Israel takes a beating in world opinion
- Jordan Times
August 2, 2001
Palestinians call for revenge, Israel defiant after killings
UP TO 100,000 Palestinians massed on the West Bank town of Nablus on
Wednesday for the funeral of six Islamic activists and two children killed
by Israeli occupation forces, crying vengeance against Israel and any of
their brethren caught aiding the Jewish state.
The anger later spread to the southern West Bank town of Hebron where a
Palestinian man was killed in a fierce hours-long gunbattle that erupted in
the heart of the divided Palestinian town .
Three other Palestinians, including a child who was shot in the hand, and a
Jewish settler were slightly hurt in the battle which erupted amid
heightened tension in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after Tuesday's Israeli
helicopter missile strike.
Washington called �excessive� Tuesday's strike in the West Bank town of
Nablus on the office of a top official of Hamas resistance group.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) called it a massacre and renewed a
call for international monitors in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak spoke of a new �cycle of revenge� that
would exact a heavy price from all sides.
But Israeli political sources said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had decided
at a five-hour meeting with top ministers to continue the assassinations of
�Israel will continue to reserve its basic right to self-defence and to
fulfil its obligation to protect the lives of its citizens,� Sharon's office
said in a statement.
Invoking Jewish religious teachings, Israeli occupation army spokesman
Brigadier-General Ron Kitrey said: �We had all the justification in the
world, in the sense of `If a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him
Israel said the high-profile Hamas official it killed, Jamal Mansour, had
been part of a Hamas command responsible for a long series of deadly attacks
including a Tel Aviv disco suicide bombing that killed 21 people, mainly
youngsters, on June 1.
Sharon defended the missile strike to US Secretary of State Colin Powell in
a telephone conversation on Wednesday, saying Israel had the same right to
defend itself as the United States, an Israeli political source said.
Bullets also flew in other parts of the West Bank and Gaza where the Israeli
army said soldiers had come under Palestinian fire in several areas. There
were no reports of casualties.
An Israeli tank shelled Palestinian territory in the Gaza Strip on
Wednesday, damaging one house but causing no casualties, a Palestinian
security official said.
The official said the tank fired two shells from the flashpoint Jewish
settlement of Netzarim, south of Gaza City. There was no report of previous
Raanan Gissin, a senior aide to Sharon, claimed the Hamas activists killed
in Tuesday's strike had been planning new operations in the occupied
Palestinian city of Jerusalem, where a high security alert is in effect and
a pipe bomb exploded in a park on Wednesday.
In Nablus, up to 100,000 Palestinians chanting �Revenge, revenge� and �Death
to Israel� marched in an emotional funeral procession for the eight dead.
Some of the mourners fired shots in the air amid cries for a jihad, or holy
struggle, against Israel.
�Our children are dying under the shoes of the Israeli soldiers and (Arab
leaders) are sleeping in their chairs,� one mourner lamented.
The crowd repeated slogans chanted by a Hamas activist, warning Palestinians
who collaborated with Israel to �give yourselves up now or you will be
A Palestinian man suspected of collaborating with the Israelis was killed by
masked men in Beit Sahur near Bethlehem late Tuesday. Three others, accused
of collaboration in an Israeli hit on an official linked to Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat's Fateh party, were sentenced to death by a court in
The cries for vengeance were mostly directed against the Jewish state,
though, with one speaker telling the crowd: �Whoever attacks you, you must
A speaker of the Fateh movement said �our response will be cruel and hard,�
adding that �Hamas is our brother.�
One woman, a relative of one of the victims, called in a flood of tears for
God to wreak vengeance on the traitors who killed Mansour, said by Israel to
be behind a string of deadly attacks that have left 37 Israelis dead and 376
injured. Most of the crowd were dry-eyed, however, venting their emotions
instead through the constant hail of shooting.
The killing of the children, who were walking past Mansour's office at the
time, was an acute embarrassment for Israel.
Israeli occupation army chief Shaul Mofaz told reporters that if they had
known children were in the vicinity they would have called off the attack.
�We have no desire to escalate the situation,� he said.
Wrapped in traditional Arab head-dresses, the pale and still slightly bloody
faces of the eight- and 10-year-old brothers, Bilal and Ashraf Khalil,
peeked out of the Palestinian flags used as their burial shrouds.
The six men were buried in green religious banners after being carried aloft
One of Israel's leading doves, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, said it had
had no alternative but to launch the attack to stop bombers from reaching
�We are very sad about the two children who were killed. It's the last thing
we wanted to happen,� he told Israel's Channel Two television.
But he added: �If someone is moving around with a bomb in his hand, we know
that if he's not stopped at the first opportunity, there is nowhere else to
Gissin accused Hamas of allowing children into volatile areas for use as
Hamas's spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin warned after the missile strike
that Israelis would pay a �heavy price.�
Overnight, suspected Palestinian gunmen shot and wounded three Israeli
settlers west of the West Bank city of Ramallah.
US President George Bush spoke to His Majesty King Abdullah by telephone on
Tuesday and told reporters the United States urged the parties to reduce the
And US State Department spokesman Charles Hunter called the Israeli attack
�excessive� and �highly provocative.� The United States brokered a ceasefire
in June that never took hold.
