- The U.S. said it was "deeply troubled" by yesterday's
IDF operation in Khan Yunis that left 14 Palestinians dead and more that
100 wounded. Israel said most of the casualties were armed terrorists but
Palestinians insisted most were civilians.
- Israel has told the U.S. that an IDF invasion of Gaza
"is a matter of statistics and time," because as terror attacks
mount in the Strip - mostly against settlements - "Israel will be
forced to act." The message was delivered by a senior defense establishment
official during recent talks with his American counterpart.
- But in Jerusalem, other defense establishment sources
said the IDF was opposed to invading Gaza for fear of casualties on the
Israeli side, while government sources also indicated concern about the
- U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said
the U.S. was "deeply troubled" by the deaths of civilians. He
reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself but in ways that do not harm
- Other U.S. administration sources once again complained
yesterday that an IDF operation was interfering with its efforts on Iraq.
- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said "such actions
have no legal or moral justification." He appealed to both sides to
"halt all violent and provocative acts."
- The European Union Foreign Policy Coordinator Javier
Solana told reporters the raid was launched while the Palestinians were
making efforts "to distance themselves from violence," and he
feared the operation would obstruct these efforts.
- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Solana the operation
in Khan Yunis was "necessary" to prevent more terrorist activity.
Solana criticized the operation to Sharon, saying that it dealt a blow
to reform efforts in the Palestinian Authority.
- "We do not want to harm civilians," said Sharon,
"but the terrorists are encamped in the civilian population, and fire
Qassam rockets that I can hear from my farm. They lay mines, hurt Israelis
in settlements, and send suicide bombers. We have no choice but to act
against these hotbeds of terrorism. The operation was meant to arrest wanted
men from the Hamas. The forces encountered snipers from the Popular Front
and Tanzim, and they had to be withdrawn."
- A Givati force entered the Amal neighborhood opposite
the Gush Katif settlement bloc, seeking the Hamas men but the two brothers
were not at home.
- Shortly after the operation began after midnight, Palestinian
gunfire was directed at the soldiers, along with anti-tank rockets, the
army said. The exchange of fire took place around the house of one of the
wanted men. The soldiers saw a figure peering from a window and fired.
But the figure turned out to be the wanted man's mother, who was fatally
wounded. The army says it gave her medical care but she died.
- The IDF said the gun-battle intensified. Around 4 A.M.,
when the force began moving out of the neighborhood, a large group of Palestinians,
many with arms, was spotted near the neighborhood mosque, about 700 meters
from an the IDF outpost where the force was heading. Other armed men were
seen getting out of cars on the other side of the mosque.
- According to the army, an Apache helicopter fired an
anti-tank missile toward the crowd, hitting most of the people. Among the
dead were several 15-17 year old boys, the army conceded, but it also claimed
that lately many teens of that age have been taking part in armed clashes
with the army.
- Targets get away
- The Givati soldiers, backed by tanks and bulldozers,
pulled out of the neighborhood shortly afterward, without any casualties
of their own. They failed to capture the two wanted men they were seeking,
though another wanted man was arrested with an explosives belt, a mortar,
and some munitions.
- Following the Khan Yunis operation there were several
clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and soldiers in the Gush Katif
area and three mortars were fired at the Neve Dekalim settlement. No casualties
- Brig. Gen. Yisrael Ziv, commander of army forces in Gaza,
said the "operation was definitely successful from our point of view."
He said "we knew that operating in a Hamas stronghold would involve
combat and casualties and we thought the crowding in the neighborhood would
make it likely that innocent people would be hurt. For that we are sorry."
- He rebuffed criticism of the army's performance in the
incident as being from "interested parties" and argued that the
operation was a blow to the confidence of the wanted men in Khan Yunis.
- Lt. Col. Adam, who led the forces in the Khan Yunis operation
said the Givati force came under "massive fire" during the operation.
"Bullets flew over our heads and hit our armored vehicles," he
said, adding that he instructed his soldiers to only fire at armed Palestinians.
- Apache fired into crowd
- But according to Palestinian sources, the Apache rocket
attack was on a crowd of innocent people. The Palestinians confirmed that
the army surrounded the home of a Hamas man, Araf Salame after midnight,
calling for him to come out. At one point the troops opened fire without
warning, wounding Salame's mother and then invaded the house, handcuffing
Salame's father and brothers and searching for about half an hour.
