What withdrawal

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The Israeli army assassinated Marwan Zalloum, a prominent local resistance activist, and his aide, Samir Abu Rajab, in Hebron this week. Eyewitnesses said two Israeli helicopters fired several missiles at the dead men’s car shortly after midnight Monday, incinerating them.

On the same spot, Fatah gunmen executed three people accused of collaborating with the Israeli army and intelligence services.

Zalloum and Abu Rajab are among 15 Palestinian martyrs, mostly civilians, including three children, to die by Israeli gunfire in Palestine in the past five days.

The internment and killing of Palestinian civilians continues, despite Israeli claims that their blitz against the 3.5 million Palestinians is almost finished. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that the first phase of operation “Protective Shield” was over. He said Israeli forces were leaving Palestinian cities, with the exception of Bethlehem, Ramallah and “a few other places.”

But in some areas like Salfit and Hebron, the reoccupation was being consolidated. And in Nablus, Jenin, Qalqilya and Tulkarm Israeli tanks moved out of the centres only to reinforce positions in the outskirts and on surrounding hills.

Israeli army snipers remained on rooftops, with their weapons trained on the streets.

The mayor of Nablus, Ghassan Shaka’a, described the so-called Israeli withdrawal as “a limited redeployment within and around the city.” He said that the siege was continuing as before and food supplies are exhausted.

For a brief time the curfew on Nablus was lifted, allowing the tormented residents a chance to bury the dead and dig in the rubble for survivors.

Hospital sources said around 80 Palestinians were killed in the unprovoked Israeli bombardment of the Qasaba quarter of Nablus. Most of the dead were crushed as their homes collapsed on them.

“What happened in Nablus was carnage,” said the governor of Nablus. “What else can one call a week-long artillery bombardment of residential neighbourhoods?”

Though some tanks did leave parts of Ramallah on 20 April, a sizeable Israeli force continued to encircle the bombed-out headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The “withdrawal” from parts of the city seemed to be temporary and tactical. Only a few hours after a long column of tanks left the city, several returned to arrest some “wanted” Palestinians. The message was clear: we are still here and we can return whenever we want.

The uncertainty kept the people of Ramallah and its twin-city, Al-Bireh, wary and apprehensive. Most remained indoors for fear of snipers who continued to fire down upon the streets.

In places the destruction caused by the Israelis is absolute. “They broke into the courts, the banks, the ministries, the various cultural and civic centres, the radio and television stations and destroyed everything they could destroy,” said Palestinian civic leader Mustafa Barghouthi. “They wanted to destroy the infrastructure of the Palestinian society under the rubric of fighting terrorism,” he continued. The cost of rebuilding is inestimable. At Radio Ajyal alone, once a popular FM radio in the Ramallah region, damage costs amounted to a million US dollars.

The Israeli army assassinated Marwan Zalloum, a prominent local resistance activist, and his aide, Samir Abu Rajab, in Hebron this week. Eyewitnesses said two Israeli helicopters fired several missiles at the dead men’s car shortly after midnight Monday, incinerating them.

On the same spot, Fatah gunmen executed three people accused of collaborating with the Israeli army and intelligence services.

Zalloum and Abu Rajab are among 15 Palestinian martyrs, mostly civilians, including three children, to die by Israeli gunfire in Palestine in the past five days.

The internment and killing of Palestinian civilians continues, despite Israeli claims that their blitz against the 3.5 million Palestinians is almost finished. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that the first phase of operation “Protective Shield” was over. He said Israeli forces were leaving Palestinian cities, with the exception of Bethlehem, Ramallah and “a few other places.”

But in some areas like Salfit and Hebron, the reoccupation was being consolidated. And in Nablus, Jenin, Qalqilya and Tulkarm Israeli tanks moved out of the centres only to reinforce positions in the outskirts and on surrounding hills.

Israeli army snipers remained on rooftops, with their weapons trained on the streets.

The mayor of Nablus, Ghassan Shaka’a, described the so-called Israeli withdrawal as “a limited redeployment within and around the city.” He said that the siege was continuing as before and food supplies are exhausted.

For a brief time the curfew on Nablus was lifted, allowing the tormented residents a chance to bury the dead and dig in the rubble for survivors.

Hospital sources said around 80 Palestinians were killed in the unprovoked Israeli bombardment of the Qasaba quarter of Nablus. Most of the dead were crushed as their homes collapsed on them.

“What happened in Nablus was carnage,” said the governor of Nablus. “What else can one call a week-long artillery bombardment of residential neighbourhoods?”

Though some tanks did leave parts of Ramallah on 20 April, a sizeable Israeli force continued to encircle the bombed-out headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The “withdrawal” from parts of the city seemed to be temporary and tactical. Only a few hours after a long column of tanks left the city, several returned to arrest some “wanted” Palestinians. The message was clear: we are still here and we can return whenever we want.

The uncertainty kept the people of Ramallah and its twin-city, Al-Bireh, wary and apprehensive. Most remained indoors for fear of snipers who continued to fire down upon the streets.

In places the destruction caused by the Israelis is absolute. “They broke into the courts, the banks, the ministries, the various cultural and civic centres, the radio and television stations and destroyed everything they could destroy,” said Palestinian civic leader Mustafa Barghouthi. “They wanted to destroy the infrastructure of the Palestinian society under the rubric of fighting terrorism,” he continued. The cost of rebuilding is inestimable. At Radio Ajyal alone, once a popular FM radio in the Ramallah region, damage costs amounted to a million US dollars.

In addition to the wanton destruction of property, Israeli soldiers stole goods and jewelry worth millions of dollars. The extent of the looting suggests that the soldiers had at least ‘a yellow light’ from their superiors. Though Israeli spokesmen admitted that there were isolated acts of theft that would be investigated, they denied Palestinian accusations that looting was widespread. Given the chaos, it is unlikely that enough proof could ever be found to convict individual soldiers.

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