By News Agencies /Ha'aretz
Dec. 6, 2002
A Palestinian boy rescuing a religious painting from a destroyed
house in the Bourrej refugee camp early Friday.
IDF troops, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships hunted a fugitive
militant in a crowded refugee camp in the Gaza Strip early Friday,
setting off chaotic gunbattles that killed 10 Palestinians, including
two U.N. school workers.
Men called through mosque loudspeakers for people to come out and
battle the Israeli soldiers, who entered the camp just after
midnight. Fighters who had been celebrating the Islamic festival of
Id el-Fidr, which marks the end of Ramadan, poured into the dark
streets. Gunbattles raged for three hours in the Bureij camp.
It was unclear how many of the dead were fighters. The military said
a helicopter fired a missile into a street, killing five armed men
from the violent, Islamic Hamas movement. The camp's mayor, Kamal
Baghdadi, had originally said a tank shell had hit a building,
killing seven people.
Ahmed Rabah, a doctor at the Al-Aqsa hospital in the nearby village
of Deir el Balah, said nine men were killed and 11 were wounded.
Rabah did not identify the casualties. An official at Shifa Hospital
in Gaza City said a tenth person, a woman, died of injuries.
The U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said two of its
staff members were among the dead: Osama Hassan Tahrawi, 31, who was
killed along with two of his brothers by a missile, was a school
attendant; and the woman who died from shrapnel injuries, Ahlam Riziq
Kandil, 31, was an elementary school teacher.
Hassan Safi, 49, said he was 300 yards (275 meters) away in his home
when an explosion rocked the neighborhood. He said he thought the
blast was from a tank shell.
"I rushed with my sons to the place, which was all destroyed," Safi
said. "I myself took out two people. The helicopter was firing with
machine guns at us, making it difficult to move."
During the incursion, witnesses said troops surrounded the home of
Jamal Ismail, a suicide bomber who blew himself up along with another
man in an explosive-packed boat off the Gaza coast last month,
wounding four Israeli soldiers in a nearby navy patrol.
The Israeli army called the camp "a base for hardcore terror groups"
of the militant Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance
Brig. Gen. Israel Ziv said the operation targeted Aiman Shasniyeh, a
local leader for the Popular Resistance Committee, who the military
believes was behind a bomb attack on a heavily armored Merkava-3 tank
that killed three soldiers in March.
Troops failed to find Shasniyeh but blew up his house. Soldiers
arrested one of his brothers, along with another man wanted by
Israeli intelligence, Ziv said.
It was Israel's second strike this week in Gaza targeting militants
allegedly involved in anti-tank attacks that have killed seven
Israeli soldiers this year.
On Wednesday, Israeli helicopters blasted a Palestinian government
guardhouse in Gaza City with missiles, killing Mustafa Sabah, 35.
According to sources in the Popular Resistance Committee, Sabah
masterminded those attacks and helped invent the powerful roadside
Troops approaching Shasniyeh's house came under withering gunfire
from nearby homes and on the street in what turned into a close-
quarters gunbattle in the camp's narrow alleyways, said army
spokeswoman, Capt. Sharon Feingold. One soldier was lightly wounded
by gunfire, she said.
Helicopter gunships fired machine guns from above.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was outraged by the attack.
"Every day there is a new massacre," he told reporters outside of his
office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "Every day there is
destruction. Every day there is more damage. Every day there are more
arrests and every day there are more assassinations."
An aide to Arafat, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said the Palestinians would call
on the United Nations Security Council to hold a special session on
the violence and to consider sending international observers to the
Thousands turned out for funerals held at noon prayers Friday for
those killed, whose bodies, wrapped in white cloths or blankets, were
carried through crowded streets in open coffins painted with the
Palestinian flag. Armed militants wearing fatigues and ski masks
fired automatic weapons into the air.
The deaths of the two U.N. staff members followed the shooting of
U.N. aid worker Iain Hook two weeks ago by Israeli soldiers - the
first senior U.N. official to be killed during the current conflict.
Israel said the soldiers mistook a cell phone he was holding as a
weapon during a battle between the soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in
the Jenin refugee camp.
In the West Bank and Gaza, UNRWA operates about 260 schools and about
50 clinics serving more than 1.5 million registered refugees and
employing about 10,000 Palestinians.
A White House document obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday,
in effect, blames the Palestinians for Mideast violence now moving
into a third year, charging that the Arafat's Palestinian Authority
and the PLO have not taken steps to stop militants.
The failure to stop militants has thrown into question the
Palestinian Authority's acceptance of Israel, the 12-page report
Still, U.S. President George W. Bush has decided not to impose
sanctions, which could have included the downgrading or closing of
the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington. A
memorandum that prefaces the report, dated Nov. 29 and signed by
Bush, waives sanctions, saying they would be against U.S. security
interests and that the United States "must maintain contacts with all
The memorandum was made public in Washington on Monday, but the
remainder of the report was not. It was obtained by the AP in
Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat told the AP that he had seen
excerpts of the document. He called it "unfair and unacceptable."
The Palestinians blame Israel's military crackdown for fueling the
violence. They also say Israeli military operations in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip have decimated the Palestinian security forces and
left them unable to stop militants.
Though the Palestinians have not rescinded their recognition of
Israel, the report claims that their "failure to take action against
terror groups ... has called into question their commitment of
recognizing Israel's right to exist in peace and security."
The report blamed the Palestinian leadership for a "failure to take
action against, and in some cases the provision of support for
terrorist groups and others engaged in violence."
The Palestinian Authority "has not taken sufficient steps to prevent
violence by PA personnel," the report says.
The report says there is no conclusive evidence that militants
carried out attacks with the specific approval of Palestinian
authorities. But "it is clear that these armed elements were not
The report noted that "some PA officials have publicly spoken against
suicide bombings and other forms of violence."
Arafat has condemned suicide bomb attacks and other violence against
Israeli civilians. However, echoing Israeli complaints, the U.S.
report notes that Palestinian leaders "failed consistently to condemn
attacks on Israeli settlers and soldiers in the occupied
Many Palestinians consider settlers to be combatants, like Israeli
soldiers, since they occupy land the Palestinians claim for their own
The report is produced twice a year by the White House and
transferred to the State Department, which brings it to the attention
of Congress, under terms of maintaining the PLO office in Washington.