Israel's man in Hamas just "wanted to save lives"

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Expand view Topic review: Israel's man in Hamas just "wanted to save lives"

Israel's man in Hamas just "wanted to save lives"

Post by Notsosecret » Fri Feb 26, 2010 8:42 pm

Israel's man in Hamas just 'wanted to save lives'


In a new book on his life as Israeli agent, son of Hamas founder says he had the trust of Arafat, Barghouti and even Khaled Meshal.

"I wish I were in Gaza now," says Mosab Hassan Yousef by phone from California. "I would put on an army uniform and join Israel's special forces in order to liberate Gilad Shalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists that they now want to release in return for Shalit. That must not be done."

Yousef's book, "Son of Hamas," written with Ron Brackin, will be published next Tuesday (Salt River Press). In it, the 32-year-old tells his entire life story for the first time and reveals the great secret he harbored for 14 years.

I first met Mosab Yousef, a Muslim, in July 2008, in California. He told me then about the dramatic upheaval in his life. In 1999, he began to draw closer to Christianity and a few years later converted. Haaretz Magazine published his story at the time, and Hamas immediately denied it vehemently. A year and a half later, Yousef, son of the Hamas leader in the West Bank, has decided to reveal the whole picture: For more than a decade he was an agent of Israel's Shin Bet security service. He was motivated not by economic gain or self-interest, but by sheer ideology.

During that period he prevented dozens of suicide-bombing attempts and uncovered terrorist cells - including those planning to assassinate senior Israeli figures, such as Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, and Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The Shin Bet considered Yousef the most reliable and most senior agent it had succeeded in running at the top levels of Hamas. Within the organization he was known as the "Green Prince": "prince," because he was the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the people who founded Hamas and one of its leaders in the West Bank, and "green" for the color of the Islamist organization's flag.

During the grimmest period of the second intifada, Yousef brought about the arrest of the most wanted terrorists on Israel's list, those who are mentioned repeatedly in the headlines - among them Ibrahim Hamed and Marwan Barghouti. He even agreed to the arrest of his father, who is still in jail today, to prevent his assassination by Israel. This is the story of an intelligent young man who acts courageously against the movement in which he was raised in an effort to save lives, and manages to persuade the Shin Bet to arrest wanted individuals instead of killing them.

"Captain Loai" - as Yousef's handler in the Shin Bet was known at the time - makes no secret of his admiration for his "source": "So many people owe him their lives and don't even know it," he says. "People who did a lot less were awarded the Israel Security Prize. He certainly deserves it. I knew him for six years, as a coordinator and as a district director. And I tell you, that if we had X number of intelligence coordinators in the region, thanks to him we had X+1. He was the extra coordinator. You know what? He was better than most of us - no offense to anyone."

Captain Loai is no longer with the Shin Bet; he works as a security officer in the center of the country and is studying at university. But it's clear that he is nostalgic for the days and nights of pursuing wanted individuals and suicide bombers.

"The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money," he says of Yousef. "He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives. His grasp of intelligence matters was just as good as ours - the ideas, the insights. One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts.

"Let me tell you a story," Loai continues. "One day we received information that a suicide bomber was going to be picked up at Manara Square in Ramallah and be given an explosives belt. We didn't know his name or what he looked like - only that he was in his twenties and would be wearing a red shirt. We sent the Green Prince to the square and with his acute sense, he located the target within minutes. He saw who picked him up, followed the car and made it possible for us to arrest the suicide bomber and the man who was supposed to give him the belt. So another attack was thwarted, though no one knows about it. No one opens Champagne bottles or bursts into song and dance. This was an almost daily thing for the Prince. He displayed courage, had sharp antennae and an ability to cope with danger. We knew he was one of those who in any situation - rain, snow, summer - give their all."

Informer or double agent?

Mosab Yousef remembers vividly the day on which a Shin Bet agent entered his cell in the detention facility of the Russian Compound in Jerusalem and suggested he work for Israel - i.e., become a collaborator. Until his arrest, he was a member of the Hamas students' organization at Birzeit University in the West Bank and had been involved in stone-throwing; he was sent to prison after buying a gun in 1996. Soldiers at the Ramallah checkpoint stopped the Subaru he was driving and told him to turn off the engine, he recalls: "They pulled me out of the car and even before I could defend myself they threw me to the ground and pummeled me."