The Palestinian National Authority accuses Israel of assassinating some 60
Palestinian activists since September.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat began a series of talks in
Rome to drum up support from Italy and Pope John Paul for international
monitors in the West Bank and Gaza.
In comments at the start of the 24-hour visit to Italy, Arafat warned that
the violence in the Middle East could spiral out of control and have
repercussions beyond the region if an international force isn't deployed.
�Their presence is very important, and they should be deployed quickly � and
in the largest numbers possible,� he said.
The Palestinian leader met Wednesday with Italian President Carlo Azeglio
Ciampi and the foreign minister, Renato Ruggiero. On Thursday, talks were
scheduled with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Rome's mayor and
center-left opposition leaders.
Pope John Paul II was planning to see Arafat at the pontiff's summer retreat
outside Rome on Thursday. The two have met on a number of occasions.
Storm of criticism
The killings in Nablus brought down a storm of international criticism on
Israel for its policy of �preventative� attacks on Palestinans seen as �a
risk to state security�.
Enraged Palestinians protested in Lebanon's largest refugee camp on
Wednesday, demanding revenge for the fatal Israeli attack.
Led by officials of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fateh
faction, some 4,000 Palestinians gathered at the northern entrance to the
Ein Al Hilweh camp on the outskirts of Sidon carrying Palestinian flags and
pictures of people killed in fighting that erupted last September.
�With our blood, with our souls, we redeem you Oh Palestine!� and �Oh
Jerusalem, we shall return!� the refugees cried. Some called for revenge
attacks from inside Lebanon.
At a sit-in outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency office in
Sidon, protesters shouted, �We want to fight, we want to die, let them (Arab
leaders) open up the borders!�
In the southern port city of Tyre, some 60 protesters from the Democratic
Front for the Liberation of Palestine gathered outside the UN logistics
office and delivered a memorandum calling on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
to stop Israeli attacks on Palestinians and to deploy an international
Meanwhile in Beirut, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a branch of Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat's Fateh group, threatened to attack �Zionists and their
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said that �acts as provocative as the
one committed today in Nablus run the risk of completely dismantling efforts
to establish security cooperation.�
�It's a dead end,� he concluded.
Russia's foreign ministry said �it is very evident that violence only leads
to more violence, and the inadequate use of force only deepens the hostile
relations between the two sides.�
The German government said Wednesday the Israeli attack threatened to
further escalate violence in the Middle East and called on both sides in the
conflict to act responsibly.
�Yesterday's attack in Nablus by the Israeli military, in which civilians
and children also died, endangers the highly fragile ceasefire in the Middle
East and threatens to bring about a new escalation,� a foreign ministry
�The federal government urgently calls on all parties to live up to their
responsibility for peace and the destiny of people in the region. Everything
must be done to end the spiral of violence which above all affects the
civilian population,� she said.
�All parties must realise that only negotiations can solve the conflict
between Israel and the Palestinians,� the statement continued.
China, meanwhile, deplored Israel's abuse of force in a Palestinian-ruled
area, the official Xinhua news agency said.
China condemned Israel for �abusing military force to suppress the
Palestinian common people�, a Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as
�We call on both sides in the conflict, especially on Israel, to take
immediate steps and to stop all unilateral actions that are not beneficial
to the Middle East peace process,� he said.
Turkey harshly criticised its number one regional ally Israel for the rocket
�Like many other countries, Turkey condemns this attack, which does not help
improve the already critical situation... and causes further fury among our
Palestinian brothers and a further escalation of tension,� a foreign
ministry statement said.
�Turkey expects Israel to stop as soon as possible its practice of using
excessive force and believes that a return to the negotiating table is the
only way out of the spiral of violence,� the statement said.
Iran condemned the attack as a �flagrant manifestation of state terrorism,�
the state IRNA news agency reported.
�The Israeli terrorist acts of carnage on the innocent Palestinians,
demolition of their homes and expansion of Jewish settlements not only
contravene United Nations resolutions but also amount to war crimes,� said
foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi.
According to Asefi, the �assassination of several Palestinian activists will
never save the Zionist regime from its self-created legitimacy crisis but
will rather further reveal the brutal character of this regime.�
In Geneva, UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson condemned the attack,
saying she was deeply dismayed by the action.
�This daily violation of the right to life must stop,� she said in a
statement, expressing �deep dismay� over Tuesday's Israeli helicopter attack
which left six activists of the Islamic resistance group Hamas and two
�The violence will not lead to a resolution of the conflict, but it does
cause more suffering and makes the entire situation even more dangerous,�
Around 100,000 Palestin
Also Cyprus condemned Israel's excessive use of force.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides was responding to a
journalist's question after a meeting here with his Syrian counterpart,
Farouq Al Sharaa.
�This gives me the opportunity to condemn acts of excessive force, which are
perpetrated in cold blood in which innocent children are victims, and I do
not think that violence serves any purpose,� Cassoulides said.
�I urge that everybody shows the necessary constraints and understands that
there is no other way but peace.�
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