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2 - 8 November 2000
Issue No. 506
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Snipers, gunships and now death squads

By Khaled Amayreh

In recent days, Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, warned that the Israeli army intends to adopt "new tactics" against the Palestinians including using "guerrilla warfare units."

Needless to say, the term guerrilla warfare units is a clear allusion to death squads of operatives from Shin Beth, Israel's internal security service. These death squads are notorious for their numerous assassinations of Palestinian activists.

For many years, especially since the conclusion of the Oslo accords over seven years ago, successive Israeli governments used the musta'arbin [teams of Shin Bet agents posing as Palestinians] to kill Hamas and Islamic Jihad military activists and to abduct "wanted Palestinians" residing in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Now, it seems, the Israeli government is intent on using the same professional killers to murder figures in the Fatah wing of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, especially its active and independent-minded leaders such as Marwan Barghouti, whom the Israelis accuse of masterminding the uprising.

A warning to that effect came the evening of 30 October when Israeli helicopter gunships, using precision missiles, attacked Fatah offices in Ramallah and Nablus, inflicting heavy damage on buildings but only injuring a few people.

In Nablus, at least two missiles hit Fatah offices located on the same street as Anajah University. These severely damaged the building housing the offices and caused collateral damage to a nearby synagogue. In Al-Beereh, Ramallah's twin-city, the bombing narrowly missed a four-storey apartment building that is home to three families, including four children and a grandmother.

The bombing of Khan Younis targeted the headquarters of Force-17, President Yasser Arafat's personal guard, along with the offices of the Palestinian Red Crescent and some non-governmental organisations.

"This is only a warning, and next time we'll strike harder and harsher," said Mofaz.

If the strikes in Ramallah, Nablus, and Gaza were meant to force Arafat into submission, they utterly failed to achieve their goal.

"These things will not cause a single Palestinian child to blink, nor will a single hair on our bodies be ruffled by this vile act of terrorism," said Arafat in a tone of defiance while examining the damaged buildings in Gaza. Earlier, Arafat vowed to "continue the uprising until a Palestinian child raises the Palestinian flag on the wall of Jerusalem."

Meanwhile, the Israeli army continued to employ excessive and lethal force against stone-throwing Palestinian youngsters and other Palestinians, apparently with intention of killing, maiming and disabling as many of them as possible.

Last week, over 25 Palestinian youngsters, including five children, were shot dead, either by Israeli marksmen stationed on rooftops or by attack helicopters strafing Palestinian population centres, especially at night. The callousness with which Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli soldiers prompted a visiting British doctor, David Leighton, to call the killings "a malicious genocide against children," adding that, "Those kids don't pose a threat to anyone."

On 29 October, Israeli helicopters bombarding towns in the north of the West Bank, killed two teenage brothers in the town of Ya'abud near Jenin. Hilal and Bilal Salah, 19 and 20 years old respectively, were reportedly sitting in their backyard when an Israeli attack helicopter fired a volley of 50 millimetre bullets on their home, killing the youths instantly.

"They killed them. May God's wrath fall upon them," said a neighbour of the Salah brothers, who tried to take them to a hospital but was unable to because, as he said in his own words the "bullets were raining from the sky." Clearly distraught, the middle-aged man continued, saying, "We are unarmed civilians and I understand that civilians are to be protected. This is not war, war is between armies, this is genocide against unarmed men, women and children, this is unfair."

The Palestinian death toll has already surpassed 150, while the number of injured is estimated to have exceeded 5,500, many of whom, according to PA Minister of Health Riyad Al- Za'nun, are permanently disabled. Tragically, these appalling figures will probably increase even further, as Israel seems intent on crushing the Palestinian uprising, and the people themselves, who, in spite of this brutal repression, are determined to continue their struggle.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian medical community has moved to refute the outrageous Israeli disinformation campaign which claims that the "Palestinians are using their children as shields in clashes with Israeli soldiers." Mustafa Al-Barghouti, head of the Union of Medical Relief Committees in the West Bank, described the Israeli campaign as "a combination of outrageous lies, disinformation and virulent propaganda designed to distract the world's attention from their army's hideous crimes against our people."

Barghouti, who was speaking at a press conference in Ramallah, pointed out that the vast majority of Palestinian children killed by the Israeli army since the outset of the uprising were not involved in clashes. As an example, he cited the case of 13-year-old Muayyad Usama Jawarish who was killed by an Israeli sniper in Bethlehem during the second week of the uprising. "He [Jawarish] was on his way home from school and was not within an area where clashes were occurring." Similarly, Barghouti mentioned the death of 18-month-old Sara Abdel-Azim, who was shot by a settler on 11 October while her father was bringing her home from hospital."

Barghouti asked, "do the Israelis want us to stop sending our kids to school?" As though to answer his own question he said, "The naked truth, is that the Israeli army is attacking unarmed Palestinian civilians with deadly accuracy, creating a situation of warfare without a war."


Related stories:
Shifting borders
The Intifada this time
'Those times are over'
Snipers, gunships and now death squads
'Our blood is sacred too'
Blaming the victim
Exporting typhoid and guns
It's war -- virtually
Arab journalists join the fray
Blinded by the truth
Deciphering ZNN
The message is the medium
Also see Focus on Intifada 26 Oct. - 1 Nov. 2000
and Focus on Intifada 19 - 25 October 2000

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