In our conversation, Yousef said he had not planned to become an informer and did not make the decision all of a sudden: "I was taken to the detention facility, [which we call] the 'Muskobiya,' where I underwent harsh torture and was beaten repeatedly in the interrogation. My hands were tightly bound. Then this Shin Bet man arrived and suggested that I work with him. I did not ask for money, as my financial situation was good. I thought of telling him that I would accept the offer, and then become a double agent and take revenge on the Shin Bet and on Israel for arresting me and for the things that were done to my father.

"My plan," he continues, "was to collect information about the Shin Bet from within and use it against Israel. I knew that it was a dark, evil organization run by evil people who were doing terrible things, like forcing people to become collaborators. After I agreed, I was kept in jail for 16 months, because if I were released too quickly it might stir suspicion that I had become a Shin Bet agent." In prison he saw appalling things.

"I was in jail with Hamas people, with senior figures in the organization who ran an apparatus called Majad, a kind of internal security body of Hamas aimed at uncovering Israeli agents. They tortured prisoners, most of them from Hamas, whom they suspected of collaboration. My job was to write down the confessions and testimonies. As the sheikh's son, I was trusted. It was there that I lost my faith in Hamas. They killed people for no reason. While everyone was warning me about the Shin Bet, for the first time in my life I saw Hamas people torturing their comrades, members of their nation, with exceptional cruelty. The truth was of no interest to them. If they so much as suspected someone, that was the end of him. They tortured people brutally, burned them, jabbed them with needles, put out cigarettes on them."

After his release from prison in 1997, Yousef started to meet with Captain Loai, and says, "I had no plans to kill anyone or to be a spy, I was just curious." Already in their second meeting, he relates, the Shin Bet man managed to surprise him.

Yousef: "He explained to me that if I wanted to work for the Shin Bet, I had to respect a few rules. 'You must not befriend loose women or behave immorally,' he told me. 'Do not sleep with women or behave like a wise guy - especially you, the son of a sheikh. You have to find work and get along.' One time, Captain Loai stopped the meeting and asked me if I had already recited the midday prayers. Surprised, I said I hadn't. He then asked me to purify myself [by washing hands, face and feet] and pray, and then said we would continue.

"It was important for them that I would continue to be the person I was, for me not to change, to be serious. They wanted respectable people, who were respected in their society, not those with a poor reputation. I became even more curious and wanted to learn more about them. My handlers told me time and again, 'You must respect your father and your mother and not do anything bad to anyone.' They did not yet ask for information about anything or anyone, and I became more and more serious in regard to them. My handlers, for their part, respected me and treated me very well and even helped me with my studies. I was stunned by their behavior. They did not want to take action against the Palestinians as such, only against the extremists. I looked at these people, whom in the past I had so much wanted to kill, and discovered that everything I knew about them was incorrect."

It was also in this period that Yousef began to be drawn to Christianity and read the New Testament. "I remember encountering the sentence, 'Love your enemies.' That made me think: These enemies of yours, the Shin Bet, the soldiers, are only trying to do their job. I thought to myself how Hamas would behave in a reverse situation: Would they show mercy to Jews? And I thought: 'Who are you trying to kid? Hamas and Fatah would behave more humanely?' I couldn't define who my enemy was anymore.

"True, the Shin Bet made horrible mistakes and killed innocent people, but its main goal, like Israel's, was to preserve the principles of a democratic country. There are 1.2 million Palestinians living inside Israel, within the Green Line, who enjoy rights and benefit more from Israel's prosperity and welfare than in any Arab state. Still, those soldiers took my father away before my eyes and shot people before my eyes, and believe me, it was no small thing for me to work for those people. It was a real turnaround."

What were your goals when you agreed to work for them?

Yousef: "I saw torture, killing, a war over land. For me, human life and saving human lives is the most important thing, more important than any piece of land or real estate. I wanted to save - and did save - human lives, Israeli and Palestinian. I did not do it because the Shin Bet pressured me, or for money. I did it because I understood what Hamas really is and I had to make a change. For my sake and for the sake of others. I thought to myself that even if people claim I am a traitor, let them say it. People will not believe it, they will think I did it for money, but they have no idea. I was happy, delighted when I stopped a suicide bomber."

