"I told them that I do not work for anyone."
-Kamal Abdel Karim Yunes, expelled from the village of Markaba with his wife and two children in December 1989.
In villages throughout the occupied zone, members of some families have been hounded for months or years to serve as informers for the ubiquitous security apparatus that is maintained by the SLA with the participation and oversight of Israeli intelligence. For those men and women who refused to succumb to the pressure, expulsion has been a last and punishing resort. In one case, described below, a man's refusal to collaborate resulted in his own expulsion and that of his wife and two children, making the punishment collective in nature. The accounts of the families indicate the persistence of occupation security operatives in the pursuit of potential Lebanese informers. Targeted individuals were threatened with imprisonment if they refused to cooperate, and some were imprisoned in Khiam or detained for short periods in local SLA security offices. In some cases, Israeli intelligence operatives also pressured the victims.
1985-1992: Kfar Kila
Hassan `Akil Hammoud from the village of Kfar Kila, who said he was expelled in 1992 when he was about fifty-eight years old, told Human Rights Watch that prior to his expulsion he was under constant pressure during the five years that his son Jihad was detained without charge in Khiam prison.107 He said that the pressure to serve as an informer with the occupation security apparatus began before Jihad was imprisoned. He explained:
They knew that I had relatives in the resistance. They wanted me to go to Beirut and gather information. They wanted to know about training and where bases were located. They also wanted me to monitor people from Kfar Kila who had moved away to other parts of Lebanon. They promised me that my son would be released if I worked with them.
Hammoud noted that when Jihad was detained he had only one month and a half remaining in his last school year and had a scholarship to continue his education in what was then the Soviet Union. "He wanted tostudy medicine. Now he is a mechanic," he added. "He was not in the resistance. They took him just to put pressure on me."
Hammoud testified that he repeatedly refused to cooperate with the occupation security apparatus. He worked as a housing contractor, and said that he was also subjected to economic pressure. Several years before his expulsion, he said, residents of Kfar Kila were warned not to sign contracts with him. "I did not realize that this was happening until a relative contracted with someone else to build a house. He told me that Ahmad Abdel Jalil Sheet [the SLA security official responsible for Kfar Kila] had been threatening people not to come to me. It reached a point where I had to sell my personal possessions in order to live," Hammoud told Human Rights Watch.
By his own account, Hassan Hammoud was one of the "notables" in Kfar Kila.108 He was trusted by the residents, and was openly outspoken about his resistance to the Israeli occupation. When the SLA began to target him, "they were trying to distance me from the people," he speculated. He said that prior to his own expulsion, five of his eight children were expelled. In addition to Jihad, his son Ammar was the first one expelled, directly after he was released from Khiam prison in 1985, when he was twenty-seven years old. He said that his daughter, Salam, was expelled later the same year, when she was twenty-five; his son Zuhair was expelled in 1988, when he was nineteen; and another son, Karim, was expelled in 1989, at age twenty-one.
After his own expulsion, Hammoud settled in Beirut, where his wife Rasa'el Fares visited him twice. Then she was expelled from the village with the couple's thirteen-year-old daughter Wafa' in 1994.109
Kamal Abdel Karim Yunes, a trader from the village of Markaba, recounted a two-year pattern of harassment and arbitrary arrest before he and his family were finally expelled in December 1989. As a trader, he made frequent trips to Beirut to purchase items that he sold in the village. He traveled on the permit that is required for all residents to exit or enter the occupied zone. Yunes told Human Rights Watch that in 1988 he was summoned to meet with Said Hamoud, an Israeli officer, in Turmous, a former Lebanese army base known as Kilo Nine that was located close to the Israel-Lebanon border. He said that Hamoud asked him to provide information about Lebanese military positions and Hizballah activities, and that he refused. Hamoud threatened that if he did not cooperate his permit to travel outside the zone would be canceled. The trader again refused, and he paid the consequences: "They seized my permit, and I was prohibited from leaving the village. I had to close my shop because I could not go to Beirut to trade," he told Human Rights Watch.110
Then the pressure on Yunes intensified. He was summoned to report to the SLA office in the village, where he was held for about seven hours. "They released me, and I stayed at home for twenty-five days. I could not leave the town. Then one night they came for me after midnight. I [escaped from] the house, and they came back again in the morning. They detained me for five days," he said, at the SLA security office in Markaba. He spent one day at his house, and then word came again that he was wanted at the security office. When he did not appear, militiamen came for him in a civilian car. He said that he was taken to a room where two Israeli intelligence agents questioned him:
They asked why I was being so stubborn, and I told them that I do not work for anyone. They told me to go home, and the same week they took my thirteen-year-old son Hussein to Khiam [prison]. They said that Hussein would be released if I agreed to work as a collaborator. They put me underhouse arrest, with a guard outside my house. Hussein was held for two months and sixteen days, and then released.
