|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
5 - 11 April 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Green light for terrorKnowing they have a war cabinet in office, settlers in Hebron went on a rampage, terrorising Palestinians. Khaled Amayreh reports from the volatile West Bank town
Since Palestinians commemorated the 25th anniversary of Land Day on 30 March, self-rule areas in the West Bank and Gaza have turned into a war zone. It was reminiscent of the Israeli army's actions 25 years ago, when it killed six Palestinians protesting the confiscation of their land. On Friday, right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved the Israeli army's shoot-to-kill orders and six more Palestinians were shot dead on that day alone, five in Nablus and one in Gaza. Since then, an average of two to three Palestinians have been killed every day, as Israeli tanks, helicopters and artillery carried out daily shelling of all major Palestinian towns in the West Bank and Gaza.
On Monday, the policy of assassinating top Palestinian figures was reconfirmed when Israeli helicopters fired two rockets at the car of an Islamic Jihad activist, killing him on the spot. "He was completely burned to a crisp," said one eyewitness who saw the rockets hitting Mohamed Abdel-'Al's car in Rafah, near the border between Gaza and Egypt. The blackened remains of the 26-year-old father of three were removed some 15 minutes later, swathed in a blanket and taken to a nearby hospital before being returned to his family for immediate burial. A total of 20 Palestinian activists have been assassinated upon orders from the Israeli government since the Intifada began in late September.
Two days earlier, the Israeli army carried out its first incursion into Palestinian-controlled territories in the West Bank since the Intifada began, capturing five members of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Yasser Arafat's elite Force 17 guard.
But the worst situation was to be found in the West Bank town of Hebron, where the Israeli army shelling of its neighbourhoods was coupled with a terror campaign led by extremist Jewish settlers. Indoctrinated in a virulently racist ideology, the settlers went on a rampage, terrorising Palestinians and vandalising their property. The settlers said they were avenging the death of the nine-month-old daughter of a Jewish settler a week ago. The PA condemned the killing and threatened to try the killer if he was arrested.
On Monday 2 April, rabid settlers, in full view of Israeli soldiers, detonated a huge gas canister attached to explosives inside a Palestinian-owned shop in the Sahla neighbourhood, not far from Ibrahimi Mosque. The powerful blast rocked Hebron, utterly destroying the Palestinian store and irreparably damaging a three-storey building. The settlers also looted all the store's merchandise and that of other businesses in the area.
As always, none of the perpetrators was arrested, a message understood by settlers as a tacit green-light from the army and the Sharon government to carry out further acts of terror and vandalism against Palestinian targets with impunity. The Israeli army, instead of arresting the terrorists, resorted to disinformation to extenuate the damage done to Israel's image.
An army spokesman claimed that it was investigating "if Jews were involved in the (bombing) incident." Nearly 3,000 Israeli troops are stationed in Hebron's Old Town, an area not exceeding a square kilometre. The settlers could not do what they have been doing without being observed by soldiers.
"It is impossible for a rat to move in the Old Town without being observed by the Israeli army," said one Palestinian, scoffing at the army's claim that it did not see the settlers embark on their crime.
Earlier, and after five days of hesitation, the parents of the slain baby agreed to bury their daughter. They and their fellow settlers had vowed not to bury the little child until the Israeli army could "re-conquer or bomb-out" the Abusneineh neighborhood, where the shot that killed the baby was allegedly fired.
According to Palestinian sources, a total of 12 Palestinians were killed in five days, including 11-year-old Mahmoud Darwish, who was riddled with bullets on 27 March, a few hours after the settler child was killed, while sitting in his living room watching television in Dura, 12km southwest of Hebron.
The Israeli media, including state-run radio, made no mention of Darwish, or Lauay Tamimi, another 11-year-old Palestinian child, who died on 1 April of wounds inflicted earlier by an Israeli army sniper near Ramallah. Predictably, the burial of the Jewish child received ample coverage from Israeli media and American television networks, which pay little, if any, attention to the tragic Palestinian deaths wrought by Israeli soldiers and settlers.
Seeking to take advantage of the infant's death, the Israeli Foreign Ministry last week instructed Israeli diplomats around the world to highlight the incident in order to besmirch the Palestinians' image.
The right-wing Jerusalem Post went as far as describing the incident as "a little holocaust."
Similarly, corrupt analogies and hyperbolic labels were made by Israeli commentators, both in Israel and in North America, where the Israeli government recently began a huge public relations blitz aimed at enhancing Israel's image.
There are 250 to 300 Jewish settlers living in Hebron's Old Town amidst the city's 170,000 Palestinians. The settlers belong to the Gush Emunim movement, which believes that all non-Jews ought to be expelled from "the Biblical Land of Israel" -- or massacred.
On 2 April, Uri Avnery, one of the last remaining moderates in Israel, called on the Sharon government to remove the settlers from Hebron. "Hebron is a Palestinian town," Avnery wrote, "and the only way to maintain peace and stability in the city is by removing the settlers from it, once and for all." As expected, Avnery's words fell on deaf ears. "The Jewish presence in Hebron will remain forever," retorted Sharon.
Recommend this page
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved
Letter from the Editor
|WEEKLY ONLINE: www.ahram.org.eg/weekly
Updated every Saturday at 11.00 GMT, 2pm local time