Hamas is born

It's striking, throughout the interview, that Yousef uses the first person plural in talking about Shin Bet activity. In California, he says, he has a T-shirt saying, "I do secret work but I don't know what it is - the Shin Bet." "I also have an Israel Defense Forces T-shirt - olive colored, with the symbol - which I really love," he adds, laughing.

By 1999 he had penetrated the heart of Hamas in the West Bank and was accompanying his father everywhere. As the book reveals for the first time, Sheikh Yousef conceived the idea of establishing Hamas in the West Bank a year before the organization's formal creation. In 1986, the son relates in his book, Sheikh Yousef met in Hebron with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Mohammed Jamal al-Natshe, Mohammed Musleh and others, and together planned the creation of the new organization. Hamas officially announced its existence in December 1987.

In September 2000, when Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, Mosab Yousef was naturally accompanying his father to meetings. On September 27, the night before Sharon's visit, Sheikh Hassan met with Marwan Barghouti, commander of the Tanzim militia in the West Bank, and leaders of other groups.

Yousef recalls: "I drove them to the meeting, and when we returned he told me that they had agreed that the next day, after Sharon's visit to the mount, they would foment demonstrations and in the end an intifada. Their plan was to stir up riots that would continue for two to three weeks.

"They planned the intifada, and don't let anyone tell you anything different," he continues. "[However,] the Hamas leadership in Hebron and Gaza did not want to take part in the riots, because they said [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat did not deserve to be helped after he persecuted the organization so harshly. And the truth is that Hamas in Gaza did not take part in the demonstrations at the start of the intifada. But my father was in favor [of participating]."

What do you mean by "planned"? Did Arafat ask them to do it?

"I can't tell you for certain that he gave an order. But he did give them his blessing. Listen, man, what do you think? Barghouti, Hussein al-Sheikh, all those who organized the demonstrations - they met with Arafat every day. So what did they talk about? But that is not the worst thing I discovered at the time about Arafat. I was the one who revealed that the first squad of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade was actually a group from Arafat's Presidential Guard, Force 17, which got money from Barghouti, who got it from Arafat."

According to Yousef, it was he who led the Shin Bet to Force 17 man Muhanad Abu Halaweh. "Abu Halaweh sent more and more people to perpetrate terrorist attacks," he says. "He was a dubious type who walked around with a heavy machine gun and opened fire at every opportunity. The Shin Bet wanted to liquidate him and I told Loai that I agreed to the mission, even if it meant he would be killed. I felt there was no choice, because otherwise Muhanad would go on killing innocent people.

"On August 4, 2001, I waited outside the office of Marwan Barghouti until I saw Abu Halaweh go inside. A few hours later he came out and got into his gold VW Golf. I informed the Shin Bet that he was in the car, alone; it was important for them not to hurt Barghouti. The Israelis waited a little, until the car was in an open area, and then fired a missile at it. Apparently he saw the missile coming and tried to jump out, but it hit the car and he was thrown out. A second missile hit the sidewalk. I felt the blast in a car 100 meters away. Muhanad's car went up in flames, and so did he, but he was not killed.

"That evening I went with my father to visit Muhanad in the hospital. His face was burned and I could hardly bring myself to look at him. But he recovered and continued his killing campaign. It was not until a few months later that he was assassinated, when two Apache helicopters fired at him as he came out of a restaurant in Bituniya."

Thanks to his father's name, the Green Prince was able to weave a network of connections within the organization. After the assassination of Sheikh Jamal Salim and Jamal Mansour in Nablus, both of them friends of his father, in July 2001, he decided to isolate and hide his father, to save him from death; he put him up at a hotel and fired his bodyguards. He told the Shin Bet what he had done, but reached an agreement with his handlers to ensure that no Israeli would come near his father.

"In that period I started to behave like a leader in Hamas," he recalls. "I walked around with an M-16 [rifle], emphasized my blood ties to the sheikh and hung out with members of the Hamas military arm, who were certain that I was plugged in to everything that was going on in the organization's leadership. They told me about their problems and I extracted more and more information."

Yousef also managed to forge a direct connection with the Damascus-based head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal. The two spoke by phone at least once a week. In his book, he describes how the Mossad espionage agency asked for the Shin Bet's help in discovering the identity of the "dangerous person" in Ramallah who was speaking with Meshal on a regular basis. But the Shin Bet, Yousef writes, chose to keep his identity a secret from the Mossad.

