Israeli raid turned village into war zone

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http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/26/international/26MIDE.html

October 26, 2001

Israeli Raid Turned Village Into War Zone

By JAMES BENNET

BEIT RIMA, West Bank, Oct. 25 As Israeli forces slipped into this village under cover of darkness early Wednesday, some Palestinian defenders were sleeping on cots under the olive trees.

They were not expecting a major attack, people here said today, but many West Bank towns these days are on alert for incursions. Palestinian security headquarters have become favorite Israeli targets, so the open air has become more appealing.

What began with a few shots that one resident thought might be a wedding celebration grew within minutes into a thunderous barrage, as helicopters swooped out of the darkness to join in. The overwhelming Israeli force left at least five Palestinians dead. After a 22-hour siege, during which they detained and interrogated 43 residents of the town and arrested 11 of them, the soldiers left early this morning.

Palestinian assertions of a "massacre" here of at least 10 people, made Wednesday while Israeli troops barred independent observers from the village, appeared today to be overstated. But a reconstruction of the operation shows how closely the incursions, which Israel has described as a police action to round up terrorists, in fact resemble war.

In a telephone interview tonight, the commander of the Israeli operation said that while all five men killed were carrying weapons, at least three of them were not shooting. Palestinians said two or three of them were trying to escape.

The commander, a colonel who asked that he not be identified, said his troops killed two policemen. In one case, he said, a policeman with a semiautomatic rifle approached soldiers but did not fire before he was killed. In the other case, he said, the policeman shot first.

The helicopters, he said, killed two or three security men who were running through the village in an attempt to escape, Palestinians said. "You can't allow armed Palestinians running inside the village while your forces are inside," the commander said. No Israelis were injured in the raid, he said.

Under treaty, Palestinian security forces are licensed by Israel to carry weapons, and Beit Rima is in territory that is under Palestinian civil and security control. Gen. Gershon Itzhak, the commander of forces in the West Bank, said he had contacted local commanders half an hour before the raid and urged them to keep their men indoors. Palestinian political and military officials denied that any warning was given.

The commander said that during the operation the safety of civilians was a higher priority than the safety of his own men, if only for practical reasons. "You don't have to be a prophet to understand that if you finish an operation like that with civilian casualties it's a disaster for Israel's prestige," he said. He said almost all the shooting ended about 20 minutes into the operation, but residents disputed that.

Today, blood and tissue from two of those said to have been slain by helicopter fire remained at the bottom of a stone wall in an orchard just east of the middle of town. Bees buzzed over them, and curious or mourning villagers clustered around.

The anger of some here today was not directed only at Israel. "They used the helicopters that you gave to them, you Americans," said Nafiz al Sheikh, a commander of the local forces. "You are the main reason for our disaster." Another man displayed one of the huge rounds he said was fired by Apache helicopers used in the raid. With a bitter smile, he called it "an American present for our people."

The Israelis have occupied parts of seven West Bank towns, including Beit Rima, since the killing last week of Israel's tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi. Apparently in reaction to the troops' departure from this village, Ari Fleischer, President Bush's spokesman, today hailed what he called a "partial pullout."

Five more Palestinians were killed in fighting in the West Bank today, four of them in Bethlehem, Palestinians said. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met late tonight with some cabinet ministers to discuss the timing of a withdrawal from other positions in Palestinian territory.

Abdul Karin Jasser, the mayor of Beit Rima, acknowledged that Palestinian claims of the number of dead appeared to be overstated, although he added that he could not be sure until everyone who had fled during the violence returned home.

The mayor said that of the five known to be killed, three were from the Palestinian security forces and two were police officers. He said the overwhelming Israeli force was senselessly lethal. "They were shooting indiscriminately from helicopters," he said. He said the security complement of the town was eight men from the Palestinian security forces and six or seven policemen. "Do you think this number requires all these soldiers and tanks?" he asked.

The Israeli forces included at least two helicopter gunships and several tanks and armored personnel carriers. Though a Palestinian man displayed what appeared to be a tank shell, the commander said no shells had been fired.

It was a sentiment echoed around the village. If the Israelis were truly out to make some arrests, said one resident, Abdul Jalil Barghouti, "five army jeeps could have entered without a problem."

But the commander of the operation scoffed at such assertions. "It's a very tough village," he said. "I don't think you can enter this village peacefully and negotiate with the Palestinian policemen." Israeli officials said that in recent months some 14 shooting attacks against Israelis were carried out near here on a road leading to an Israeli settlement.

Israelis called Beit Rima a breeding ground for terrorists, closely linked to the killing of Mr. Zeevi. Its residents said Beit Rima, a town of 4,000 that winds along a ridge line with stunning views of terraced hillsides, was a quiet place with no extremist leaders and no more militants than could be found in any other West Bank village. Some grafitti on buildings here hailed the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which claimed responsibility for killing Mr. Zeevi.

