Death by cease-fire

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As the Israeli propaganda machine continued its vociferous campaign against the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli occupation army and paramilitary organizations of Jewish settlers kept up their own campaign of terror in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

On 24 June Israeli intelligence agents killed a Fatah activist in downtown Nablus. According to Palestinian police sources, Osama Fathi Jawabra, 29, was killed when a public telephone exploded as he picked up the handset.

The murder, apparently an instance of the implementation of an earlier decision by the Israeli inner-cabinet to resume its “assassination policy” against Intifada activists, outraged the Palestinian public. It also prompted Fatah leaders to declare that “this cease-fire is killing us,” and that “death will be met with death from now on.”

“This was a brazen violation of the cease-fire. It comes on the eve of Sharon’s visit to the United States, this is unacceptable and the world community must recognize that it is the Israelis who are breaching the cease-fire,” said Anan Al-Attiri, a spokesperson for Fatah in the Nablus area.

During Jawabra’s funeral on 25 June, in which thousands of Palestinians took part, Fatah leaders vowed to avenge the murder. 
“The criminal Sharon should understand that Fatah will not allow its cadres to be assassinated under the rubric of the cease- fire… the cease-fire can go to hell.”

Since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada nearly nine months ago, the Israeli army and intelligence services have assassinated as many as 40 Palestinian activists in what several human rights groups around the world have decried as extra-judicial executions.

Meanwhile, Israeli army bulldozers once again visited terror on the small refugee camp of Yubna in Rafah at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip. The army demolished as many as 20 homes, rendering their occupants homeless.

“After midnight, the tanks and bulldozers arrived. They yelled at us to leave the house. We took the children and fled, and they flattened it,” said Hassan Burhom, one of the victims of this latest abomination, in a tone revealing both cynicism and suppressed rage.

“They only gave us five minutes to get the children out; they told us the bulldozers would crush them if we didn’t get them out in time,” said his Burhom’s cousin, Mohamed.

Asked where he and the other victims would sleep that night, Mohamed said “somewhere between the land and the sky.” 

Another victim, Ahmed Burhom, summed up the tragic absurdity of the situation. “An army that storms civilian neighborhoods in the quiet hours before dawn, destroying homes and terrorizing sleeping men, women and children without any justification is not an army of soldiers but an army of thugs and criminals… if something nearing this ugliness and brutality happened anywhere else in the world, it would be called a war crime, yet the world is silent about this Jewish Nazism,” said Burhom, who lost his home and an olive orchard.

As daylight broke, the victims began to confront their losses. Some wept or raised their hands heavenward asking God to avenge Israeli oppression, and others rummaged through the piles of concrete trying to salvage belongings from what was left of their homes.

Children carried away kitchenware, dragged half-torn mattresses out from beneath the rubble, or combed through the ruins searching for a toy they couldn’t bear to lose.

An Israeli army spokesman said in a terse statement that the demolitions were carried out as part of the “engineering work” for the purpose of widening a road used by Israeli army patrols along the Egyptian borders. Asked why the army chose to carry out the operation after midnight, the spokesman said, “can you suggest a more suitable time?” 

However, the vicious destruction of the homes was in fact a collective punishment meted out to innocent and defenseless civilians in retaliation for the death of two Israeli soldiers a day earlier by a Palestinian suicide-bomber.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the operation, saying it had carried it out “in retaliation for continued Israeli killing and repression of our people.”

And as though the murder of Palestinian leadership and destruction of homes were insufficient crimes, Israelis went after Palestinian livelihoods last week with the wide-scale burning of fields and orchards. Palestinian sources and foreign journalists described the blazes set by Israeli settlers as “phenomenal.” Thousands of acres of Palestinian orchards and wheat fields were reduced to ashes in a matter of a few hours.

So far, the settlers have concentrated their rampage in and around villages lying between Nablus and Ramallah, many of which are still outside the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli army, which often guards the settlers “while at work” against the Palestinian population, obstructed fire- fighters from reaching the blazes.

In several cases, occupation soldiers themselves took part in setting Palestinian fields on fire as happened at the villages of Abud and Sawiya south of Nablus on 24 and 25 June.

Some of the perpetrators of these acts of arson described their actions in biblical terms, likening them to the Israelites suppression of the Canaanites.

Meanwhile Sharon continues to demand complete passivity from the Palestinians, leaving Arafat with the increasingly difficult task of persuading his tormented people to suspend their resistance to Israeli repression.

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