He was distanced from Arafat, he says, because of an inadvertent act: "I met Arafat a few times when I accompanied my father to meetings with him. I didn't like him, but I could not show my feelings. One time he kissed me and I instinctively wiped my cheek. He was offended, and my father was embarrassed and did not take me to meetings with him after that."

He does not have a high regard for Marwan Barghouti, either. "He is a terrorist with the blood of many Israelis on his hands," Yousef says. "Even though the Shin Bet hated him, they did not want to liquidate him and turn him into a martyr. I knew Marwan through my father. I accompanied him to meetings with Marwan at the start of the intifada, but also later, when the representatives of the organizations met. For Hamas, I became a sort of mediator between them and the other organizations, particularly after my father went underground, and the other organizations asked me many times for explosives and weapons. Everyone thought I had 'merchandise' to offer and believed in me, in part because I was the sheikh's son.

"So it was that Ahmed (the Frenchman) Barghouti, Marwan's faithful assistant, told me he needed a large quantity of explosives for seven suicide bombers arriving from Jenin. I told him I would try to organize something, but already that night he sent one of them to perpetrate the attack at the Seafood Market [restaurant] in Tel Aviv. The next day, we arrested the other six."

'To my beloved father'

"To my beloved father and my wounded family / To the victims of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict / To every human life my Lord has saved. My family, I am very proud of you; only my god can understand what you have been through. I realize that what I have done has caused another deep wound that might not heal in this life and that you may have to live with its shame forever - With love, Your son."

'Son of Hamas'

In this interview, as in earlier ones, the Green Prince makes a point of saying how much he loves his father. Captain Loai also says he heard much from Yousef about how his father raised him to love humanity.

Nevertheless, the son is responsible for his father's arrest and provided the information leading up to it. Moreover, in order to camouflage the source of the information, Mosab told his mother where his father was hiding, so that she would meet with him. The arrest was made minutes after Yousef's mother arrived.

"As usual, my father surrendered peacefully," Mosab Yousef writes. "And he and the other Hamas leaders assumed the Shin Bet had followed my mother to his hideout."

"The kid saved his dad," Captain Loai says in his defense. "If not for him, his father would be dead 10 times over. He effectively became a kind of protective umbrella for his father, and he understood that. One time, after the terrorist attack in the Beit Yisrael [neighborhood] in Jerusalem, Ariel Sharon issued an order to shoot, more or less, at everything that moved and breathed Hamas. His father's name came up for discussion as a candidate for liquidation. Mosab emphasized that his father was important to him and human life is precious to him, and this prevented his liquidation."

Some time after his father's arrest, which was in the summer of 2002, Mosab Yousef and Loai initiated Mosab's own arrest. He was held for a few months in administrative detention (arrest without trial) and met with his father in prison. Mosab was released in April 2003, his father the following year.

Yousef recalls that one evening in March 2002, someone knocked on the door of his family's home. Two people were standing there, he says: "'We are looking for Sheikh Hassan Yousef,' they said. I asked them what they wanted. They said they were representatives of five suicide bombers who had been sent from Jordan to carry out attacks. Their contact man had been arrested and they needed a safe place to stay. I told them they had come to the right place. They said they also had a car packed with explosives. I told them to leave the car, gave them money and explained where they could hide. I passed on the information to Loai, and within half an hour Sharon had already authorized their liquidation.

"I said that if they were hurt, I would stop working for the Shin Bet. 'Are you threatening us?' Loai asked, and I replied that I could not agree to killing. These were five ignorant young people who did not know the difference between good and bad. I knew that an attempt to kill them would constitute a tremendous danger for the soldiers and for me, because they knew about me and would suspect that I had brought about their capture. Nevertheless, I continued to insist, so that no one would be killed.

