Israel: Killing Deliberately "by Mistake"

By Khalid Amyreh
Posted: 1 Rajab 1423, 8 September 2002

Israeli chief of staff Yaalon described the Palestinians as a cancer, adding that he was using chemical therapy to eradicate it.

Occupied Jerusalem: 3 September, 2002: As more than a million Palestinian boys and girls returned to school after the summer recess, the Israeli army restarted the murderous killing of Palestinian civilians, including school children.

The latest spate of wanton killings, which often assumes pornographic proportions began around midnight on 28 September with a massacre of an entire family at the Sheikh Ejlin village just south of Gaza City.

There, an Israeli tank fired several dart shells at a peaceable Bedouin encampment where several fruit pickers were asleep.

The deadly artillery flechetes, each packed with some 3,000 inch-long arrows, killed four members of the same family, a mother, her two sons, and their cousin.

Ruwaida al Hajeen, 55, her sons, Ashraf, 22, and Nihad, 17, and 20-year-old Muhammed al Hajeen, died instantly as thousands of the deadly arrows pierced all parts of their bodies. Eight other people were injured, including a 3-year-old child, who sustained a serious wound.

We were sleeping in our homes when suddenly, we heard a bomb, Israeli tanks were invading the area, firing and shelling in all directions, and then I saw the al-Hajeens encampment on fire, said Ismael Shamallakh, a neighbor whose house was also damaged.

The 120 mm shell is fired from a tank and can be set to explode in the air at a specific distance and releases its load of darts in all directions, often causing instant death.

As usual, the Israeli army sought initially to blame the victims, claiming it was not sure they were civilians and that they were making suspicious movements.

Then, a few hours later and, apparently to avert bad publicity, an Israeli army spokesman admitted, rather tersely and half heartedly, that the killings were a mistake.

The mistaken killing continued a few hours later, shortly after sunrise, in Rafah, at the southern edge of the Gaza Strip. There, an Israeli armored personnel carrier strafed the Salatuddin Gate neighborhood with heavy machinegun fire, killing 10-year-old Abdul Hadi Anwar Hameeda, a fourth grader. Eight other civilians were also injured by the indiscriminate bullets, two seriously.

At the same time, as Israeli tanks destroyed the PA headquarters in Nablus, a large building dating back to the British Mandate Era, Israeli APCs were firing indiscriminately on Palestinian homes in Jenin, apparently to mow down any Palestinian walking in the streets or peeking through the windows. At least seven civilians, including two children, were wounded by the bullets.

Then, on 31 August, came the Tubas massacre, when an Israeli apache helicopter gunship fired four hellfire missiles on a civilian car and home at the village of Tubas, south of Jenin, killing five people, including two children, two teenagers and a 29-year-old Fatah activist.

According to eyewitnesses, the attack helicopter first fired three missiles at a civilian car, reducing it to charred twisted metals and killing Rafat Daraghmeh, the activist, and two boys, Yazid Daraghmeh and Sari Subuh, aged 16 and 15 respectively.

Minutes later, the same death machine fired a fourth missile at the home of Yousuf Darghmeh, killing his 8-year-old daughter Bahira and her 10-year-old cousin Ibrahim.

The killing of the five took place in an area which is under full Israeli control which means Israeli troops operating in Tubas could have easily arrested any Palestinian wanted to them without resorting to killing from the air.

However, it seems the Israelis were interested not in arresting people, but in killing them.

Again, the Israeli army and government desperately tried to concoct a rationale for the wanton killing. But there was none, prompting Defense Minister Ben Eliezer to issue a belated statement expressing regret over harming innocent civilians in Tubas.

Seeking to belittle the atrocity, Ben Eliezer described the raid in Tubas as a mistake, and promised that the army would look into the incident.

Notwithstanding, the murderous incidents and mistakes continued unabated.

On Sunday, 1 September, a group of undercover Israeli soldiers abducted four Palestinian quarry workers from their place of work to a field outside the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arbaa. What happened next was related by a fifth worker, Ishaq Halayka, who escaped death by hiding inside the latrine.

