Israeli tanks surrounded Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah compound earlier today, re-asserting Israel’s control over most major towns in the West Bank. This is the third time since the end of March that Israeli forces have laid siege to Arafat’s compound.
Seventeen tanks took up positions all around the compound and just inside at a helicopter pad; soldiers flashed V-for-victory signs while standing atop their armored personnel carriers and used a bulldozer to push stones into a barricade, blocking off the entrance to the compound. Soldiers later announced through loudspeakers that a curfew had been imposed throughout Ramallah as in the other towns. More than half a million Palestinians are confined under curfews.
Israeli forces began reinvading Palestinian towns last week after two suicide bombings killed 26 Israelis in Jerusalem. The attacks prompted the Israeli government to announce a new policy of retaking Palestinian-controlled land indefinitely. The government says it has no plans to leave until all suicide attacks stop.
The Ramallah invasion came moments after Palestinian authorities placed the spiritual leader of Hamas under house arrest in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority arrested dozens of Hamas members on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Palestinian hospital workers and witnesses said Israeli Apache helicopters fired at two cars traveling in a remote area of southern Gaza today, killing six people and injuring five. The army declined to comment on the incident.
In Jenin, Israeli troops carried out house-to-house searches, arresting the head of military intelligence and his bodyguard. Jenin has been the site of some of the worst violence since Israeli forces laid siege to the city in April. On Friday, Israeli tanks shelled the central market, leaving at least 4 people dead and wounding 26. Three of the dead were children.
An article in today’s New York Times describes the death of one of these children as follows: “Ahmed Abu Aziz was 6 and owned a purple bicycle. On Friday, this locked-down city began to stir to rumors that the curfew was being lifted for a few hours. Ahmed asked his father for a shekel, worth just under 25 cents, for a trip to the store by bike with two brothers.
Today, his bicycle sat in the yard of his parents’ house, the seat and right handlebar blown off. A little memorial of stones and seashells to Ahmed includes the Coco Dance candy bar he had bought with the shekel just before stray Israeli tank fire killed him, along with his brother, Jamil, 13.
The curfew, it turned out, was still in force. Israeli tanks shelled the central market, where residents had rushed in to shop, leaving 4 people dead, including 3 children, and wounding 26. Later, the military said the shelling was a mistake, committed during a week of especially violent attacks against Israelis.”
- Rick Rowley, filmmaker and activist with the International Solidarity Movement. Rick has been in the Occupied Territories since the beginning of June. He was in Jenin last Friday, when Israeli tanks opened fire on Palestinians shopping at a crowded market.