Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Indelible image of Palestinian fireman killed by shrapnel - Independent, UK

Expand Messages
  • Zafar Khan
    Indelible image of Palestinian fireman killed by shrapnel By Justin Huggler in Jabalya, Gaza Strip 07 March 2003
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 7, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      Indelible image of Palestinian fireman killed by
      By Justin Huggler in Jabalya, Gaza Strip
      07 March 2003


      The image was indelible. The Palestinian fireman who a
      moment before had stood fearlessly in the open as the
      gunfire echoed, aiming a hose at a building in flames,
      crumpling to the ground as shrapnel burst all around
      him. That was the unforgettable scene of yesterday's
      Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip, the death of
      Naji Abu Jalili as he tried to douse a burning

      Eleven Palestinians died in the incursion yesterday
      morning, eight when the shrapnel flew across Jerusalem
      Street in Jabalya and in the moments after, as
      repeated bursts of machine-gun fire were fired at the
      crowds. Among them was at least one child, Thaer
      Rihan, 14. More than 100 people were wounded, doctors

      Most witnesses told the same story: that the first
      burst of shrapnel that cut down the fireman, Mr Abu
      Jalili, came from an Israeli tank. They said it fired
      a shell packed with flechettes, arrow-shaped pieces of
      metal designed to inflict mass casualties, straight at
      the fireman, and that the flechettes and shrapnel
      ripped through a crowd watching from an alley
      opposite. And that the tank fired its machine-gun on
      crowds of people trying to rescue the wounded.

      That was what Kemal al-Madhun, the fireman who was
      standing behind Mr Abu Jalili as he fell, described.
      "They targeted us," he said, his voice straining under
      the pain from his back, which was hit by shrapnel in
      several places. "We were about to put the fire out
      when they shot at us."

      The Israeli army said the tank had fired at a
      Palestinian militant aiming a rocket-propelled grenade
      at it, and that the resulting explosion had killed Mr
      Abu Jalili and others.

      There were also Israeli claims that the Palestinian
      casualties were caused by a booby trap in the
      furniture store intended to kill Israeli soldiers. The
      Israelis said every care had been taken to avoid
      civilian casualties.

      However, from the television footage it was clear that
      the shrapnel which killed the fireman did not come
      from the furniture store, but from an entirely
      different direction. Nor was there evidence of a large
      blast at the furniture store: the large iron doors
      were still intact and hanging from the hinges.

      What the television footage appeared to show was that
      the tank had fired in the direction of the fireman and
      the civilians near him. Slowed down, you could see how
      the shrapnel flew in one direction, over, around,
      through the fireman, bursting as it hit the road.

      Then the machine-gun fire began. All the fire came
      from the same end of the street as the first burst of
      shrapnel, and Palestinians fled from it – which meant
      it was almost certainly Israeli fire. The gun opened
      up again and again. When it had been silent for a
      while and the civilians crept towards the fire, it
      opened up again, sending them running in panic.

      The Israeli government said the incursion was part of
      a continuing operation against militants in the Gaza
      Strip – an operation in which many unarmed people have
      been killed.

      Mark Sofer, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official, said
      Israel "believed" all the dead were militants. That
      was clearly not the case: the fireman's death was on
      film and the recording also showed a crowd of
      civilians under fire, many of them badly injured.
      Hamad Jadallah, a wounded Reuters cameraman, was seen
      being carried from the scene he had been trying to
      film, screaming in agony, his trouser legs wet with

      "The raid in Jabalya was carried out well after
      midnight when the only people roaming the streets are
      Palestinian killers," Mr Sofer claimed. But the
      fireman and seven others were killed at about 6.30am,
      when many Palestinian children were on the streets.

      But Palestinian claims that there were no militants at
      the scene were untrue. Several were clearly visible in
      the film, their faces masked, weapons in hand. But
      none of those on the film were firing their weapons,
      or even aiming them.

      Three Palestinians were killed in the middle of the
      night, when Israeli tanks swept into the Jabalya
      refugee camp at the beginning of the incursion. The
      army insisted the operation was part of a continuing
      crackdown against militants.

      By dawn, most of the tanks had withdrawn. But
      helicopters remained overhead. A fire broke out at a
      furniture store on the street. The exact circumstances
      under which it started are not clear. The owner of the
      building, Faiz Saleh, said he heard an explosion. Mr
      Madhun, the fireman who survived, said he saw a
      helicopter fire in the vicinity of the store.

      A short while later, the firemen were called. Mr
      Madhun sketched out the scene on a piece of paper.
      When they arrived, there was an Israeli tank standing
      at one end of the street – in the exact spot the fire
      that killed Mr Abu Jalili came from. A crowd of
      Palestinian children had gathered and were throwing
      stones at it.

      The firemen parked their fire engine in a side street
      where they thought it was safe, then took out the
      hose. Mr Abu Jalili went first, then Mr Madhun, then
      the driver. "Naji told me to let go of the hose and
      let him take it," said Mr Madhun. "I turned my back
      and then the tank fired. If he had not said that I
      would have gone forward, it would have been me who

      All the above description matched the film. The
      fireman also said he saw two dead children near the
      fire engine. We were able to find the family of one
      dead 14-year-old. Doctors said there were two others.
      Late last night, witnesses said that Israeli tanks,
      accompanied by attack helicopters, had approached the
      refugee camp again for the second time in as many
      days. The Israeli military would say only that an
      operation was in progress.

      • Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, has asked
      Mahmoud Abbas, a senior Palestine Liberation
      Organisation official, to be the Palestinian
      Authority's Prime Minister. Ahmed Korei, the
      Palestinian Legislative Council speaker, said that the
      nomination would be approved in deliberations starting
      on Sunday.

      Do You Yahoo!?
      Everything you'll ever need on one web page
      from News and Sport to Email and Music Charts
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.