Full Gaza Invasion 'Just A
Matter Of Time' Says Israel

By Amos Harel and Aluf Benn
Ha'aretz Daily

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 international ramifications.
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 civilians.
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 The forces encountered snipers from the Popular Front and Tanzim, and they had to be withdrawn."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 were reported.
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 organizations.
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.


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