by Ahmad Musa (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 20, Ramadan, 1423)
A Palestinian citizen from Ghazzah revealed on December 9 that Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service, had attempted to enlist him to establish a terrorist cell in Palestine under the name of al-Qa’ida. Speaking during a news conference in Ghazzah on December 9, the man, wearing a mask and identified only by the pseudonym “Ibrahim”, said that he had been contacted by a man who identified himself as “Haj Yousuf” from the city of Akka, and claimed to be working for Usama Bin Ladin and planning bombings in Tel Aviv, Haifa and other Israeli towns.
“He told me that all he wanted from me was to declare responsibility for the bombings in the name of al-Qaida,” Ibrahim said. “He spoke very nicely and told me he would help me financially; then he asked me to try to enlist a number of sincere Islamic-minded youths to set up al-Qaida cell in Gaza.”
Later, the Mossad agent asked Ibrahim to rent an apartment in Ghazzah in order to facilitate communications between them, saying that he would provide a computer and fax machine, and that communications would best be conducted via the internet. The contact between the two men lasted for five months before Ibrahim became suspicious of the man and reported the matter to the Preventive Security Force in Gaza.
The Israeli government, which had earlier announced the discovery of an al-Qa’ida cell in Ghazzah, and has long sought to identify its campaign against the Palestinians with the West’s global war against terror, expressed outrage at the allegations. The Israeli claims were denied by the Palestinian Authority.
The PA said at the press conference that it has briefed the US, EU, Russia and the UN on the affair, and warned them of Israeli plans to intensify its war in the Ghazzah Strip on the pretext of fighting al-Qa’ida.
The revelations came at a time when Israel has been engaged in a series of operations against towns in the West Bank and Ghazzah, killing and wounding Palestinian civilians and United Nations personnel. On December 4 Israeli security forces carried out a “targeted assassination”. Helicopter gunships fired three missiles in Ghazzah City, killing Mustafa Saba, who Israel claimed was responsible for the deaths of seven Israeli soldiers earlier in the year. On December 8 Israeli forces demolished a two-story Palestinian house near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in Ghazzah.
On December 5 Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinians near the settlement of Rafiah Yam, killing a 40-year-old woman, Nahla Aqel, and seriously wounding her three children, a four-year-old son, a seven-year-old son and a fourteen-year-old daughter. A second woman was shot in the head. Eyewitnesses said they were walking in the middle of the street.
Later that night, during Eid al-Fitr, Israeli troops used 25 tanks, armoured personnel-carriers and helicopters gunships in a pre-dawn raid on the Bureij refugee camp in the Ghazzah Strip, killing 10 people, including two employees of a UN humanitarian agency.
The missiles destroyed the home of Aiman Shasniyah, the target of the attack, but he escaped unharmed. The Israeli authorities claimed that most of the victims were fighters, but Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, denied this, saying that only two of the victims were members of its military wing, and four were supporters.
Israel justified the carnage with the claim that five of the dead were members of the militant group Hamas. “We encountered a lot of resistance and the forces fired at armed gunmen,” said Brigadier Yisrael Ziv, commander of security forces in Ghazzah.
Palestinian sources flatly contradicted the Brigadier’s claim, saying that at least seven of the nine killed were civilians. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said that the victims included two of its own personnel, a teacher and a school attendant. The schoolteacher, 32-year-old Ahlam Riziq Kandil, was killed in her home. Osama Hassan Tahrawi, the 31-year-old school attendant, was killed along with six friends and relatives when a rocket fired from a helicopter hit him as he stood in his back yard.
This brings to five the number of UN staff killed this year, three of them in as many weeks. On November 22, an Israeli sniper shot 54-year-old Iain Hook in the back from a rooftop some 25 metres away. The incident has drawn attention to Israel’s barely concealed stand that since the UN collaborates with Palestinians it has now become a legitimate target. Criticism from Western leaders has been muted. They confined their remarks to perfunctory noises about the loss of life, but did not demand that any action be taken against such flagrant breaches of international law.
The Bush administration issued a mild rebuke to Israel for killing Palestinian civilians and demolishing Palestinian homes, but insisted that Israel had a right to defend itself. State department spokesman Richard Boucher simply repeated the standard US criticism of Israeli conduct. “We have made it quite clear... that the Israelis need to be aware of the consequences of their own actions. We have indeed been quite open about our concerns about the Israeli activities, particularly the civilian casualties that have resulted from many of the Israeli actions. We’ve seen a number of people hurt and killed, old people, young people as well. We’ve made our concerns clear about demolitions of houses, for example.”
With the support of the Bush presidency, Sharon has torn up the 1993 Oslo Accord that sought to secure a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. He has consolidated Israel’s control of the most valuable and fertile parts of the West Bank and Ghazzah Strip.
As far as Sharon is concerned, Israel’s war against the Palestinians is an integral part of the US “war against terrorism”, which gives him carte blanche to continue and escalate these policies. The Bush administration’s open contempt for the UN and its increasing disdain for its European allies have only served to strengthen his resolve. If Sharon cannot expel the Palestinians en masse by the so-called transfer policy, he will round them up into tiny fortified ghettos, and will brook no interference from anyone who gets in his way, civilians or even UN staff and officials. He is determined to create the “facts on the ground” that will ensure he does not have to pay the US “bill for peace” in the form of a new Oslo accord in the aftermath of the war on Iraq, as it did after the second Gulf war (1991).