GAZA, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- A Palestinian admitted Wednesday that he helped Israel by passing information regarding Hamas armed wing commander Salah Shehada, who was subsequently killed in the bombing of a Gaza City building last month.
Akram Al Zattma, 26, said that he became a collaborator with Israel two years ago when he met a university professor who claimed to be from Canada. The professor then introduced Zattma to an Israeli security intelligence officer, Zattma said.
"It was a dream for me to travel abroad and live in Canada. The Israeli security intelligence blackmailed me and pressured me to work for them and give them information on Palestinian militants," Al Zattma told a news conference called by Palestinian preventive security.
"I used to pass information in the beginning of the intifada on the movement of militants and the places they open fire from at Israeli soldiers," Zattma said. "All this was only for 1000 Israeli shekels (about $250)."
Zattma said that if he knew that the information he was passing to the Israelis would lead to deaths, he would not have worked for the Israelis.
On July 22, Shehada, the founder of Izel Dein Al Qassam, was killed when an Israeli F-16 dropped a bomb. A total of 14 people -- nine of them children -- died in the incident.
"The intelligence officer was calling me and telling me that Shehada is in the area and he just wanted me to follow him and know where does he exactly live," said Zattma.
He said that at about 11 p.m. July 22, he received a call from his security officer who told him to watch for Shehada's car and report when Shehada entered into the building. He said that he received another call and informed the officer that Sehada had arrived. Zattma was asked to leave the area. About 20 minutes later he heard an explosion in the neighborhood.
Zattma said he regrets what he did and advised Palestinians who have become collaborators with Israel to turn themselves over to the Palestinian security.
A top preventive security officer told United Press International that Zattma is a victim and that he feels sorry for him. However, he said that Zattma as well as many collaborators should be taken to court for hurting their people.
Well-informed Palestinian security sources said that Israel has recruited thousands of Palestinians; most of them are young men, after signing Oslo agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Israel played on the hard living conditions and the poor economical situation in the Palestinian territories in convincing Palestinians to give information.
The Palestinian Authority executed three suspected collaborators at the beginning of the intifada two years ago. Dozens of Palestinians suspected of helping the Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza by Palestinian militants.