"I saw the bodies, killed by a shot to the head "

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
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  • Date: Sun, 31 Mar 2002 19:12:04 +0100

Israeli killings: Troops stormed Arafat's men's base - and Palestinians
believe that what followed was an execution 

The ambulancemen were carrying the first body out of the Cairo-Amman
bank in the centre of Ramallah when I came across them. 
His knees were doubled up in rigor mortis. One of the legs of his green
parachute jumpsuit had been burnt through to the skin by a round fired
at such close quarters that the muzzle flash had ignited the fabric. A
gaping wound was visible in his chest - also, apparently, from a burst
of fire from close range. What killed him, however, was the gunshot to
his temple. 

A few minutes later, the paramedics brought the second body, that of a
young man, also in Yasser Arafat's elite guard unit, Force 17. 

Someone had taken off his boots, revealing his blue socks. The wounds
that he had obviously been clutching when he died were also to his upper
body. But what must have killed him, like his colleague, was a shot
fired at close range to his temple that had demolished the back of his

The third body was of an older man, perhaps in his forties, grey-haired
and with a full moustache. Someone had pulled his parachute suit up
above his head to hide the wound. But when the stretcher-bearers put him
down, the covering was pulled back. The wound was also to the head. 

What happened on the third floor of the Cairo-Amman bank at midnight on
Friday during Israel's occupation of the Palestinian city of Ramallah
can only be surmised. But in the few minutes after Israeli soldiers
stormed the Palestinian position, five men were wounded and five men
were put to death by the Israelis, each with a single coup de grace to
the head or throat. 

Maher Shalabi, bureau chief of Abu Dhabi television in Ramallah, was in
his office in the same building when he heard several bursts of heavy
shooting on the floors below. 'I heard heavy shooting; maybe it was an
exchange of fire. But I believe this was an execution. This is what I

Hassan Asfour, a senior Palestinian negotiator, added: 'They were
executed in cold blood. This is a clear example of the collective
execution policy adopted by the Israeli government against the
Palestinian people.' 

According to local residents, the dead men were part of a large group of
Palestinian policemen who had taken shelter in the building, which also
houses the offices of the British Council, when the Israeli army entered
their area of Ramallah. 

The men had taken shelter in the foyer area on the third floor next to a
dentist's surgery. Yesterday bullet holes spattered the walls and the
floor was flecked with blood. On one wall were large splashes of blood.
Several bloody trails had been marked along the floor where someone had
pulled the bodies towards the lift. 

An Israeli army spokesman said soldiers entered the building after
Palestinians opened fire from inside and threw a grenade at the force

The coups de grace administered for these five men is a metaphor for
what the Israeli incursion is hoping to achieve inside Ramallah. By
isolating Arafat within his headquarters, Sharon hopes to decapitate the
Palestinian Authority. 

Yesterday, inside Arafat's compound, it was clear that, for all the
claims of Ariel Sharon, Arafat was neither under threat nor under
arrest. Arafat, simply, was surrounded by the Israelis. 

As we approached the compound we could see the tanks and armoured
personnel carriers ringing his sprawl of offices and barracks. On every
side soldiers were taking positions and aiming their weapons. 

Here and there was evidence of the desperate fighting that had taken
place as Israeli forces stormed the wall and then the buildings.
External walls were pocked with gunfire, while scorch marks were visible
at third-floor windows. 

Approaching closer, the Israeli army tried to prevent us following a
delegation from the Palestinian solidarity movement into the compound,
led by José Bové, the French farmers leader and anti-globalisation

In a surreal touch Bové and his colleagues had marched through the ruins
of the town, even as fighting continued in some parts. With their hands
above their heads, and some carrying palm fronds as Easter symbols of
peace, they approached Arafat's compound with two columns of heavily
armed Israeli infantry jogging the last few hundred metres behind them. 

Seeing Bové, who had marched through the town with a small group of
fellow protestors bearing a tray of medicines for those injured inside
Arafat's compound, the soldiers relented and let us enter with him and
approach the offices where Arafat was holed up. 

Crossing a large car park we could see a three-storey block, its walls
splattered with tank fire, two windows blackened by fire with sheets
hanging where the occupants had tried to escape the flames. 

I followed Bové to the entrance to the offices where Arafat was hiding
but was grabbed from behind by an Israeli soldier and pulled away.
Arafat may not be a prisoner but it is the Israelis who choose who goes
to see the Palestinian chairman. 

On every corner yesterday stood Israeli tanks. The devastation that
these tanks have wrought inside the Palestinians' most attractive city
has to be seen to be believed. Roads have been dynamited or torn up.
Buildings are burnt and shattered. Everywhere there is rubble, spent
ammunition and broken glass. 

A little later, I met Hossam Sharkawi and Mohamed Awad, two senior
officials in the Palestinian Red Crescent whom I had met before. 

Standing by a convoy of ambulances the clearly exhausted Sharkawi, a
co-ordinator for emergency services, told me the Israelis had arrested
five of his drivers. 

'They have them blindfolded and handcuffed. I cannot understand what the
Israelis are thinking. They also used one of our ambulances today as a
human shield. They sandwiched it inside a convoy.' 

Sharkawi and his colleagues were able to reveal something of life inside
Arafat's compound. 'We know there are injured inside,' he said. 'But
they have been blocking ambulances entering to give treatment. 

'All that we hear is that there may be between 50 and 100 people trapped
with Arafat inside the building, without food, or water or any
electricity and no telephone communication.' He shook his head and
walked away. 

Source:  The Observer

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