- "I saw the bodies, killed by a shot to the head."
- 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
- 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 head.
- 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 understand.'
- 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
- 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 JosÈ BovÈ, the French farmers leader
and anti-globalisation protester.
- In a surreal touch BovÈ 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 BovÈ, 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 BovÈ 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