Palestinians hoping to leave Gaza Strip asked to collaborate with Israel, 28 December 2011

The Erez crossing from Gaza to Israel.

The Erez crossing at the northern end of the Gaza Strip. Israel insists rigorous security checks have proved to be essential. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images


Senior sources within the Israeli Defence Forces say a ground operation is more likely now than at any point since the December 2008 offensive. As tensions simmer, collaborators are an invaluable resource. (...)

The problem for Ahmad Hamada, 20, is that he has no intelligence to give. Hamada fell from a four-metre high wall earlier this year and suffered serious head injuries, including memory loss. Damage caused by a catheter used during his recuperation means his urethra no longer functions properly.

As doctors in Gaza could not solve the problem, Hamada's father, Emad, arranged for him to receive treatment in Israel. He had worked there as a labourer for years and was stunned when a week before the appointment, the 20-year-old was summoned for an interview with the Shabak on 19 September. He was led to an interrogation room deep beneath the Erez crossing terminal where an Israeli officer introduced himself in Arabic. Littering his conversation with Gaza slang, he asked briefly about Hamada's medical condition.

"I know everything," he warned him. "You didn't fall off a wall did you? Why are all those tubes inside you? Tell me the truth. Is your father Hamas? Who is Hamas in the port? Who in your neighbourhood?"

"He became very angry when I kept answering that I didn't know," Hamada recalled. "I explained I couldn't remember much since my fall. I was in pain and I just wanted to go home."

After an hour of questioning, Hamada was left alone in a locked interview room. The entire process had lasted four hours and he needed the toilet. As his knocks and calls went unanswered, he was forced to pee on the carpet.