"In the end, the Shin Bet, which didn't want to lose me, agreed, but wanted to know what was going on in the room where they were sleeping. I drove over on the pretext of taking them some furniture, but what they didn't know was that highly sensitive bugs had been inserted into it. On March 16, Israeli special forces encircled the building where they were staying in the center of Ramallah. The forces waited until we knew they were asleep and then blew open the door with explosives. One of the men jumped out of the window with a weapon and was shot to death by the Israeli forces. When the other four were in the Jeep and about to be taken to the detention facility, one of them mentioned my name. I was sure my cover was blown and I didn't know what to do. But Loai had an idea: He released the one who had mentioned my name and returned him to Jordan, so the others thought he was the informer. In the interrogation of the three who remained, it turned out that one had been given a mission to assassinate Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

"So I say again: If I had done it for money, would I have insisted on five suicide bombers not being killed? No, I would have let them die."

Deep embarrassment

It became increasingly clear to the Shin Bet, Yousef explains, that he was in great danger of being exposed. "We had two options: either send me back to jail or 'play the game,' as Loai put it, by staging a real attempt to arrest me, big and impressive, that would fool not only Hamas but also the Israeli army. The Shin Bet gave an undercover IDF unit intelligence information that I was armed and dangerous, and would be going to visit my mother. In the meantime, I was told to go home and wait outside in the car for instructions from the Shin Bet. When I got Loai's call I drove quickly to my new secret location somewhere else. Within a minute, the undercover unit, dressed as Arabs, arrived on the scene in 10 cars with Palestinian license plates. They surrounded the house and ordered everyone to come out. My brother and my sisters went out.

"In the meantime, to ensure that the raid would get a lot of publicity, I had tipped off Al Jazeera and said an attempt would be made to assassinate my father, and they sent a TV crew to the house. But the soldiers called for 'Mosab Hassan Yousef' to come out and not 'Hassan Yousef.' In the meantime, dozens of armed Palestinians, who realized that an operation was under way at the sheikh's house, started to approach, and air force helicopters fired at them to stop them. By now, I was watching the drama live on TV in my new hiding place. The army even fired a missile at the second floor of our house, which blew up half the building. Overnight I had advanced to the most-wanted list and the whole Arab world knew about it."

During Operation Defensive Shield, which the IDF carried out in the West Bank in the spring of 2002, Yousef says he was scurrying all over, even though his handlers wanted him to stay in the hotel where he was "hiding." His father was also in a safe house at the time: When the army carried out house searches, the soldiers - amazingly - skipped the one in which the sheikh was hiding.

Yousef: "'It's a miracle,' my father told me. They looked in all the houses around us and ours was the only one they skipped. And I thought to myself, 'You're welcome.'"

Another story revealed by Yousef concerns the relations between Jibril Rajoub, while he was head of Palestinian Preventive Security, and the Shin Bet. One of the first places raided by the army after troops entered Ramallah was Preventive Security headquarters in Bituniya in April 2002. Fighting broke out at the site until those in the building were ordered by their commander to surrender. The soldiers told them to come out naked; both the Preventive Security personnel and Hamas prisoners who were incarcerated in the facility did so, received sweatsuits and were sent by bus to the Ofer army base. It was only then, Mosab Yousef says, that the Shin Bet realized its mistake: How could they differentiate between those on the wanted list and the security personnel, when the ID cards remained behind in the totally destroyed headquarters?

Ofer Dekel, now head of the Shin Bet and at the time chief of the Jerusalem district in the Shin Bet, "was in charge of the operation," Yousef recalls. In his book, he describes what happened next.

"[Dekel] called Jibril Rajoub, who had been away from the compound at the time of the attack. Dekel gave Rajoub a special permit so he could pass safely through hundreds of tanks and thousands of soldiers at the army base. When he arrived, Dekel asked Rajoub if he would mind pointing out which men worked for him and which were fugitives. Rajoub said he would be happy to do so. He identified police as fugitives and fugitives as police, and the Shin Bet released all the wanted men [apart from Bilal Barghouti, whom they identified].

"'Why did you do that to me?' Dekel asked, after he figured out what had happened. 'You just blew up my offices and my compound,' Rajoub calmly explained ... The Shin Bet was deeply embarrassed. The only thing they could do in retaliation was release an official account that branded Rajoub a traitor for turning over the wanted men to Israel in a deal brokered by the CIA."

Rajoub lost much of his political clout in the wake of that fiasco, Yousef notes. Hamas and Fatah accused him of betraying them, even though he had actually saved Hamas' wanted men.