The soldiers arrived suddenly at the quarry as we were drinking coffee. They were firing toward us from their automatic rifles. When I heard the firing, I fled to the latrine and closed it on me, fearing they would kill me. Then as the soldiers arrived at the quarry, they ordered Hisham, Husam, Atiyya, and Alaa to walk before them to a farm outside Kiryat Arba'a near the entrance to the village of Bani Naim, about 300 meters from the quarry. There the soldiers ordered the four to stand and raise their hands, and then they shot them one after the other.

The four poor victims are the twin brothers Hisham and Husan Halayka, 28, their cousin Attiyya Halayka, 23 and Alaa Ayayda, 19, all from the village of al-Shoyoukh, 10 kilometers south of Hebron.

Unmoved by the gruesome killings, the Israeli army concocted a statement, claiming the four were trying to penetrate Kiryat Arbaa and that they were carrying with them sharp tools, an allusion to their work implements.

Hours later, the army retracted the statement , saying the four may have been innocent workers adding that the army was investigating the incident.

The murderous killing of Palestinian civilians continued on Tuesday, 3 September, this time at the village of Burin near Nablus.

There an Israeli tank fired another flechette shell at two civilians, killing them both.

The bodies of Bahir Eid, 22, ad Hussein Najjar, also 22, were collected by the Red Cross. Najjar was a university student while Eid was training to be an engineer. Neither of the two was associated with any political or resistance groups.

This brings to 21 the number of Palestinian killed by Israel troops between 28 August and 3 September, 19 of them innocent civilians and two activists.

As Palestinians civilians were being killed by Israeli bullets, their homes were also being demolished by Israeli bulldozers.

On Tuesday, 3 September, an Israeli army bulldozer nearly crushed an entire Palestinian family in Rafah as they were asleep inside their home. All the nine members of the family sustained disparate wounds, including one child who was listed in critical conditions.

Earlier, on 1 September, Israeli army bulldozers leveled several homes and businesses in the same area in what one foreign observer described as a brutal war of destruction against a civilian population.

Reacting to the spate of killings, the nearly completely helpless Palestinian Authority appealed to the United Nations and the international Community to protect the Palestinians form genocide.

PA chairman Yasser Arafat said Israel was perpetrating daily massacres for the purpose of thwarting peace efforts and provoking Palestinian militants to retaliate.

Many Israeli commentators readily agreed with Arafat.

Israeli commentator Dany Robnstein accused the Israeli army of deliberately harming civilians.

Writing in Haaretz on 2 September, Robenstien stated:

The Palestinian media is full of horrific photos of children smashed in IDF operations, wounded or killed by IDF fire. Hundreds of photos of the dead and wounded, elderly and women, beside tank treads, fill the pages, as do pictures of handicapped in wheelchairs trying to make their way over hills, and houses, and some times, entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.

Amira Hass, another Haaretz commentator, noticed in an article on the same day that the Israeli army killed at least 39 Palestinian civilians from August 1 to September 1, including seven children and fifteen teenagers, aged 10-15, and two women from Gaza aged 55 and 86 respectively.

Even the Israeli President, Moshe Katsav, an ardent Likudnik, admitted on 1 September that Israeli soldiers were trigger happy and that soldiers were killing Palestinian civilians blithely.

Nonetheless, the atrocities and the brewing outcry about them, seem to have little or no bearing on Moshe Yaalon, the new Israeli chief of staff.

Last week, Yaalon described the Palestinians as a cancer, adding that he was using chemical therapy to eradicate it.

Yaalon, it is important to remember, has the full support of Israeli prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

In light, the wanton killing of Palestinian civilians is likely to continue amid international apathy and effective American acquiescence.

This week, American envoy David Satterfield met with Israeli and Palestinian officials in an effort to revive whatever remained of the peace process.

He didn't utter a single word in condemnation of the atrocities.