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US Acquiescence Slaughters Palestinian Civilians

Wednesday, 15 October 2003, 12:08 am

Press Release: Palestine Media Center - PMC

PNA: Palestinian Civilians Slaughtered with US Acquiescence

Peter Hansen: ‘There is a lot of fear, there is a lot of anger’

The Palestine National Authority (PNA) accused the United States of encouraging Israel to slaughter Palestinian civilians as Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on Sunday redeployed around the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah and the adjacent refugee camp of Yubna, following a two day invasion during which seven Palestinians were killed, and at least 70 wounded, mostly civilians, 120 houses demolished and more than 1,000 refugees made homeless according to UNRWA.

Israel wouldn’t have embarked on the latest spare of killing and destruction in the Gaza Strip had it not been for “American acquiescence and connivance,” said President Yasser Arafat’s media adviser Nabil Abu Rudainah.

At least 100 IOF tanks, bulldozers and military vehicles backed by military helicopters invaded the city and the refugee camp shortly after midnight Thursday and redeployed around them on Sunday, imposing a tight siege for the 10th consecutive day after one of the most destructive raids during the three-year-old Palestinian Intifadah (uprising) against the 36-year-old Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Abu Rudainah was referring to the onslaught by Israeli occupation troops in Rafah at the southern edge of the Strip on the border with Egypt in which at least seven Palestinians were killed and as many as 70 others were injured, twenty of them seriously.

Palestinian medical sources said four of the seven people killed were innocent civilians, including 8-year-old Ibrahim Ahmed Qrainawi, and 15-year-old Sami Talal Salah, both of whom were shot dead. Qrainawi was shot in the abdomen while Salah was hit in the head by shrapnel from a tank shell.

The Palestinians killed were identified as Nader Abu Taha, 22, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, 23, Etewi Abu Muheisen, 23, Ala'a Mansour, 33 together with the two children.

At least 70 Palestinians were reported wounded in the invasion, most when an IOF helicopter fired a missile at a crowd, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported, adding that the IOF said the missile targeted a group of gunmen.

Twenty people, including eight children, sustained serious wounds. One body arrived in hospital with the head nearly blown off, medical sources said.

The IOF also destroyed electricity and water supply infrastructure of the Yubna camp.

Before the latest raid, about 2000 houses were demolished during the three-year old Intifadah.

The United Nations said Israeli forces flattened 120 houses at the densely-populated Yubna refugee camp, leaving up to 1,500 Palestinians homeless.

A senior UN official who surveyed the damage said Sunday it looked like there had been a severe earthquake at the camp south of Rafah, the BBC reported.

"It would appear between 100 and 120 shelters/houses were completely destroyed or demolished ... If these initial estimates are correct, it will mean we will have some 1,500 persons added to the homeless roll in Rafah," Peter Hansen, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency told the BBC.

"We have had very, very significant damage to the refugee camp. This is well more than twice as bad as in any previous action," said Hansen. "There is a lot of fear, there is a lot of anger and there are a lot of people who are very desperate."

The Israeli occupation army said the purpose of the rampage, unprecedented since the outbreak of the Intifadah more than three years ago, was to destroy tunnels used for smuggling weapons to the Gaza Strip through the Egyptian borders.

No tunnels, however, had been uncovered.

The PNA has asked for a speedy international intervention to stop “Zionist massacres against our civilian population.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, called the operation a "war crime and a human tragedy."

“The Palestinian Authority urges the international community to step in to stop these massacres which target innocent people, including women and children,” he said.

He told the Palestinian news agency that Israel was indulging in wanton killings of Palestinian civilians and destruction of their property.

“This rampage of killing and destruction is a war crime which should be strongly condemned by the international community,” he said.

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in a statement Sunday, and separately Rafah governor Majid al-Ghul, declared the area a disaster zone, adding that hundreds of people were homeless.

"They have destroyed the roads, the water supplies, sewage, telephones, electricity," al-Ghul told AFP.

The United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, accused Israel of breaching international law through "disproportionate use of force" in a civilian area.

Meanwhile, the IOF pressed their major onslaught in Rafah’s Yubna refugee camp for a third straight day.

"Our forces partially withdrew from the sector on Saturday night but others will be sent to support those forces still in place," a military source told AFP on Monday.

"The operation will continue as long as is necessary and aims to discover and destroy the tunnels underneath the border between Gaza and Egypt used for smuggling weapons."

IOF Shoot Palestinian Dead, Kidnap 5 ISM Volunteers

Separately, IOF troops shot dead shortly before midnight on Saturday Samir al-Byouk, 43, claiming he was trying to place a bomb in the southern Gaza Strip illegal Jewish settlement of Morag.

In the West Bank, five International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteers were kidnapped by IOF at approximately 1230 hrs local time on Sunday, while harvesting olives with Palestinian farmers in the village of Awarta, near Nablus.

Two US citizens, one Briton, one Swede and an Irish national were standing on the side of the road, providing accompaniment to Palestinian farmers trying to harvest olives on their land despite the ban on Palestinian movement by the IOF, when they were taken.

At the time of this writing the internationals have been released. The IOF have declared the olive groves of Awarta, a closed military zone.

The entire West Bank has been under lockdown since Wednesday, October 7, 2003 with no Palestinian vehicles allowed anywhere on main roads, gates to farmlands through the Israeli Apartheid Separation Wall completely closed, and Palestinians not allowed outside their towns and villages.

This lockdown is expected to remain in place until October 22, 2003. The siege was imposed less than two days after a complete closure, imposed on the Palestinian community while Jews celebrated Yom Kippur, was lifted.


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