The Guardian November 22, 2000

Israeli escalation of "state terrorism"

by Hans Lebrecht
Kibbutz Beit-Oren On November 9, Apache choppers fired three rockets into a street in the Palestinian West Bank town of Beit-Sahour, near Bethlehem.
The first rocket instantly killed Hussein Al-Abayat, 37, the Bethlehem district commander of the militant arm Tanzim of the (Arafat-led) El-Fatah movement. His driver and another Tanzim officer were seriously wounded. Two women waiting in the street for a cab, one pregnant, were also instantly killed. Among the nine seriously wounded was a doctor, an ambulance driver and a nurse. They were hit with a third rocket when they arrived at the scene of the first one. Official Israeli spokespersons, among them General Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, bragged about the "success" of the air strike, sanctioned by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, which was targeted to kill Al-Abayat. They claimed the Tanzim commander was responsible for many of the incidents during the last weeks in the Bethlehem area and against the Jewish neighborhood Gilo. Gilo was one of the first settlements in occupied eastern Jerusalem, erected on soil robbed from inhabitants of Beit-Sahour and Beit-Jalla soon after the 1967 war. That two women lost their life was, Mofaz said, a "regretful incident". A few days earlier it was officially announced that the Israeli army and police would no longer use only "defensive tactics" (by which almost 200 Palestinians were killed and 7,000 maimed H L). Due to so-called Palestinian "massive terrorist activity against Israeli security forces", the army would now apply "initiated punitive actions". Such actions might include targeted "liquidations" of "terrorist chiefs" and "terror masterminding" individuals. The "liquidation" of the Tanzim commander Al-Abayat should be seen as such, Mofaz stated. Barak and Mofaz stated that more "terrorist commanders" are targeted in their gun-sights. It is generally assumed that the Al-Abayat assassination a few hours prior to the meeting between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and President Clinton was an intentionally timed action. During his meeting with Clinton, Arafat tried to convince him to support the Palestinian proposal to set up a 2,000-man UN force to protect Palestinians from the brutal military onslaught Israeli forces are pursuing. He requested the US not use their veto when the Security Council decides this matter. Clinton not only declined, but put the blame for blood spilled during the last few weeks solely upon the Palestinian shoulders and their leadership. He tried to convince Arafat to do all in his power to end the Palestinian uprising. After the meeting, Arafat voiced his disappointment over Clinton's refusal to say even one word of protest against Israeli brutality, the use of tanks and US-made helicopters firing rockets on Palestinian towns. "I have not initiated the uprising, Palestinian tanks are not besieging Israeli towns and Palestinian air forces are not bombarding Israeli towns", Arafat told the media. In an official statement by the Palestine Ministry of Information, the assassination of Al-Abayat is perceived as "a serious escalation by the Israeli Government and a new form of `state terrorism' practiced by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people and their freedom fighters." The leader of the El-Fatah, and its militant Tanzim organisation, in the West Bank, Marvan Barghouti, stated that any escalation of the Israeli onslaught would be met by still fiercer popular resistance. In a November 12 Ha'aretz op-ed, military analyst Yossi Melman pointed out that all former "liquidation" actions against leading Palestinian or Hisbullah fighters, committed by Israeli intelligent services never proved themselves to be of value. For every senior commander killed, others took their place. "In most cases, [politicians'] true motivation was derived from domestic policy needs rather than from operational considerations", Melman wrote. "Usually, the hits were meant to placate an angry and frustrated public, to drum up public opinion in support of the respective government at the time, to raise national morale. In practice, the liquidations only broadened the cycle of violence ... "

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