Suicide Bombings and "Relative Calm"
Four Killed, Twenty Hurt in Geha Bombing (Ha'aretz) First suicide bombing in Israel in nearly three months 117 Palestinians killed, Hundreds Injured During Media's Period of "Realtive Calm" (Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada) What relative calm means for Palestinians
Hundreds Protest IDF's Use of Shots to Disperse Demonstrators (Ha'aretz) Latest IDF response to peaceful protests
[Four people were killed and 20 wounded Thursday in the first attack on Israeli civilians since October 4. The attack was claimed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It is expected that the Israeli response, which has thus far been limited to a closure of the OccupiedTerritories(which is, in itself, still a form of collective punishment), will be directed at Syria.
It is likely no coincidence that Ariel Sharon picked the day after this attack to discuss, for the first time, the Syrian offer of a resumption of peace talks. The PFLP leadership is believed to be headquartered in Damascus. It is likely that Israel will attempt to use this incident, as well as the October 4 bombing (carried out by Islamic Jihad, which is not headquartered in Syria, but does have some operatives and offices there) to pressure Syria to act against these groups as a prelude to any talks.
Media reports have described this as an end to a period of “relative calm” in the region. See our second article in this e-mail to see a description of what “relative calm” is to Palestinians. – MP]
Four people were killed and 20 wounded in a suicide bombing at the Geha Junction between Petah Tikva and Bnei Brak yesterday.
The names of the dead had not been released for publication as of press time last night. Of the injured, one was in serious condition and four were in moderate condition. The others were lightly injured, with many members of this group suffering only from shock. The injured were evacuated to BeilinsonHospital in Petah Tikva, Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer and SharonMedicalCenter in Petah Tikva. The attack was the first successful suicide bombing since the one at Maxim's restaurant in Haifa on October 4, which killed 21 people. There have been 22 other attempted suicide bombings in the interim, according to the IDF Spokesman, but all were foiled by the security services. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was to avenge the Israel Defense Forces' killing of Fadi Hanani, a senior member of that organization, in a gun fight in Nablus about 10 days ago. The organization identified the bomber as Said Hanani, 21, of nearby Beit Furik, a relative of Fadi's and another member of the PFLP's Nablus cell. Following the bombing, Israel imposed a full closure on the territories. In addition, IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon convened senior army officials for a situation assessment, and is expected to meet today with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz for further discussions. However, since Israel is apparently not interested in taking harsh measures against the Palestinians just now, its response is likely to be confined to the closure and a stepped-up hunt for wanted terrorists - a hunt that would have taken place in any case, as the Shin Bet security service currently has 52 warnings of planned terrorist attacks. In contrast, Israeli officials are expected to play up the fact that the PFLP's leadership is headquartered in Damascus, as a way of increasing pressure on Syria to rein in the terrorist organizations that it harbors. The defense establishment believes that the PFLP's Damascus leadership is involved in attacks such as yesterday's, though to a lesser degree than officials in the territories. Most of the PFLP cells' orders, defense officials say, still come from a group of PFLP leaders who have been in a Palestinian jail in Jericho, under British and American supervision, for more than a year. The Palestinian Authority jailed these men due to Israeli and American pressure following the PFLP's assassination of minister Rehavam Ze'evi in October 2001, but they have been given virtually unrestricted telephone access, issue frequent press statements and receive regular visits from other PFLP members. The PFLP has also been known to receive money from organizations in Lebanon, and it frequently cooperates with local Fatah cells. Beit Furik, Said's hometown, is a known PFLP stronghold, and the Hanani clan, which is the largest in Beit Furik, is known to have several other members involved in terrorist activity, including two who committed an attack on the settlement of Elon Moreh in April. The suicide bombing took place during the busy evening rush hour at a bus stop at the Geha Junction, where Palestinian workers routinely wait for people to pick them up for potential jobs, police said. The bomber, carrying a medium-sized bomb, approached the bus stop at about 6:30 P.M. and blew himself up, killing two people immediately and mortally wounding a third, who died en route to the hospital. A fourth person, who was seriously injured, died in the hospital a few hours later. The explosion reduced the bus stop to a skeletal frame and brought rush hour traffic on one of Israel's busiest roads to a stop. Rescue workers said they had difficulty reaching the scene because of the heavy traffic at Geha, a major junction just outside Tel Aviv. Immediately after the bombing, police began searching the area for accomplices, as several eyewitnesses said that they saw two men who looked Arab fleeing the scene. As of last night, however, no one had been arrested, and police said they had no idea how the bomber reached the junction or who helped him. Police said that though they had received warnings yesterday afternoon that terrorists might try to infiltrate the Sharon region to carry out an attack, and had raised the alert level in response, the warnings were not specific enough to enable them to set up roadblocks in an effort to find the terrorist. Batsheva Boshri of Ra'anana, whose soldier daughter Shiran was moderately to seriously wounded, encapsulated the anguish that family and friends experience after an attack. "[Shiran] called me at home and said `Mother, there was an attack, I'm wounded,' but then the call was cut off," she said. "Later I reached her and she said she was in Tel Hashomer. She told me she had seen her friend fall, and asked me to find her. But so far, I haven't found her."
[The most recent Palestinian suicide bombing on December 25th, killing Israeli 4 non-combatants in Tel Aviv was the first since October 4th, when Palestinians killed 21 non-combatants, including 4 children. These actions were awful and indefensible crimes, possibly rising to the level of crimes against humanity, and were rightly treated as such by the major national and international Western news media. The second attack however was also described, as Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada points out in this article, as marking the end of a 'relative lull' in violence in the area. As Abunimah shows, collating evidence from the weekly reports of the Palestinian Centre for Human Right, this is an oft-repeated falsehood that significantly impairs the ability of people of conscience to understand and respond to their governments' actions in the region. The facts are as follows. According the IDF, between October 4th and December 25th a total of 12 Israelis died and 3 were wounded in Palestinian attacks, all of which targeted military or paramilitary personnel acting to enforce the illegal occupation of the West Bank or Gaza Strip. It is worth noting that the General Assembly of the United Nations has repeatedly asserted the right of people to use violence (in conformity with the laws of war) to resist military occupation by a foreign power. (Two additional Palestinian attacks, other than the suicide bombings, also contravened the laws of war: in one of them 3 American diplomats were killed, and in the other, carried out by a lone Jordanian, an Ecuadorian tourist was killed.) By contrast however between October 2nd and December 25th no fewer than 117 Palestinians, including 23 children, were killed and many hundreds injured by Israeli death squads. In addition, Israeli forces destroyed 486 Palestinian homes, in some cases as collective punishments pursuing an explicit policy that is in breach of the Geneva conventions, continued to expand illegal Jewish-only settlement programs, maintained a system of effective apartheid for road and land use, and refused to dismantle the network of military checkpoints that violate the rights of Palestinians to move and assemble freely. Palestinians took no comparable additional measures against Israel. Those concerned will draw their own conclusions about what the phrase 'relative calm' means. AWJW] 117 Palestinians killed, hundreds injured during media's periof of "relative calm" By Ali Abunimah The Electronic Intifada 26 December 2003 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article2301.shtml On December 25, an Israeli assassination squad killed five Palestinians in Gaza, and injured fifteen. Three of the dead were civilians. A short time later, a Palestinian blew himself up at a bus stop in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva, killing four Israeli civilians. Many leading media organizations were quick to declare that these two incidents marked the end of a period of "relative calm" or "lull" in Israeli-Palestinian violence, that had supposedly lasted since the last Palestinian suicide attack in Haifa on 4 October. In fact, the period since 4 October has been one of intense Israeli violence, in which 117 Palestinians were killed, including 23 children. At the same time, Israel destroyed almost five hundred Palestinian homes throughout the OccupiedTerritories. Mass amnesia again strikes Middle East correspondents A front-page Los Angeles Times headline declared "12-Week lull in Mideast Ends," and misreported that the "back to back spasms of violence" on 25 December, "shattered more than two months of relative quiet and dealt a fresh setback to peace efforts" (26 December 2003). "Mideast quiet shattered: Suicide bombing kills four Israelis shortly after assassination in Gaza," declared The Montreal Gazette on Page 1 (26 December 2003). The Chicago Tribune reported that "Coming less than an hour apart," the 25 December "attacks broke a lull that had lasted more than two months and raised fears of a slide into violence" (26 December 2003). CNN reported on its website that the Petah Tikva attack "was the first suicide bombing in Israel since an October 4 attack in Haifa. That incident killed 21 people. There has been a relative calm since the Haifa bombing" ("Suicide bomber kills three in Tel Aviv, " 25 December 2003). Even the usually careful U.K.-based Reuters news agency's report (which had an identical headline to the CNN report) stated that, "the attacks on Thursday shattered well over two months of relative calm that had spurred efforts to revive talks between Israelis and Palestinians on a U.S.-led plan for ending more than three years of conflict" ("Suicide bomber kills three in Tel Aviv," 25 December 2003). In an extraordinary act of forgetfulness, a New York Times report by Richard Bernstein and Greg Myre declared that "The suicide bomb attack in Petah Tikva broke a tense sort of relative calm that has existed on both sides since October" (26 December 2003). But just a few paragraphs above this sentence, the same article reported that "Less than an hour *before* the suicide attack, Israeli gunships fired missiles at a car in Gaza, killing a commander of Islamic Jihad, who Israeli officials said was planning a 'mega' attack inside Israel" (emphasis added). The report also stated that four others were killed including "two bystanders" and 14 people were injured. Not only did the Times forget what had happened just an hour before the Petah Tikva bomb, it had apparently wiped from memory a report by the same Greg Myre on 24 December, headlined "Israelis Kill 8 Palestinians in Raid on a Camp in Gaza." According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), a total of nine