its tank, four Dovdovan operatives, disguised like Arabs, jumped on him, pushed him inside the car and drove to a nearby army base.
In the West bank city of Jenin, five of Fatah’s military wing operatives left their car to look at the damage caused after another car pumped into the rear of their car.
Suddenly, the passengers of the second car opened fire killing the five before fleeing the site.
An army officer, responsible for the training of the special army units (Dovdovan) told Israeli TV channel 1 that his units move to their target after collecting enough information on how he looks and what weapons he posses.
‘Our operatives open fire immediately, taking advantage of the target’s hesitation to open fire at someone who looks Arab. The first few seconds are crucial to the success of the mission’ the officer said ‘fleeing the site as quickly as possible is as crucial’ he added.
Local collaborators providing accurate information are crucial to the success of the Dovdovan operations.
After the assassination of Hamas leader in Gaza Abdul-Aziz Rantisi, Hamas leaders requested for the Palestinian Authority security to take active measures against Palestinians who collaborate with Israeli intelligence.