On Wednesday, Israeli officials suggested that the Beit Rima raid was an outgrowth of its investigation of the killing of Mr. Zeevi. After withholding details of its investigation for days, the Israeli police released a flood of them on Wednesday while the operation here was underway, seemingly linking the events.

Three of five men closely connected to killing lived here at some point. But none of them were arrested or killed in the raid. While Israeli officials said soldiers found two men here connected to the killing, the nature of that connection was not among the details they released.

Palestinians here said Israel was exaggerating the connection to manufacture a rationale for the attack. Maj. Gen. Amos Malka, Israel's chief of military intelligence, said tonight of the link between the raid and the extremists who killed Mr. Zeevi: "The connection is not so strong." In a news conference in Tel Aviv, General Malka said, "I think that the event of the assassination of a minister of Israel was strong enough to launch some of the operations" against militants whom the Israelis had previously hoped that Palestinian authorities would round up.

The operation had been planned long before Mr. Zeevi was killed, the commanding officer said. "The fact that Zeevi's killers were from this village of course encouraged us to launch this operation," he said. Israeli troops had a list of some 15 to 20 extremists whom they had hoped to capture in the raid. Of the 11 they arrested, two were said to be from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Men from the village described being taken at gunpoint from their homes before dawn on Wednesday. Soldiers bound their wrists and put hoods over their heads, they said, then transported them to a nearby military base for questioning.

Israeli troops carried out reprisals against the families of those accused of acts against Israel. They demolished the home of the father-in-law of one of the suspected killers of Mr. Zeevi. They also dynamited the home of Hana Namir Ahmad Barghouti, the widowed mother of a man wanted by the Israelis as a leader of Hamas, the Islamist group.

As she accepted the card of a Red Cross worker who offered to get her a tent, Mrs. Barghouti said the troops told her she was lucky they had not come months earlier. "Thirty-three years my husband worked in Kuwait to build this house," she said, gesturing at the mound of concrete, rebar, carpeting and twisted metal. Israeli troops would not let her take her belongings.

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company | Privacy Information

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), October 26, 2001

Answers

Terrorist did not let the family members of people who worked in the Pentagon or the families of the WTC bring their loves one out alive.

Mrs. Barghouti ought to be thankful she is alive and teach her family to love one another rather than kill.

-- Rick V (rickv@mc.net), October 26, 2001.


"The anger of some here today was not directed only at Israel. "They used the helicopters that you gave to them, you Americans," said Nafiz al Sheikh, a commander of the local forces. "You are the main reason for our disaster." Another man displayed one of the huge rounds he said was fired by Apache helicopers used in the raid. With a bitter smile, he called it "an American present for our people."

THE PA AND THEIR INABILITY OR UNWILLINGNESS TO ROUND UP THE ASSASINS IS THE MAIN REASON FOR "THEIR DISASTER"

"Israeli troops carried out reprisals against the families of those accused of acts against Israel. They demolished the home of the father-in-law of one of the suspected killers of Mr. Zeevi. They also dynamited the home of Hana Namir Ahmad Barghouti, the widowed mother of a man wanted by the Israelis as a leader of Hamas, the Islamist group."

MAYBE PALESTINIANS WILL THINK TWICE BEFORE BECOMING TERRORISTS

-- Steve McClendon (ke6bjd@yahoo.com), October 26, 2001.


One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

If you lived in a hopeless situation, your opinions might be different.

The best defense against terrorism is not the ability to commit acts of violence but to convince people that there is a hopeful solution to injustices. Terrorists are bred, not born. Many people around the world who sympathized with the victims of 9-11 (those victims were from dozens of countries, not merely from the US) are also horrified at the humanitarian disaster happening in Afghanistan. If lots of people starve there this winter, al-Qaeda will use that as its recruitment message next year (even if there was no war and no Taliban, the situation there would be desperate - but the cut off of outside food aid has made a bad situation worse).

It's amazing that the US is dropping more land mines in Afghanistan (cluster bombs - not all explode on impact), the most mined country in the world.

If Hamas are terrorists (and they are), what does that make the Israeli military when they destroy farms and homes in occupied West Bank and Palestine?

The first casualty of war is freedom of thought. Read 1984 by Orwell for more on that.

-- sam (sam.lowry@ministry.of.information.gov), October 26, 2001.


Palestinians are nothing more than niggers to the Israelis. They have treated the Palestinians like dirt for a long, long, time. Terrorism is what happens when you subject a people to severe injustice for many years. Kick a sweet puppy enough times and you get a mean ole dog. What the fux do you expect?!

-- Hamlet Jones (Hamet_Jones@yahoo.com), October 26, 2001.

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