Palestinians were killed in the Israeli attack on Rafah refugee camp about which Myre reported. Among the 37 injured, eight were children, and 116 families were made homeless. What really happened during the period of "relative calm" Contrary to the pervasive media claim that the period between 4 October and 25 December was one of "relative calm," "quiet" or "lull," it was actually one of intense Israeli violence on Palestinians throughout the OccupiedTerritories. Using the meticulous weekly reports of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), EI counted that Israeli forces killed 117 Palestinians from 2 October to 25 December. The vast majority of the dead were civilians and 23 of them were children. Hundreds of civilians were injured by Israeli fire. During the same period, PCHR documented that Israeli occupation forces destroyed 486 houses and apartments, rendering thousands of Palestinians homeless. During the same period, few Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed in Palestinian attacks, and there were indeed no suicide attacks since 4 October. Israel claims that the huge drop in violence against its civilians was largely because it "foiled" such attacks. But, the New York Times reported on 5 December that, "Israeli officials have concluded that the Islamic movement Hamas has suspended its suicide bombing campaign in recent months, a senior Israeli military officer said Thursday, citing that as one reason Israel has not suffered any deadly bombings in the past two months." What is indisputable is that Israel was killing and injuring Palestinians by the hundreds. Here are a few examples of incidents that occurred during the media's period of "relative calm": *On 10 October, a large contingent of Israeli forces, armed with over 80 tanks, armored bulldozers and helicopters, entered Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza. During the two-day long attack, 8 Palestinians were killed, including 3 children, and 53 were wounded; 20 seriously. Israeli forces destroyed 170 homes rendering more than 2000 Palestinians homeless. In response to this incident, Amnesty International issued a statement saying "The repeated practice by the Israeli army of deliberate and wanton destruction of homes and civilian property is a grave violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, notably articles 22 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and constitutes a war crime." *On 20 October, Israeli occupation forces carried out two assassination attacks that killed eleven Palestinians. Eight of the dead were bystanders. The first attack occurred in the morning, when Israeli helicopters fired a missile at a car stopped at a traffic light in GazaCity. The missile killed the two occupants of the targeted car, and the driver of an adjacent car. Nine passing civilians sustained injuries, one of them serious. That evening, seven Palestinians were killed, including a child and an on-duty doctor when Israeli forces carried out a failed assassination attempt in Gaza's Nusseirat refugee camp. The targets of the attack escaped, but in addition to the seven civilians killed, 50 were injured, including 11 children. An eighth civilian later died from his injuries. *On 26 October, Israeli occupation forces in Gaza killed three members of the same family who were on their way to visit relatives to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The three men, Khaled Ahmed Ibrahim al-Sumairi, 40, Ussama Suleiman 'Aayesh Al-Sumairi, 30, Ibrahim Mousa al-Sumairi, 32, got into their car at approximately 8.45 PM at their home in Wadi Salqa village in the central Gaza Strip. When they were approximately 300 metres from their house, Israeli forces opened fire on them without warning, injuring all three. The occupation forces then imposed a military curfew on the area, preventing Palestinian ambulances from reaching the men for more than 90 minutes. By the time ambulances were allowed to tend to the victims, two had died. The third died of his injuries upon arrival at Deir al-Balah hospital. After initially claiming that the three men had been armed, the Israeli media reported that the occupation authorities admitted that the men were in fact unarmed and had been killed "by mistake." *On 8 December at approximately 3 PM, Israeli forces stationed at "Neve Dekalim" settlement, west of Khan Yunis, in Gaza opened fire at the al-Namsawi area of Khan Yunis refugee camp. A Palestinian schoolchild, Fatima Mousa Khalafallah, age 10, was wounded by a live bullet in the chest while she was in her school approximately 700 metres away from the source of fire. These are just four examples of the dozens of violent incidents that took 117 Palestinian lives, and injured hundreds more since early October. Despite the continuous bloodshed, mainstream media organizations have habitually described this period as being one of "relative calm" or "quiet" that ended only when several Israeli civilians were killed. This widespread pattern is the most persistent and pernicious failure of the media in reporting the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It represents not only a shocking lack of professionalism and objectivity, but a double standard that treats the lives of one set of human beings as being inherently more valuable than those of another.
[The IDF has once again fired on peaceful protesters, and this time it is drawing some attention. Since the beginning of the second intifada, such violent reactions to protests have been all too common among Israeli soldiers and police, beginning with the killing of 13 Arab citizens of Israel in the early days of the intifada, and continuing through the deaths of international activists, most notably Rachel Corrie.
