|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
19 - 25 October 2000
Issue No. 504
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Egypt Elections Palestine International Economy Opinion Culture Focus Features Travel Sports Profile People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Letters
Selective outrageBy Khaled Amayreh
Israeli helicopter gunships and gunboats bombed and destroyed several Palestinian facilities and buildings in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip last Thursday. In Ramallah, bombs destroyed the transmitters of the official Palestinian Authority radio station, the Voice of Palestine, as well as the police station in which two Israelis were killed.
In Gaza, Israeli helicopters hit a police academy and other targets near Yasser Arafat's headquarters. The bombing injured at least 17 Palestinians, two seriously, and caused damage estimated at millions of dollars.
In addition to justifying the bombing, unprecedented since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1993, the Israeli government and media sought to exploit the killing of the two soldiers to distract attention from Israel's bloody carnage directed against unarmed Palestinian civilians. In recent weeks its actions have claimed the lives of 120 Palestinians and injured approximately 4,000.
The two soldiers, disguised as Palestinians and reportedly carrying explosives, sub-machine-guns and guns with silencers, were apprehended in downtown Ramallah while attempting to enter a funeral procession for a Palestinian youth killed by Israeli snipers.
Smoke rises over the Ramallah skyline after Israeli helicopters fired missiles at the Palestinian police station where two Israeli soldiers were killed by angry Palestinians
Nobody knows for sure what the two musta'aribin [Israeli army commandos disguised as Arabs] were planning to do. But most Palestinians, including PA officials, seemed absolutely convinced the two soldiers were planning a killing spree.
"We don't know exactly what they were up to, but in light of the circumstantial evidence, it seems they were intending to carry out a massacre, assassinate some Palestinian leaders, or just shoot randomly to cause a stampede in which many Palestinians would die," said a high-ranking Palestinian police officer in Ramallah.
The officer, who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity, described the Israeli account of the incident as "a bunch of lies." "They are telling the world that the two would-be assassins were on a stroll in Ramallah or simply lost their way. Since when do Israeli undercover soldiers go for walks in Palestinian villages?" asked the officer sarcastically.
Indeed, the Israeli army issued a plethora of confused and contradictory statements on the incident. Initially, Israeli state-run radio quoted an army spokesperson as saying that Palestinian mobs kidnapped three Jewish settlers from the nearby settlement of "Psegot" and killed them. An hour later, the same radio station claimed that "three Israeli civilians lost their way, wandered into Ramallah and were killed by Palestinians."
A third mendacity soon followed suit around 1.00pm Thursday when an Israeli army spokesman finally provided the "official story" on the incident. The spokesman claimed that four reserve soldiers were going to their camp near Ramallah but were abducted by Palestinian police and killed at the Ramallah police station.
Refuting the Israeli story, the Palestinians point out that the possibility of the soldiers losing their way is extremely remote, given that there are Palestinian or Israeli checkpoints at every road leading to Ramallah. Furthermore, Palestinians argue, it is not logical for an Israeli soldier to lose his way yet continue to drive all the way to the centre of Ramallah, about five kilometres away from the closest Israeli checkpoint. More to the point, Ramallah was under siege by Israel and even Palestinians would not be able to get into their own town which was tightly sealed off. These factors suggest that the soldiers were on a premeditated mission.
When the true identity of the two "Arabs" was discovered, not by the police but by ordinary passersby, the soldiers, sensing the danger they faced, fled to the police station, which was later destroyed by an Israeli aerial bombing. At the police station, the 21 Palestinian policemen there did all they could do to protect the soldiers from the wrath of the angry crowd. Reinforcements were called in, but it was virtually impossible for anybody to get inside the station, already surrounded by thousands. As a result, the Palestinian police stationed inside tried to smuggle the two Israelis out by giving them Palestinian police uniforms so that the crowd would not recognise them.
They took this measure too late, however, as the crowd had already forced open the iron gate of the station and broken into the building, where it let vent to its fury, beating the two Israeli soldiers to death.
Contrary to Israeli claims that Palestinian policemen participated in the killing of the two soldiers, the policemen, including Colonel Hussein Al-Sheikh, tried to protect them, but were pushed and bruised by the furious crowd. Al-Sheikh told Basem Eid, head of a Palestinian human rights monitoring organisation, that he was shocked by the incident, which he said was being thoroughly investigated with the intention of punishing the guilty.
As usual, the Israeli media sought to dramatise the incident, ignoring the bloodletting by its soldiers and settlers that has continued unabated since 28 September.
Kristallnacht revisited 12 - 18 October 2000
'Why?' 5 - 11 October 2000
See also Intifada in focus 12 - 18 October 2000
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved