Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Story from Gaza About Murdered Teens
From Gaza www.palestinereport.org
Truce on a Knife Edge
by Ghazi Hamad
Published April 13, 2005 Volume 11 Number 41
ON THE morning of April 9, the peaceful days Rafah residents had gradually started getting used to again were abruptly shattered by the killing of three children near the border with Egypt.
For the past four years, Rafah residents grew accustomed to routine shelling, explosions, nightly incursions and home demolitions. But since the factions signed a declaration for a truce, much of the tension dissipated. The nights went by quietly and people began to return to the homes they fled during the fighting. Even children started moving closer and closer to the border strip. The many house demolitions there have left empty and flat tracts of land that were ideal playing fields. It became common to see children playing football over the ruins of demolished homes.
The calm was shattered in a matter of seconds. According to one eyewitness, 17-year-old Saeed, “the kids were playing ball on the southern outskirts of the Shaouth Refugee Camp. It was calm. We didn’t notice any unusual movement. Suddenly we heard shells being fired and we saw the kids screaming.”
Saeed said that although he was terrified, he still ran to the site where he found the three teenagers – Ashraf Mousa, Khaled Ghanam, and Hassan Abu Zayed, all 14 – lying bloodied on the ground.
“A security officer in the area told us the children were playing and were not posing any threat to the Israeli troops because there were no patrols or tanks in the area,” said Saeed. The officer, he continued, had told him that he and colleagues had tried to signal to the Israeli soldiers to stop shooting but they had paid no heed.
In the mourning tent, set up in the center of the Yubna Camp, Fouad Ghannam, Khaled’s father, on April 10 received hundreds of camp residents who had come to pay their respects.
“Why do they kill children in such an ugly way,” he asked, distraught and distracted. “They [the children] were used to playing over there and they thought the period of calm would protect them from the bullets and tank shells. But the occupation is treacherous and does not know the language of mercy, even toward children.”
Khaled’s father says the killing of the three children should be a lesson to all those who are deceived into thinking that Israeli promises can be trusted.
Abdel Raouf Abul Kheir, who was sitting next to Ghannam, was also pained.
“I helped carry the three boys to the Najjar Hospital and I saw what the bullets had done to them. Hassan was still alive, shrieking in pain. The others had already passed away.”
Abdel Raouf says the incident was a shock to everyone and called for revenge. “I think the resistance factions should respond harshly to this crime because the calm is as good as finished,” he said.
The three boys are the first to be killed in Rafah by the Israeli army for over two months. The killings shook the entire city, and residents took to the streets in a huge procession, with demonstrators chanting slogans against the Israeli occupation and calling for a response. Dozens of children from Rafah’s model parliament group raised photos of the three boys and slogans condemning their murder. One-hundred-and-fifty-three children have been killed in Rafah since the start of the Intifada.
The factions were more careful in their pronounced positions. They did not outright declare a retreat from the calm, but they did promise a response in statements that were distributed throughout Rafah. Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedin Qassam Brigades, lost no time and fired over 30 Qassam rockets and more than 70 mortars into Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, while the Popular Resistance Committee fired a number of mortars.
The leadership also expressed its anger at the killings, especially since Israeli authorities did not offer any explanation for the incident. President Mahmoud Abbas said the killing of the three children constituted a deliberate violation of the calm. In statements to the press, Abbas stressed that if, “Israel is concerned with the calm and the truce, it must prove this on the ground”.
Spokesperson for the interior ministry in Gaza, Tawfiq Abu Khousa, said the Palestinian Authority viewed the Israeli military escalation with “utmost gravity,” adding that the PA submitted a “strongly worded” protest to the Israeli government. The Israeli authorities, he said, finally offered an official apology for the incident.
Some analysts say the killings may not cause an annulment of the calm, but will be added to a number of violations and transgressions that may ultimately result in its collapse. Sameeh Shbeib warned in Al Ayyam on April 11 that, “we are still dealing with a fragile and weak truce, which is subject to collapse at any time.”
“What is aiding the fragility, weakness and lack of immunity for this truce is Israeli practices. There is an agreed upon truce between all the Palestinian factions but the situation [on the ground] has remained the same,” Shbeib wrote.
Talal Okal, another writer and analyst, told the Palestine Report that the incident was “deliberate and prearranged” to elicit a Palestinian response. Popular sentiment has it that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wanted to show the US that his government is under pressure from Israelis and Palestinians, in order not to come under fire in his meetings with US President George W Bush for the continued settlements expansions in the West Bank.
“Israel knows that the state of calm, which was declared in Sharm Al Sheikh, is fragile and can be overturned at any time. They also know the Palestinians will not continue to be patient about the continuing daily violations by Israeli forces, even if these are on a lesser scale then before the truce was declared.”
In general, most analysts feel Israel’s overall policies are not helping Abbas to solidify and consolidate the truce. There is Israeli stalling in carrying out promises, whether on prisoner releases or ending arrests of Palestinian activists, and there is a continued expansion of settlements, land confiscations in addition to the construction of the wall.
According to Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas’ spokesperson in Gaza, the Israeli violations are increasing daily and the resistance factions will not stand with their hands behind their backs. If Abu Zuhri is right, the truce is in danger of collapsing sooner rather than later.-Published April 13, 2005©Palestine Report