by Laila Juma (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 10, Rabi' al-Thani, 1422)
A Hamas mujahid was martyred in an operation against an Israeli target in the Ghazzah area of occupied Palestine on July 9. He was Nafez Ayesh al-Nadher, aged 26. He was driving near the Kissufim crossing-point between Ghazzah and 1948 Palestine and detonated his vehicle as a military vehicle passed. Israeli sources denied that any of its soldiers had been involved.
Hamas said that the martyrdom operation was a response to the martyrdom of an 11-year-old Palestinian boy in the West Bank town of Refah the previous day. Khalil Mughrabi was one of a group of about 20 children playing in a common area when they were shot at by Israeli soldiers in a nearby observation-tower. Two other children, aged 10 and 12, were wounded, the younger one being critically ill in a hospital in Khan Yunis as Crescent went to press.
Israeli sources claimed that they fired at the children in response to a barrage of heavy fire, Molotov cocktails and rocket-launched grenades during the previous 24 hours. Local residents said that there had been trouble elsewhere in the town but not in the area where the shooting occurred. One resident said that, whatever the circumstances, shooting at playing children was not an appropriate response to military action.
The killing of Khalil Mughrabi was one of several Palestinian deaths in the days after the Israeli military was publicly authorised by the Israeli government to increase its use of force against the Palestinians. Meeting in Tel Aviv on July 4, the 13-member Israeli security cabinet “decided to toughen the methods and reactions of the Israeli army”, according to Labour minister Shlomo Benizri.
Benizri told the press that the military had asked for carte blanche to go after Palestinians and a list of 26 Palestinians who could be killed had been approved. Another 250 face arrest, according to Israeli radio, although an army officer said that they might also be killed if they resisted arrest. “In the next few days, I hope the Palestinians are going to feel a heavier punch from the army,” Benizri said.
Shortly afterwards, Israeli radio reported that a leader of the Fateh movement had been shot and wounded in al-Khalil (Hebron). Speaking in hospital after the attack, Hezem al-Natcheh said that he believed that Israeli forces had been hunting him for several months and that he had been shot by Palestinians working for them.
Four days later, after the killing of Khalil Mughrabi, a Hamas activist, Ayoub Fuad Sharawi, was kidnapped while driving in the Palestinian-controlled section of al-Khalil. Witnesses said that his car was blocked by a civilian vehicle and that he was seized at gunpoint by Israeli undercover agents.
All the while, of course, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was claiming to be exercising restraint in the face of Palestinian provocations, and demanding that Yasser Arafat halt Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians and settlers.
Visiting France and Germany during a short trip to Europe, he insisted that Israel was observing the ceasefire proposed by US senator George Mitchell in his report on the intifada, and that Israel is committed to the timetable for the scaling-down of the intifada that was set later by CIA director George Tenet. He said, however, that Palestinian breaches of the ceasefire meant that the six-week cooling-off period proposed by Tenet could not be regarded as having begun.
After meeting with French president Jacques Chirac and German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Sharon admitted that they had not agreed with his analysis of events in Palestine, but said that he had achieved his main aim of getting the Israeli position understood. Except for Britain, European countries are generally regarded as being less pro-Israel than the US, although they are still committed to the zionist-designed ‘peace process’.
Meanwhile, in Palestine closed-door meetings between Israeli and Palestinian Authority security officials have continued, despite the posturing of politicians on both sides. It is in these meetings that cooperation on restricting the activities of the Islamic movements is agreed, and that a strategy is being worked out for winding down the intifada and returning to the political process that the Palestinian people have so totally rejected.