In a recent conversation with Haaretz, Rajoub denies having been involved in the incident at the Ofer base. His deputy at the time, Jibrin al-Bakri, now the governor of Nablus, says he was also not in the vicinity and doesn't know any details: "I think Abed Alun was the person involved," al-Bakri says. (Alun, a senior figure in Preventive Security, was killed in an Al-Qaida attack in an Amman hotel.)

Mosab Yousef's handlers in the Shin Bet declined to comment on the event.

On July 31, 2002, a suicide bomber blew himself up on the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Following the attack, in which seven people were killed, Mosab Yousef lost touch with Saleh Talahmeh, from the Hamas military wing, with whom he had formed close ties over the years. "We had become true friends," he relates. "He even helped me with private lessons in economics."

The members of Talahmeh's close circle - Mohammed Jamal a-Natsheh, Ibrahim Hamed, Sayed Sheikh Qassem and Hasnein Rumaneh - also disappeared. Information gleaned about the Mount Scopus attack led to five residents of the neighboring village of Silwan and from them to Mohammed Arman, who under torture in interrogation related that "the sheikh" was responsible for sending him on missions, but he did not know his full name. Shown a photo of Ibrahim Hamed, he identified him immediately.

It was not until 16 months later that Israeli security forces located Talahmeh and his group, in a residential building in Ramallah. In the course of an all-night battle, Talahmeh, Kasem and Rumaneh were killed. Captain Loai informed Mosab Yousef that his good friend Talahmeh had been killed and told him to go to the hospital in Ramallah to identify the bodies.

Yousef: "I identified Saleh [Talahmeh] immediately. Kasem was in pieces and I could not identify Rumaneh. In the absence of other central activists in Hamas, I was compelled to organize the funeral of my friend Saleh and the others." Ibrahim Hamed had not been in the building. "The Shin Bet planted many bugs in his house, in the hope that someone from the family would say something, but they were very careful." Hamed simply vanished.

'Most important mission'

Sheikh Hassan Yousef was released from prison in November 2004. In the days that followed, hundreds of people flocked to his office to ask for help with various matters. In their eyes, the sheikh was the leader of Hamas in the West Bank. However, according to Mosab Yousef, his father had no money and no access to the organization's financial assets. His conclusion: The fact that the organization continued to operate even after most of its recognized leaders had been killed or imprisoned, meant that there was a secret leadership, which was in direct contact with Hamas' senior figures in Damascus and with the military wing.

A few months earlier, Loai had asked Yousef to visit an Internet cafe in Ramallah, to find out who in the cafe was in e-mail correspondence with the Hamas leadership in Damascus. There were about 20 people in the cafe when he got there. He looked for a bearded man, but everyone was clean-shaven.

A few weeks later, Yousef put a house in Ramallah up for sale. Someone called and came over to look at the property, and Yousef identified him as one of the 20 people from the cafe. The man introduced himself as Aziz Kayed and said he was the director of a center for Islamic studies called Al-Buraq.

After Sheikh Yousef was released from prison, Mosab accompanied him to Nablus to meet with senior Hamas figures. One of them remarked that the sheikh should be in contact with "Aziz Kayed from the Al-Buraq Center." Mosab asked the Shin Bet to check Kayed's background. It turned out that during his student days he had been a key activist in the Hamas cell at the university, but had ceased all political activity a decade earlier, was now conducting a normal life and had even gone abroad without interference. Mosab Yousef recalled a few other young men he had known in the past from Hamas who, as he writes in the book, "have advanced university degrees and were at one time very active in Hamas. But for whatever reason, they simply dropped out of sight 10 years ago."

A check revealed that all of them had remained in touch with one another and worked at Al-Buraq. The Shin Bet began to monitor the men's activity - with dramatic results: "We learned that these deadly 30-somethings had gained total control of the money and were running the entire Hamas movement in the West Bank," Yousef writes.

One day, they followed one of them, Nahdi Mahadi, from his apartment in north Ramallah to a garage in the commercial zone. "Suddenly we saw him pull up at the garage door, enter, and close the door behind him. We watched the place for two weeks until one day the garage door opened from the inside and before us stood Ibrahim Hamed. The Shin Bet waited until he went back in and then surrounded the building." Hamed did not try to resist. At the soldiers' orders, he came out naked and was arrested.

