Home News Secret Hamas documents reveal how it spies on Palestinians’ daily lives

Secret Hamas documents reveal how it spies on Palestinians’ daily lives

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Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has overseen a secret police force in Gaza for years, conducting surveillance on Palestinians in their daily lives and providing youth services, according to intelligence officials and a trove of internal documents reviewed by Novaya Gazeta. People, journalists and people who question the government build dossiers. York Times.

The unit, known as the General Security Directorate, relies on a network of Gaza informants, some of whom report their neighbors to police. People were placed on security files for participating in protests or publicly criticizing Hamas. In some cases, records show authorities tracked people to determine whether they were having romantic relationships outside of marriage.

Hamas has long operated a repressive system of governance in Gaza, and many Palestinians there know security officials keep a close eye on them. But just weeks before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, a 62-slide presentation on the activities of the General Security Service revealed the extent to which this largely unknown unit has penetrated Palestinian life.

The documents show that Hamas leaders, despite claiming to represent the people of Gaza, will not tolerate even a hint of dissent. Security officials track journalists and people they suspect of unethical behavior. Agents neutralized criticism on social media and discussed ways to smear political opponents. Political protest is seen as a threat that needs to be neutralized.

Gazans are trapped every day behind Israel’s heavily blockaded wall, controlled by security forces and under constant surveillance. This dilemma continues today as the threat of Israeli ground forces and air strikes increases.

“We are facing occupation and brutal bombing by local authorities,” Ehab Fasfus, a Gaza journalist who appears in the General Security Directorate’s files, said in a telephone interview from Gaza.

Faithfuss, 51, was listed in a report as one of the “leading haters of the Hamas movement.”

The documents were provided to The Times by Israeli military intelligence officials, who said they were seized during raids in Gaza.

The reporter then interviewed the people mentioned in the file. The men recounted key events, confirmed biographical information and, in Faceforth’s case, described interactions with authorities that matched secret documents. The documents reviewed by The Times included seven intelligence files from October 2016 to August 2023. Military Intelligence said it was aware that the documents contained information on at least 10,000 Gaza Palestinians.

The General Security Service is formally part of the Hamas party, but functions like part of the government. A Palestinian familiar with the inner workings of Hamas confirmed that the agency is one of Gaza’s three powerful internal security agencies. The person spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. The other departments are the Military Intelligence Service (usually focused on Israel) and the Internal Security Service (a department within the Ministry of Interior).

Hamas spokesman Bassem Naim said the person responsible for the General Security Directorate could not be contacted during the war.

Records show that before the war with Israel, the force had 856 men and monthly expenses of $120,000. Of those, more than 160 were paid to spread Hamas propaganda and launch cyberattacks against domestic and foreign opponents. The status of the force today is unclear, as Israel has dealt a major blow to Hamas’s military and governance capabilities.

Three Israeli intelligence officials said Israeli intelligence authorities believed Sinwar directly supervised the General Security Service. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. They said the slides were prepared for Mr. Sinwar personally, but they did not say how they knew this.

The General Security Directorate is committed to protecting Hamas personnel, property and information and supporting its leadership’s decision-making, the presentation said.

Some slides focused on the physical security of Hamas leaders. Others discussed ways to suppress protests, including last year’s “We Want to Live” demonstrations that criticized power shortages and the cost of living. Security officials also tracked operatives of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an ideologically aligned militant group that often collaborates with Hamas.

Some tactics, such as amplifying Hamas’s own messages, appear to be routine political activity. In other cases, officials suggested using intelligence to weaken adversaries and skew their reputations, although the documents are vague about how that would be done.

“Conducting a range of offensive and defensive media activities to confuse and influence adversaries through the use of private and exclusive information,” the document reads.

One report said that last August, security officers stopped Fathforth on his way to a protest, confiscated his phone and ordered him to leave. Faithforth confirmed that he was approached by two plainclothes police officers. Authorities searched his recent phone calls and wrote that he was speaking to “suspicious individuals” in Israel.

“We recommend that containment of him is necessary because he is a hateful, negative person who brings only downsides to the Las Vegas Strip,” the document states.

The most frustrating part, Faithforth said, was that the officer used his phone to send flirtatious messages to colleagues. “They wanted to pin ethical violations on me,” he said.

The report did not include this detail, but it did describe methods of “dealing with” Faithforth. “Defamating him,” the report said.

“If you don’t hang out with them, you become an atheist, a heretic and a sinner,” Mr. Faithforth said. He acknowledged supporting the protests and criticizing Hamas online but said the people he interacted with in Israel were Palestinians who own food and clothing companies. He said he helps run their social media accounts.

The goals of the General Security Service are similar to those of security services in countries such as Syria, which use clandestine units to quell dissent. However, the General Security Service document refers to tactics such as censorship, intimidation and surveillance, rather than physical violence.

“This General Security Service is like the Stasi in East Germany,” said Michael Milshtein, a former Israeli military intelligence officer who specialized in Palestinian affairs. “You always keep an eye on the streets.”

Analysts say Palestinians in Gaza live in fear and are reluctant to express dissent.

“There are a lot of people who practice self-censorship,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor in Gaza City. “They just don’t want to have problems with the Hamas government.”

That view clashes with the sharpest rhetoric from Israeli leaders, such as President Isaac Herzog, who accused Gazans of failing to overthrow Hamas before the Oct. 7 attack.

‘The entire country has a responsibility’ He said. “This statement about civilians being made without awareness and participation is absolutely not true. They could have stood up.”

The General Security Service also sought to enforce conservative social order, documents show.

For example, in December 2017, authorities investigated a report that a woman had engaged in unethical behavior with a clothing store owner. A security report states she visited the store for an hour one day and more than two hours the next. The report did not provide any evidence of wrongdoing but recommended that “interested parties” address the matter.

A report in October 2016 stated that young men and women engaged in unspecified “immoral acts” at the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Khan Younis at night. Hamas views the Palestine Liberation Organization as a compromising entity whose leaders tend to favor Israeli interests. The report provides no evidence of wrongdoing but recommends subpoenaing a man who said he was in possession of the videos and images.

The documents also reveal Hamas’s suspicion of foreign organizations and journalists.

When Dutch journalist Monique van Hoogstraten visited a protest camp on the Israeli border in April 2018, the authorities noticed the most banal of details. They noted the make and model of her car and the license plate number. They said she took photos of the children and attempted to interview an elderly woman. Van Hostraten confirmed the report in an interview with The Times.

The document recommends further “reconnaissance” on journalists.

None of the documents reviewed by The Times date from after the war began. But Faceforth said the government was still interested in him.

Early in the war, he said, he photographed security forces beating people as they lined up outside bakeries to fight for seats. Authorities confiscated his camera.

Faceforth complained to a government official in Khan Younis, who told him to stop reporting and “destabilize the internal front,” Faceforth recalled.

“I told him I was reporting the truth and that the truth wouldn’t hurt him, but he turned a deaf ear,” he said. “As long as these criminal elements still control us, we cannot live here.”

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