When Hussein was released from Khiam, Yunes arranged for him to leave the occupied zone, an action that triggered additional harassment. He said that one morning a car was sent to his house and he was told that he had to talk again to Said Hammoud in Turmous. Yunes told Human Rights Watch that Hammoud once more pressured him to collaborate and again he refused. "Then you will have no permit and you will stay at home," he remembered Hammoud saying.
During this period of intense pressure, Yunes said that SLA militiamen forced him to drive his truck on militarily dangerous roads to deliver supplies to Israeli military outposts in the zone. These trips usually took place at night, and he carried out about twenty-five missions, transporting water or fuel. "They would come to the house and tell me that I had to go with them. It was dangerous but you cannot say no because they are armed. Once they came when I was ploughing the land, and said that I had to deliver fuel. They started shooting at me, and my wife told me to go," Yunes said. He finally set his truck on fire to escape this potentially life-threatening coercion.111
After his last meeting with Said Hammoud, Yunes was placed under surveillance. After several days, he was detained at the SLA security office in Markaba and held for three days. Then he was told that he and his family were being expelled and that they could not "take a spoon." A militiaman accompanied him back to his house. "All we had were the clothes that we were wearing," Yunes told Human Rights Watch. Yunes, his wife Aziza, and two of their children, aged three and seven years old, were bundled into a car and transported in a three-car convoy to the Kfar Tebnit crossing. It was December 15, 1989. He was warned not to inform anyone about the expulsion. His son Hussein - who had been imprisoned in Khiam - later joined Hizballah as a fighter and was killed at Wadi Slouki in a military operation in April 1994.
Yunes left behind farmland that he said yielded between U.S. $10,000 and $15,000 annually from its harvest of olives, almonds, and grapes. He noted that his brother, who still lives in Markaba, does not farm the land. "No one dares touch this land," he said, explaining that this would raise the militia's suspicion that the earnings were being sent to him and his family. Yunes added that he does not even contact his brother by telephone, for fear of putting him at risk.
Taleb Ahmed Saad, a twenty-seven-year-old construction worker from the town of Khiam, was expelled in August 1998. He told Human Rights Watch that he had been approached three times to work as an informer for the SLA. He said that he was contacted at his home and instructed to report to the local SLA security office, where he met with Ali Sweid (also known as Ali Kuftan), the head of security in the village. "He wanted me to work for them in Beirut, but I refused," Saad said. In July 1998, he was brought to Khiam prison and detained for forty-two days. Saad said he was interrogated for twenty-five days, each time with his hands cuffed in front, a sack placed over his head, and a blindfold over the sack. Many of the questions focused on his brother Saad Ahmed Saad, who was expelled from the village in February 1988 on suspicion of involvement with Hizballah. He was repeatedly beaten, insulted in vulgar language, and threatened that his father, mother and sisters would be taken to the prison. "They wanted names, they wanted to know what I did when I went to Beirut, they asked for information about my brother," he said. He said that his interrogators were relentless: "Whatever you say is considered a lie, and they keep on trying."
Saad was released from prison on August 17, 1998 at four o'clock in the afternoon. He was moved from the prison to the SLA security office in Khiam and held there overnight. The next morning, two SLA security officers - Ahmad `Issa, who is the officer responsible for the Kfar Tebnit crossing, and Hussein Nasr - came to him. "I thought that they were taking me home," Taleb said. Instead, he was transported to the Kfar Tebnit crossing and expelled. He recalled that the officers told him that it was an Israeli decision. At the time of his interview with Human Rights Watch, Saad, who is not married, had not been able to find employment in Beirut. His parents, three sisters, and older brother were still living in Khiam.112
In some cases, the sustained pressure that SLA and Israeli security officials have applied on targeted men and women has literally forced them to flee their villages out of fear, political principle, and often a combination of both. Most of these individuals described themselves as "expelled," although in this report Human Rights Watch characterizes such cases as related but distinct phenomena. The circumstances surrounding the flight of civilian residents from the occupied zone have often been similar to those that trigger expulsions.