"The exposure and arrest of Hamed and of the Hamas secret leadership was the most important mission I carried out in all my years of work with the Shin Bet," Yousef says. "Hamed was responsible for the death of 80 Israelis. That was also my last mission in the Shin Bet."

In September 2005, the Shin Bet informed Yousef that following the escalation in Gaza, it had been decided to arrest his father again. Having no other choice and realizing that this was the only way he could save him, Yousef agreed to his arrest. As mentioned, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, who is undoubtedly one of the most moderate figures in Hamas, is still in prison.

God of truth and lies

"I was not surprised when I heard he had converted to Christianity," Captain Loai says. "But I was surprised to read in your article [in 2008] that he is abroad. Personally, I am happy for him. We had a very strong personal relationship."

Another of Yousef's handlers also recalls having many intimate talks with the Green Prince about matters of religion. It is clear that the religion Mosab adopted some five years ago constitutes a significant element in his worldview today. In a conversation with him, and while reading his book, one sometimes gets the feeling that he is engaged in a fierce crusade against Islam, the religion into which he was born and raised.

"I tell you again, I did everything out of a sense of mission, in order to save human lives," Mosab Yousef says. "Take, for example, Jamal Taweel, a senior figure in Hamas. If I had not worked for the Shin Bet, Taweel would now be dead. He was due to be assassinated, but because I was the one who provided the information about his location, he was arrested. He spent a few years in prison and maybe will hate me now, but he is now free, lives with his family and is the mayor of El-Bireh. I am not exaggerating or showing off," he says in the phone call from California. "I supplied priceless information. No one but me was capable of obtaining it."

Aren't you afraid now after exposing all this?

"I will not lie by saying I am not afraid. But I am motivated by the fact that I saved hundreds of people - Israelis, Palestinians, Americans. That gives me the strength to go on. I am not a Zionist and I did not work for the Zionists. I am not pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. I worked for my God, who is the father of all human beings wherever they are. I do not want to go back to that work. I chose to leave, because after 10 years of fighting terrorism, I understood that it is not the problem. Of course, it is important to fight terrorism, but if I think about the long term, the only way is not to do battle against suicide bombers but against their motivation: namely, their God.

"Many people think the terrorists' motivation is the Israeli occupation, the corruption, but all that is just the backdrop. It is not the root of the problem. The occupation is like the rain that falls on the soil in which the seed has been planted, but it is not the seed itself. The root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not lie in security or politics: It is a war between two gods, two religions. Between the God of the Torah and the God of the Koran. The Koran teaches that this is Waqf land - a sacred endowment which must not be given up. The Torah taught the Jews that this is their land and must not be given up.

"It follows that there will be no peace in the Middle East. Israel's problem is not with Hamas or with any other organization, nor with the interpretation Hamas reads into the Koran. It is with the god of the Koran. After all, even a moderate Muslim who reads the Koran must read that the Jews are the sons of apes and that the infidels must be killed. The Palestinians must stop blaming Israel, or the West, for all their problems. If they want true freedom, they must free themselves from their God."

You sound completely pessimistic. What about a Palestinian state?

"That is not a solution. Today we do not have a leadership worthy of ruling, not Hamas and not Fatah. The Palestinians move between the corrupt leadership of Fatah, and the Hamas leadership, which sends them all to die. Besides, Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I.

"The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis. Palestinians! They do not hesitate to massacre people in a mosque or to throw people from the 15th or 17th floor of a building, as they did during the coup in Gaza. The Israelis would never do such things. I tell you with certainty that the Israelis care about the Palestinians far more than the Hamas or Fatah leadership does. Israel withdrew from Gaza, and instead of the place being built up and cultivated, look what happened there. We need to take a break from these leaders. And I call on the government of Israel: Never accede to Hamas demands, not even about Gilad Shalit. They will not hurt him - he is too important to them. Even if it goes on for 10 years, Israel must not give in and release all those people from prison."

What about you? Where do you live? What do you do for a living?

"I rent. I don't have a place of my own. After I left, the Shin Bet tried to pressure me to return and even told the FBI that I am the son of a dangerous terrorist, in the hope that I would have no choice but to come back. What kind of behavior is that? Aren't they ashamed? I risked my life for them; they should be ashamed. I am still processing the experiences I underwent and sometimes I don't believe I survived. I am only writing about my experience and hope the book will help me earn a decent living.