Family tells how Israelis buried deaf father

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  • Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2002 09:07:56 -0000

Here's another one of the "routine" stories that the mainstream media
ignores in favor of more sensational (and  less frequent) suicide
bombings within Israel.  Unfortunate, since the one makes explicable the
other.   There is NO excuse for the horrific violence being carried out
against innocent Israeli citizens by elements within Palestine--in truth
they are counter productive to the Palstinian cause, which otherwise has
right on its side--but daily incidents like this give some understanding
as to why they occur.  Violence begets violence; an expression we're all
familiar with. Violence is the very essence of the ongoing oppression
and brutalization of the subject and destitute populations of the
occupied territories, especially when by international law, the welfare
of the Palestinians--as an occupied people--is the responsibility of
Israel, NOT the U.N. or international relief organizations who have
taken it upon themselves to see to the welfare of the Palestinians in
lieu of Israel meeting that responsibility. 

Family tells how Israelis buried deaf father alive 
By Justin Huggler in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip

03 December 2002Beside the pile of flattened concrete, all that was left
of his home, Maher Salem described yesterday how his 68-year-old father
was killed when the Israeli army demolished the house on top of him.
When he found his father, Mr Salem said, the old man's head was "like a
bar of chocolate, it was only two centimetres thick".
The Israeli army swept into Beit Lahiya, a sandy town in the north of
the Gaza Strip, late on Saturday night. The man they came for was Mr
Salem's brother, Hisham, a senior Islamic Jihad militant and the man who
ordered a suicide bombing on Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Street in 1996 that
killed 20 Israelis.
The wanted man was at the wake for his father yesterday ? the Israeli
army would love to get as close to him as we did. A couple of Apache
helicopters hovered on the horizon; given the Israeli policy of
assassinating militants, waiting around was not a good idea.
The army did not catch Mr Salem ? the Israeli newspapers gave his name
as Hisham Thab, the family told us it was Salem ? on Saturday night.
Instead, they demolished his family home. It was a six-storey house:
three generations of the family lived here. Yesterday all you could see
was a huge, layered mound of smashed concrete, family possessions poking
out in places: a bed, a chair, a rug.
"They came at around 10.50 that night," said Maher Salem. "There were
more than 25 tanks. All the men, we escaped from the house minutes
before they got to it. We were in my car about 100 metres from here.
"They shot at us. We got out of the car and ran. We could hear them
shouting over a loudspeaker, telling all the people inside the house to
come out in the next three minutes."
Inside the house, he said, were only the women and children of the
family and his father, Ashur.
The old man lived on the sixth floor, where he was alone, sleeping, on
the night the army arrived. He was deaf, Mr Salem said, and could not
hear the soldiers shouting for everyone to come out.
Fathiye Salem, the old man's niece, was one of the women in the house at
the time. She told how when they heard the soldiers, the women and
children ran out of the house. "I shouted at the soldiers, 'My uncle is
sleeping on the sixth floor, he's deaf'," Ms Salem said. "They pointed
their guns at us and shouted, 'Go! Go! Go!'"

Then the soldiers put dynamite inside the house and blew it up, the
women said. There was no time for them to remove any goods.
"We got back at 2.20am," resumed Mr Salem. "We were asking what happened
to my father but no one knew. We started looking for him in the rubble.
At 9.20am we found his hand." The old man's head had been crushed under
a beam.

There has been controversy in the past over Palestinian claims that
people have been buried alive when the Israeli army demolished their
houses. In one case, in Jenin, Palestinians said their relative had been
buried. He later turned up alive. But this time there was a body. It had
been buried when we arrived. We saw the freshly dug grave. And hundreds
had turned up for the wake. This was not a show for the media: there
were no other journalists in sight.

It would not be the first time claims of this sort turned out to be
true: in Nablus in April, eight members of a single family died when a
soldier bulldozed their house on top of them. Their bodies were found,
and the case has been well documented by international human rights

"My children keep asking, 'Where is our house?'" Mr Salem said. He and
the rest of the extended family are now living rough, on the streets
next to the ruins of their home. United Nations relief workers have
given them a couple of large white tents to stay in.

The Israeli army has a policy of demolishing the family homes of
militants, even those of suicide bombers who are already dead.

Human rights groups have condemned the practice as "collective
punishment", where the families are punished for the crimes of
relatives. The Israelis say the tactic acts as a deterrent.
On the sidelines of the wake yesterday, the wanted man, Hisham Salem,
spoke to us. Did the demolition of the house deter him from further
attacks on Israelis? "On the contrary," he said. "These acts give us new
momentum to resist the occupation, and fight till we liberate our holy
land." The helicopters were still on the horizon.

* Four Palestinians were killed yesterday in separate incidents in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip. A 16-year-old was shot dead in Jenin after
Palestinians began throwing stones at Israeli armoured vehicles. In Gaza
a Palestinian gunman was shot and killed after he opened fire on a
military outpost. A Palestinian labourer was killed when he was
mistakenly hit by a mortar shell fired by Palestinian militants. In the
West Bank town of Tulkarem, a bystander was killed during a gun battle
between militants and Israeli troops. 

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