One example is Majid (not his real name), a former resident of Kfar Kila, who recounted the pressure on him, which he said began in 1990, to work as an informer for the SLA. He told Human Rights Watch that he traveled several times a week to Beirut to sell farm products and buy supplies for a family store in the village. He said that he was approached by SLA security operative Hassan Moussa, who promised payment if he agreed to provide information:
He said that no one would be suspicious of me because I was always going back and forth to Beirut. I was evasive. He summoned me to the security office because I would not give him a direct answer. I was still evasive. He said that he had to take me to Metulla [a town inside Israel, close to the Lebanese border] to see an Israeli officer, who said that he wanted me to focus on a cousin who had relations with Hizballah. He wanted me to convince my cousin to work for the SLA and inform on Hizballah. He also knew that my sister's husband had links with Hizballah. I told the Israeli yes.
Terrified, Majid left Kfar Kila in June 1991 and never returned. His wife, who was pregnant at the time, stayed in the village and joined him in Beirut three months later. "My parents still do not know why I did not come back. For the first eighteen months in Beirut, it was very difficult and I stayed with relatives. My mother came to visit and said that she wanted me back. I finally explained to her that there were security problems," he told Human Rights Watch.113 Thirty-three years old at the time of his interview with Human Rights Watch, Majid was living with his wife and three children, aged eighteen months to eight years, and other relatives and their wives and children in a small, overcrowded apartment.
Another example is a case from the northeast section of the occupied zone, where SLA security operatives relentlessly pursued Jamal Shahrour from 1985, when he was seventeen years old, until 1988, when he left his village of Kfar Hamam and joined the resistance as a member of the Lebanese Communist Party. He told Human Rights Watch that in September 1985, as he was returning from the city of Sidon to his village, SLA security operative Adel Wahab told him at the Zumrayya crossing to come the next day to the security office in Hasbayya, which was known as Zaghle. At the office,
He asked me to cooperate with the SLA. I told him I did not want to work with anybody and that I intended to join the Lebanese army. So he hit me, and said: "Can one hand clap?" I told him no, and he said: "Why then don't you want to work with us?" Then he let me go.
The next month, again at the Zumrayya crossing, Adel Wahab summoned Jamal to Zaghle, where this time he met Nidal Jamal, Wahab's superior: "He told me that I was going to work for them. When I refused, he said that I had promised Adel. I told him that I had not, and let Adel confront me. Adel came [in] and I told him that I had not promised him anything. He just walked away." According to Jamal, Nidal Jamal tried to tempt him by offering "an appropriate salary" and made disparaging remarks about the Lebanese resistance to the occupation. Jamal again refused any form of cooperation. He told Human Rights Watch that in addition to being a student at the time, he was also a shepherd, which is why he believed he was targeted. "Shepherds stay all day long in the wilderness and have the best chances of seeing resistance fighters," he explained.
Two or three months later, Nidal Jamal approached Jamal in the weekly market (souq al-khan) that was held on the outskirts of Hasbayya, and summoned him to Zaghle. He was held there from ten in the morning until six in the evening, and pressed again to work with the SLA. He again refused, and was released when his worried parents appeared. The pressure resumed at the beginning of the summer of 1987. Jamal told Human Rights Watch that Nidal Jamal visited his family's house and asked his mother where he was working, which was a construction site in the nearby village of Rashaya al-Fukhar. Jamal said that the security official arrived at the site in a red Mercedes civilian car, accompanied by Naji al-Qadi, another SLA operative, and ordered him to get in the vehicle, at gunpoint.
Jamal testified that he was transported to the Hasbaiya security office, once again, and this time placed in a cell that measured 1.5 by 1.5 meters. He was held there for six days without being questioned. Then he said that he met Alamedin al-Badawi, the top security SLA official in the eastern sector, who read from a file the names of residents of Kfar Hamam who lived outside the occupied zone. Badawi asked Jamal if he knew them. He wanted to know if Jamal had friends in the Christian village of Rashaya al-Fukhar, and if he knew about any communists there. He also asked if Jamal knew who had distributed anti-occupation leaflets on June 5, the anniversary of Israeli's second invasion of Lebanon. Jamal said that he told Badawi that he had no information to provide, and he was released.