The protest was against the separation wall, and included “violent shaking” of the wall, at a spot where it was made of fence-like material rather than the very tall concrete much of the completed portion consists of. Protesters also tried to use wire cutters to cut through it. At no time is there any mention of anything remotely resembling a threat to the soldiers.
It is interesting to observe the reactions reported here by Ha’aretz. We see, for example, the result of the Israeli campaign to label the International Solidarity Movement a “terrorist” group. Likud MK Uzi Landau says the IDF were acting against "collaborators with terror, and therefore were protecting the citizens of Israel." A chilling reminder indeed of how the propaganda around terrorism, treating it as a political tool rather than the threat to innocents that it is, works to sustain the Likud’s political power. This is not unlike its similar uses by the Bush administration.
MK Yossi Sarid (Meretz) points out that "no shots have ever been fired at settlers despite the fact that they have endangered the lives of soldiers on numerous occasions." Sarid refers to numerous occasions where settlers have attacked soldiers quite directly. No doubt, there is a difference in the orders soldiers are receiving in these different incidents. That kind of double standard is worth our most serious attention. – MP]
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
Some 300 demonstrators gathered late Saturday opposite the Defense Ministry building in Tel Aviv, to protest the Israel Defense Forces' use of live ammunition to disperse a demonstration against the separation fence near the West Bank village of Meskhah. An Israeli demonstrator was seriously injured and an American was lightly wounded Friday when IDF troops opened fire on protestors.
Several demonstrators were detained by police after they sat on the road and blocked traffic.
The Head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), said Saturday morning that he intends to convene a committee meeting to discuss an incident Friday in which Israel Defense Force soldiers shot and wounded two people during a demonstration against the West Bank separation fence, Israel Radio reported.
Gil Na'amati, an Israeli citizen from Kibbutz Re'im in the Negev sustained serious wounds, while an American tourist was lightly hurt.
Na'amati is currently in stable condition at BeilinsonHospital in Petah Tikva, while the American woman has been released from hospital.
Meretz MK Yossi Sarid said on Saturday that orders like the ones issued to soldiers who shot at the demonstrators will only encourage refusal to serve in the territories among Israeli reservists.
"Left wingers and Palestinians are easy pray [sic] for [Defense Minister] Mofaz and [Chief of Staff] Ya’alon," Sarid said, and added that "no shots have ever been fired at settlers despite the fact that they have endangered the lives of soldiers on numerous occasions."
Uzi Landau, Likud Minister without portfolio said Saturday that the troops acted against "collaborators with terror, and therefore were protecting the citizens of Israel."
Labor MK Matan Vilani responded to Landau, saying he was paving the way for a political assassination.
The incident occurred close to the Palestinian village of Meskha, east of Rosh Ha'ayin, where around 100 members of the Anarchist Movement against the Wall and the International Solidarity Movement were protesting against the construction of the security fence.
Major General Moshe Kaplinsky, head of the GOC Central Command, on Friday appointed a colonel to investigate the shooting incident. MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) called Saturday for the probe to be taken out of the hands of the military.
Deputy Defense Ministry Ze'ev Boim (Likud) said Saturday that he hopes that an investigation will make clear that the IDF soldiers involved in the shooting were following military regulations. He added that when he recovers from the wounds sustained in the shooting incident, Na'amati would be tried for sabotaging the fence.
Video footage of the incident broadcast on Channel Two television showed Israeli demonstrators on the Palestinian side of the fence violently shaking it, with some trying to cut the fence with wire cutters.
During the protest, troops used live ammunition. At a later stage, another foreign activist was wounded by a rubber bullet. Na'amati, whose friends said was hit by two bullets, was evacuated to Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva.
The soldiers claimed that Na'amati was wearing a mask when he was shot.
The troops involved in the incident were from a Golani company stationed in the area. According to military sources, one live shot was fired in the direction of the demonstrators, who were attempting to cut through the separation fence with wire cutters. One demonstrator was hit in the leg by the shot, the sources said. "The shot was fired in accordance with regulations," the sources insisted.
One of the demonstrators, Jonathan Faulk, told Haaretz that a group of soldiers opened fire in his direction, from a distance of several meters. Faulk said that there was no warning before the shots were fired, and that "the soldiers' lives were never in any danger."
MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) told Israel Radio that the IDF Spokesman must provide a clear explanation as to why IDF troops opened fire on Israeli protestors.
Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan said that it must be determined who gave the order to open fire.
Likud MK Ehud Yatom condemned the incident, and said that there were other means for dealing with protesters who do not endanger the lives of soldiers.
Jewish Peace News Editors: Judith Norman Alistair Welchman Mitchell Plitnick Lincoln Shlensky Ami Kronfeld Rela Mazali Sarah Anne Minkin
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