Israeli forces increase collective punishment

TEL AVIV – “Razing houses of terrorists is an effective deterrent for averting terrorist attacks,” a senior officer of the occupation army, told the Ha’arett daily. “It is a grave penalty for the next-of-kin of terrorists. It is not merely an economic blow to the family. A home has emotional value, which cannot be restored after demolition. The terrorists’ families are paying a heavy price for their sons’ activity …,” the officer continued.

In violation of international law, United Nations charter and the Geneva Convention, the Sharon government continues to use collective punishment of the Palestinians on the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

To get the facts straight: Since the outbreak of the present Intifada 26 months ago, about 1,600 Palestinians and almost 700 Israelis were killed. Of the Israeli victims, 88 percent had been army and other security service personnel, or armed colonialist settlers, 12 percent have been civilians. No one has ever seen a Palestinian tank in the streets of Tel-Aviv, Haifa, western Jerusalem or any other Israeli city, nor any Palestinian air-force helicopters and combat planes shelling or bombing any target in Israel.

Yet, since April, the Israeli occupation army has sent hundreds of tanks and other heavy armored vehicles into West Bank towns, re-occupying them and dismantling the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), their administration, law-enforcing and economic infrastructure.

President Arafat is in detention, robbing him and his associates of any possibility to act at all. In the Gaza Strip, in which more than a million Palestinians are residing, almost 5,000 Jewish settlers, most of whom are affiliated with far-right fanatics, are “defended” by two heavily armed brigades of occupation troops, border guards and police forces. U.S.-made helicopters and war-planes are engaged in rocketbomb attacks. Massive house demolitions and killing of Palestinian civilians, as well as acts of Palestinian resistance and retaliation attacks, have become an almost daily routine. Until now, already 13,000 Palestinian houses and other living quarters have been demolished, turning about 30,000 Palestinians into homeless people. 45 percent of Palestinian children suffer severe malnutrition.

One of the latest cases of extra-juridical “liquidations” happened Dec. 4, Mustafa Sabah, his brother and a bodyguard, were killed by two rockets fired on their car in the midst of a busy street. 12 passersby, among them three kids playing in the street, were seriously wounded.

In the still dark early morning hours of Dec. 6 Ayman Shassniye and his brother were killed by an Israeli special army unit that stormed a building in the El-Bourej refugee camp at the outskirts of Gaza city. Ayman was accused by the Israeli secret service as the constructor of heavy bombs, which destroyed three army tanks. During the attack heavy shooting ensued. Two helicopters arrived and shelled not only the building, but also a nearby house, destroying it, and in its course “liquidating” another eight Palestinians, among them two UN officials, a grandfather, one women and three kids.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org