Israeli armed forces have attacked the Gaza Strip and invaded more West Bank cities after a second suicide bomb attack on Jerusalem in two days killed seven people and injured over 30.
Helicopter gunships fired missiles in Gaza City and the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, injuring at least six people.
Troops backed by some 60 tanks and armored carriers and helicopters moved into Bethlehem from several directions.
In Qalqilyah, two Israeli soldiers were killed in a fierce gunbattle at the home of a Palestinian Authority intelligence officer.
The army also moved into the town Jenin and began rounding up hundreds of residents in its refugee camp. Israel also invaded Ramallah, Hebron and Dura.
Israel announced on Wednesday it will seize new Palestinian land in response to every future terror attack, and hold it as long as violence continues. There was no objection from Washington, which only a few weeks ago demanded that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdraw his soldiers from parts of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
Yasser Arafat today appealed to Palestinian militias to halt attacks on Israeli civilians, saying the shootings and bombings “must be completely halted.” Otherwise, he warned, the result might be “full Israeli occupation of our lands.” And more than 50 Palestinians took out a full-page newspaper ad Wednesday condemning suicide bombings.
- Dalal Hassan, Palestinian American student activist in Gaza with the Global Exchange delegation.
- Jim Davis, international activist in Jenin refugee camp.
The army re-invaded Jenin yesterday, the West Bank city Israel destroyed in April. The siege of Jenin riveted the world’s attention for weeks, spreading horror and outrage throughout the international community. Journalists were not allowed into the area, but reports of a massacre and massive destruction leaked out.
The Israelis blocked a UN investigation of alleged atrocities committed during the siege, and we may never know everything that happened. Human Rights Watch is reporting is that Israeli troops killed over fifty refugees, almost half of them were unarmed civilians. In violation of international law, many civilians were used as human shields. Armored bulldozers completely leveled at least 140 buildings and severely damaged over 200. Many of them were multi-family homes. More than 4000 people–one quarter of the population–were left homeless.
Two weeks ago, an Israeli newspaper published an interview with one of the reserve soldiers who participated in the destruction of Jenin. The soldier’s name is Shlomo Nissim, but his fellow reservists knew him as “Kurdi Bear.” Here are some excerpts from the interview:
“The moment I drove the bulldozer into the camp, something switched in my head. I went mad. All the desperation, caused by my personal condition, just vanished at once. All that remained was the anger over what had happened to our guys…
“I had no mercy for anybody. I would erase anyone with the D-9, just so that our soldiers won’t expose themselves to danger. That’s what I told them. I was afraid for our soldiers. You could see them sleeping together, 40 soldiers in a house, all crowded. My heart went out for them. This is why I didn’t give a damn about demolishing all the houses I’ve demolished–and I have demolished plenty. By the end, I built … [a] football stadium there.
“For three days, I just destroyed and destroyed. The whole area. Any house that they fired from came down. And to knock it down, I tore down some more. They were warned by loudspeaker to get out of the house before I come, but I gave no one a chance. I didn’t wait. I didn’t give one blow, and wait for them to come out. I would just ram the house with full power, to bring it down as fast as possible. I wanted to get to the other houses. To get as many as possible. Others may have restrained themselves, or so they say. Who are they kidding? Anyone who was there, and saw our soldiers in the houses, would understand they were in a death trap. I thought about saving them. I didn’t give a damn about the Palestinians, but I didn’t just ruin with no reason. It was all under orders.
“I had plenty of satisfaction. I really enjoyed it…”
We are joined by the reporter who did that interview with the reserve soldier.
- Tsadok Yeheskeli, reporter, Yediot Aharonot, one of Israel’s two most widely circulated newspapers. He recently published an interview with an Israeli reserve soldier who zealously participated in the destruction of Jenin.
- Shawqi Issa, executive director of LAW, the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment. Israeli troops arrested him on Monday as he was heading into his office in Bethlehem. The soldiers stopped his car at a checkpoint in the West Bank, took his identity card, and kept him and a passenger waiting for two hours. They then claimed his West Bank identity card was forged and took him to an Israeli military base in the settlement of Beit El. There, Issa was kept waiting for another hour in the sun. He was eventually released without explanation.
- Wasteland Of The Free–Iris DeMent, The Way I Should (Warner Bros.).