- According to the Palestinians, the soldiers prevented
a Red Crescent ambulance from reaching the area to take care of the wounded
woman, who later died. The sources said that not far from the Salame house,
Abdel Fatah Sault, 40, was killed by gunfire from the shooting near the
Salame house. They said Salut and his family were trying to get away from
the gunfire, to the basement of their home, when he was killed by heavy
machine-gun fire that poured into the house.
- According to the Palestinians there was some resistance
to the Israeli operation, but it was scattered, while the Israelis fired
intensively, from tanks, helicopters and infantry. At least one rocket
fired by Israeli troops hit the Abu Alhar home, wounding three of its inhabitants.
- But the real violence was yet to come, the Palestinian
sources said. Around 5 A.M., when the troops were leaving the neighborhood,
residents from the area began leaving their homes to view the damage. With
15 minutes, hundreds of people from the neighborhood had congregated near
the mosque. One of the groups did have some armed men, said the Palestinian
sources, and they fired at a helicopter.
- According to the residents, at that point the helicopter
fired a missile directly at the crowd, and it exploded overhead the people,
sending shrapnel and a massive shock wave that sent people flying. That
was when most of the people were killed and wounded in the operation.
- Most of the casualties were taken to the three hospitals
in Khan Yunis, which are actually infirmaries not suited to handle massive
numbers of trauma victims. Many were forced to wait on the floor or lie
in corridors before they finally received treatment.
- Then at 7:30 A.M. IDF troops fired several rounds of
machine-gun fire at the hospital - later the IDF would say that the hospital
roof was used to launch mortars at nearby settlements - causing damage
to the administrative wing of the hospital and puncturing the reserve water
tanks. The Associated Press reported that a 27-year-old man was killed
and three others wounded, among them a paramedic who was struck in the
chest by shrapnel when the IDF fire struck the hospital. About 60 yards
away, a 14-year-old boy was hit in the neck and rushed into surgery.
- Hamas political leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi said the Hamas
"promises to respond to the massacre," and he called on "all
the Palestinian factions to unite in armed resistance to kill all the Zionists
who came from America or Russia and are not innocent."
- Fatah's military wing in Gaza released a leaflet saying
it would take revenge for the massacre. The Palestinian Authority issued
a statement saying that "Ariel Sharon is exploiting the American attack
on Iraq to conduct vengeance campaigns against Palestinians." The
PA called for international forces to protect the Palestinians.
- Once the extent of the casualties became known in Gaza,
shopkeepers throughout the Strip spontaneously shuttered their businesses.
In the afternoon, thousands gathered at the large mosque in the center
of Khan Yunis for the funeral processions of the dead.
- U.S. pressure on funds
- Meanwhile, under intense American pressure, Israel has
released NIS 70 million, the last payment out of NIS 200 million it agreed
to hand over to the PA after Arafat installed former World Bank official
Salam Fayad as the new Finance Minister of the Palestinian Authority. But
the U.S. is now pressing Israel to release all NIS 2 billion in PA taxes
that Israel has confiscated from the PA since the start of the intifada.
- U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, who met Sharon yesterday,
raised the issue again. Israel says it won't relase the money unless there
is a mechanism to guarantee transparency so the funds do not reach terrorist
- The administration is ready to post supervisors for the
funds at its Jerusalem consulate and to name external accountants to audit
Fayad's financial activities.
- Mid-East Realities MiddleEast.Org 10-9-2
- The looming total invasion of what has become a modern-day
Concentration Camp in the Gaza Strip is likely to be the most bloody and
destructive Israeli attack on Arabs since the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
General Sharon has telegraphed in many ways that this further escalation
now lies immediately ahead. Moreover, no matter what words are uttered
by Washington officials, the reality is this is very much a combined US/Israeli
effort, the Americans providing the high-tech weapons, CIA help, as well
as crucial political support that always blocks any effective UN or international
action to even try to stop the Israelis from their rampage.
- Meanwhile, the unprecedented more than a hundred day-long
siege of the largest Palestinian city, Nablus, is continuing with hardly
an outcry from the preccoupied and increasingly impotent 'world community'.
Not since Roman and Crusader days has a conquering Army done such things
to the native population of the Holy Land. It is a scandal of historical
proportions being perpetrated before our modern-day eyes by the army of
Israel with the continual help and support of the American Empire.