Bloodbath kept from the eyes of the world

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 09:20:16 +0100

150 Palestinians reported killed 

AT SOME point in the next few days, when the Israelis withdraw their
forces from the Jenin refugee camp, the real story of what happened
there will emerge. But it became clear yesterday that the bloodshed has
been on a scale notable even in the grim history of the Middle East

Early yesterday morning 13 Israeli soldiers died in an ambush in the
camp’s narrow alleyways, adding to the nine already killed during more
than a week of fighting in the West Bank city from which all independent
observers have been barred. 

Israel Radio reported that more than 150 Palestinians have also been
killed. It is a measure of their ferocious resistance that even Israelis
have called their stand a “Palestinian Masada”, a reference to the Dead
Sea fortress where Jews held out for three years against the Romans
before committing suicide in AD73. 

Yesterday’s ambush inflicted the single heaviest toll on Israeli forces
since the present intifada began 18 months ago, and the casualties were
reserve soldiers called up barely a week ago to assist in Operation
Desert Shield. 

Their task was to flush out the last Palestinian militants, and it was
just after 8am when the unit moved slowly towards a group of three
houses arranged around a courtyard. 

At a hastily arranged press briefing outside Jenin, Major-General
Yitzhak Eitan, head of the Israeli Defence Force’s Central Command,
said: “This group of suicide bombers has refused and still refuses to
answer all our calls to surrender. We will continue to fight as long as
necessary despite the loss. We will continue until we make this camp

Ron Drori, a 30-year-old reserve infantryman who was among the wounded
in the attack, described how they had entered this corner of the camp at
first light and been surprised at how little resistance they had met. 

Mr Drori said: “The commander checked if we could enter the three houses
and take them over and decided that it was too dangerous. We went into a
narrow alley. Suddenly a device exploded between the soldiers. I don’t
know where it came from.” 

Still shocked and bleeding, he continued: “Immediately there was another
bomb and then they started firing at us from all directions.” 

Senior commanders trapped in the crossfire said that the first of the
reservists had been killed by the force of a suicide bomb or crushed by
the rubble that buried them. From inside the damaged buildings came the
cries of the wounded. Colleagues crouching in nearby alleyways ran to

General Eitan said that as they did so Palestinian snipers hiding on
rooftops overlooking the houses began to fire at his troops. Seven more
reservists were seriously wounded in the shooting. 

General Eitan blamed a suicide bomber for detonating the first blast as
soldiers were carrying out house-to-house searches. His claims, and
those of the Palestinian leaders still marooned in Jenin camp, are
impossible to substantiate because the Israelis will not allow
journalists into the area. 

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, said: “This was a difficult
day.” Vowing to continue the offensive in Jenin, despite international
condemnation, he said: “This battle is a battle for survival of the
Jewish people, for survival of the State of Israel.” 

As the injured reservists were taken to Haemek Hospital in Afula,
armoured units were ordered into the area as Apache helicopter gunships
circled overhead. For several hours the Israelis could not find the
bodies of three of their reserve soldiers. They feared they had been
seized by the Palestinians, who have been trying to agree a truce so
that they could recover the bodies of their own militiamen who were
lying in the streets where they fell. 

By early afternoon the Israelis had dug through the rubble to find the
remains of their troops and the suicide bomber, who was thought to have
detonated a 200lb device as the reservists turned the corner to where he
was hiding. 

Israel Radio claimed that the Palestinian fighters had been squeezed
into a jumble of partly demolished buildings in an area no more than 70
yards square. Yassir Arafat, the besieged Palestinian leader, managed to
get a message of support to the fighters in Jenin, who are thwarting Mr
Sharon’s efforts to wrap up the Israeli operation before Colin Powell,
the US Secretary of State, arrives. 

Doctors say that the Israelis will not allow them to go to the aid of
the dying and injured inside Jenin. Witnesses told of children screaming
in the street for missing parents, then being snatched inside by the
dwindling number of survivors of Jenin. 

Lior Yavme from B’tselem, the Israeli Human Rights Organisation, said:
“Something very bad is happening there and we have no way of knowing
precisely what is going on.” 

Abu George, of the Palestinian Red Crescent, said: “I am 200 yards away
and I don’t know what is happening inside. We have not entered the
refugee camp in eight days, we don’t know how many dead are lying there,
and how many injured. We only hear the sounds of gunfire and war.” 

There is belived to be little water, electricity, food or medicine. Some
of the women and children have managed to escape at night and moved to
the nearby village of Yamoun. One 26-year-old, who gave his name only as
Abdullah and who fled the camp yesterday, said: “No father can know
anything about his children, no brother can know anything about his
mother, no one knows what is happening. There is no communication. My
mother and brother were shot by helicopter gunships and were bleeding to
death and could not be saved.” 

He told how tanks smashed down homes as they carved through the camp,
leaving bodies inside. Nobody dares venture out to bury their dead, nor
tend to the wounded. Families have been separated by the bombardment. 

In the camp’s stricken hospital Dr Ziad, a neurologist, said that there
were too many bodies to count and that they were deteriorating because
there is no power in the mortuary. 

Brigadier-General Eyal Shline, an Israeli commander in the area, said
that the Palestinians “seem to have decided to fight to the last, to
make the battle as bloody as possible”. He claimed that they are led by
Mahmud Tawalbeh, the radical Islamic Jihad’s Jenin chief who was freed
from the town’s prison by armed Palestinians. 

Source:  The Times

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