In a rabid escalation of state-sponsored terror against Palestinians, Israel’s indiscriminate artillery bombardment has targeted (in nearly 95 per cent of cases) defenseless civilians who can neither escape to a safer place, lest they be killed by machine-gun fire, nor stay in fortified shelters, because there are virtually none.
Such was the gruesome case of four-month-old Iman Hijo, killed on 7 May in Khan Younis by Israeli artillery shrapnel while sitting in her mother’s lap. According to Nasser Hospital sources, the shrapnel pierced the baby’s abdomen, exiting her back and then penetrated her mother’s bosom, injuring her seriously. In addition to Iman and her 19-year-old mother, 20 other civilians, mostly children and women, were injured in the bombardment.
Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, apparently concerned about negative publicity, sought to mitigate the brutality of the latest Israeli crime, saying the army did not intend to kill civilians. “I assure you that we don’t have a deliberate policy of hitting civilians,” said the minister, who earlier announced that he had given the army “full freedom to act against terror.”
While Israeli shells were raining death on Khan Younis in southern Gaza, Israeli tanks wrecked havoc on residential neighborhoods in Tulkarm, in the northern West Bank. Tulkarm District Governor Izzedin Al-Sharif described the attack as “indiscriminate, blind and deadly.”
“They [Israeli army units] barrage the town with artillery and tank shells nonstop, and they don’t give [a] damn where the shells will land and how many innocent people they will kill,” Al-Sherif said.
In Tulkarm, 55-year-old Hussein Abu Tammam was moderately injured when his newly completed home was hit by an artillery shell. As a Red Crescent ambulance took him to hospital, the vehicle came under heavy machine-gun fire. One bullet hit Abu Tammam in the head, killing him instantly.
On 6 May, a large Israeli army force again invaded the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, killing 45-year-old Mohamed I’bayat. The incursion, preceded by wanton bombardment of residential homes, was halfheartedly criticized by the Bush administration, which issued familiar platitudes about the need for “self-restraint on both sides.”
A stronger censure came from the European Union, which reportedly warned Israel that its extensive economic ties with Europe would suffer if the invading force didn’t pull out immediately. The force eventually withdrew, but not before utterly ravaging many buildings and homes.
On 5 May, Israeli agents carried out another assassination in Bethlehem, targeting 38-year-old Ahmed Khalil Asad, a former Islamic Jihad activist whom the occupation authorities accused of “carrying out hostile activities.” According to eyewitnesses, undercover “soldiers” disguised as Palestinians riddled Asad with more than 20 bullets while he was standing outside his grocery store.
A few hours earlier, four other Palestinians in the Jenin area narrowly escaped another assassination attempt by the Israeli army. One of the four was seriously wounded.
In addition to the killing rampage, the Israeli army kept up its sinister practice of destroying Palestinian homes, a measure aimed at tormenting Palestinians and checking their demographic growth.
On 7 May, the occupation army demolished another home in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, just north of Jerusalem, ostensibly to use the site to build a villa for a Jewish immigrant family. The home is one of 400 Arab homes the Israeli army has destroyed since the Intifada began more than seven months ago. More are slated for destruction, particularly in and around East Jerusalem, where the Sharon government seems intent on creating more “irreversible facts” and thereby render impossible the return of the occupied city to Palestinians.
As the Israeli army’s actions reach new heights of violence, Palestinians are reminded of the Nakba, or catastrophe of 1948. Today, 53 years later, many Israeli politicians, including some occupying key positions in Ariel Sharon’s government, make no secret of their desire that the present Israeli onslaught will induce another mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland, a second Nakba.