From the end of September 1987 until December 1987, Nidal Jamal repeatedly summoned Jamal to the security office in Zaghle, but Jamal did not go. Once, the security operative met Jamal and his mother in the market, chastised him for not going to Zaghle, and told his mother: "I'm going to put your son in Khiam [prison]." In January 1988, SLA militiaman Jamil Mitri visited the family's house, asking for Jamal. Remembering the threat of imprisonment, his mother said that her son was not at home. Jamal fled as Nidal Jamal, Naji Al-Qadi, Riad Al-Hamra, and Amer Al-Halabi arrived in three unmarked civilian cars and surrounded the house. Jamal said that his father was detained in Zaghle for seven days, and was released when the SLA learned that Jamal was in the Beka' valley, outside the occupied zone. Jamal told Human Rights Watch that he joined the Lebanese resistance in the Beka', which led to the eventual expulsion of his parents and four siblings from Kfar Hamam (see "Collective Punishment," above). 114
A third case involves a family from the village of Tair Harfa, located in the southwestern sector of the occupied zone. Rasmiya Nimr Rahad, fifty-five years old, told Human Rights Watch that her fifty-seven-year-old husband, Ali Ahmed Yousef, had been "expelled" from the village at the beginning of 1990. As the woman's account unfolded, however, it became clear that her husband had not been formally expelled but fled the zone because of the pressure to collaborate with the SLA. According to Rasmiya:
They said that our sons were in the resistance, and because of this my husband would leave the village only every five or six months, to avoid problems. The year before he was expelled, they began to summon him - they wanted him to bring information from the liberated areas [a term widely used to describe Lebanon beyond the occupied zone]. He told them that he was illiterate. Then they threatened to put him in Khiam [prison] if he did not work for them. He had only two choices, so he escaped.115
Rasmiya told Human Rights Watch that she remained in the village with their daughter, then eleven, and nine- year-old son. They were not permitted to leave the zone and remained for eight years, in a state of extreme isolation. "If anyone talked to me, even my brother, they would be summoned for questioning," she explained. Once, she recalled, a Christian friend from another village stopped by for a visit. Rasmiya said that his license plate number was recorded and he was later called in for investigation.
When Rasmiya's son reached sixteen years old, he was summoned to the SLA security office in Naqoura and pressured to work with the militia by security officer Akram Alayan and an Arabic-speaking Israeli investigator. At his last meeting with the two men, his mother accompanied him and waited outside.
They threatened to send me to Khiam [prison] if I did not agree to work with them. I was worried about my mother, so I said yes. They explained that they wanted me to mingle with the people and listen. They wanted me to tell them if anyone came to the village at night. They gave me money and made me sign a piece of paper. I told them that I did not want the money. The meeting lasted three or four hours. My mother and I got back to the house at one in the morning. I told her that we could not sleep one more night there.
He fled the village the next day with his mother, taking the same route through the hills and wadis that his father had used eight years earlier.
The family left behind a large house and thirty dunums of land, planted in tobacco, wheat, and barley, and 240 olive trees. They calculated their loss in agricultural earnings at about U.S. $20,000 annually. "The SLA has forbidden anyone to plough the land between our olive trees. Without ploughing, the trees will die," Ali Yousef lamented. Rasmiya said that at the time she left in 1998 the village's population had been reduced to "very old people" and those who worked for or supported the SLA. She said that about seventy-five homes were occupied, but some of them had only one or two residents. The high school had been closed, and only thirty students attended the only other school, which served five villages in addition to Tair Harfa.116
107 According to the family, Jihad was detained in December 1985, when he was nineteen years old, and released in October 1990. He received a permit to leave the occupied zone in February 1991 but was not permitted to return.
108 A prominent, respected person in a local community.
109 Human Rights Watch interviews, Beirut, Lebanon, March 1999 and June 1999.
110 Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, March 1999.
111 Human Rights Watch recorded another account of civilians, this time children, being forced to carry out military activities. See "Houla: 1996," above.
112 Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, April 1999.
113 Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, March 1999. Name on file but withheld by Human Rights Watch.
114 Human Rights Watch interview, Beirut, Lebanon, May 1999.
115 Family members have frequently been harassed and detained for leaving the occupied zone frequently if their relatives are known or suspected to be members of the resistance.
116 Human Rights Watch interviews, Tyre, Lebanon, March 1999.