The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

19 Left Dead in Failed Hunt for Master Bomber

This article states that the accused shooter of Tom Hurndall has also been charged with smoking pot on duty. For another report of marijuana use by Israeli Occupation Forces, see Kelly Bornshlegel’s Resistance under Occupation.

Chris McGreal in Nablus
Friday, January 9, 2004
The Guardian

In a three-week occupation of the biggest Palestinian city the Israeli army has killed 19 people, wrecked dozens of buildings and confined tens of thousands to their homes in a futile search for the leader of “the heart of the terror networks”.

Before Christmas soldiers flooded Nablus and the neighbouring refugee camp of Balata in pursuit of the leaders of the al-Aqsa martyrs brigades responsible for organising dozens of suicide bombings. Top of their list was Naif Sharekh, the brigades commander in the city. Soldiers brandished Mr Sharakh’s picture and deman ded to know his whereabouts. His wife was paraded in an army jeep through the casbah and forced to call over a megaphone for her husband to surrender.

In Balata the search focused on three al-Aqsa brigades leaders. Soldiers again brandished pictures and threatened anyone hiding the men. But none was found. “They wound up killing all these people and destroying all these houses and they didn’t get any of the ones they were really looking for,” said Taysir Naserallah, head of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organisation in Nablus. “Naif Sharekh is still out there. That has provided people with a quiet satisfaction for all their misery.”

The Israeli army commander in Nablus, who declines to be named, said the raid on the city of 180,000 people was prompted by intelligence that three or four suicide bombers were preparing to leave to attack Israelis.

“Nablus is the hottest and most dangerous town. Most of the suicide bombers, most of the bombs, most of the ammunition, are in Nablus,” he said. “The ones you hear about are the ones that explode. Every day there are ones you don’t hear about. That is why the people in Nablus are suffering. When there are a lot of alerts, the people of Nablus suffer more. When there are fewer alerts, the people of Nablus suffer less.”

The army said the Christmas Day suicide bomb that killed four people near Tel Aviv proved its point. The Palestinians said that attack came after the raid on Nablus began. There had been no bombings for almost three months.

The Israelis have killed nearly 400 Palestinians in Nablus during the present intifada, many of them armed men. The latest dead include three teenagers who were shot stoning troops or dropping concrete blocks from high-rise buildings, according to the army. Among them was Amjad al-Masri, 15, who was killed on Saturday.

One of Amjad’s cousins, Mohammed al-Masri, 18, helped to carry the boy’s body at the funeral. As the procession wound through the town, an army sniper shot Mohammed in the head. He died in hospital. The army said he was killed while breaking the curfew. Abdul al-Qassa, a curtain-maker, is the most recent to die.

Soldiers surrounded his house on Tuesday in search for Ibrahim Attari, an al-Aqsa member, and ordered everyone out. The army said it shot Mr Attari dead as he stepped out of the house because he was seen to have had a gun. It said soldiers spotted Mr Qassa hiding behind a bush and killed him because they thought he might have a gun. He was not armed.

But witnesses say that after Mr Attari was shot, Mr Qassa was dragged forward by the soldiers and confronted with the wanted man. “The soldiers kept asking him: ‘Who is that man? What is he doing in your house?’” said one of Mr Qassa’s neighbours, Amra Sadija. “He kept saying: ‘I don’t know him.’”

Mr Qassa’s brother Mustafa alleges that an Israeli soldier then shot him in cold blood. “I saw it myself. When my brother wouldn’t identify Ibra him they shot him in the ankle, ribs and mouth. They left him there to bleed to death and arrested all of us,” he said. The army wrecked about 50 homes, blowing up some and severely damaging others.

Nablus is used to hardship. It endured more than six months of curfew in 2002. But its mayor, Ghassan Shakah, says the killing of unarmed people and the brutality of the searches only bolsters support for the likes of Naif Sharekh.

He suspects that Israel’s prime minister knows it. “Sharon is deliberately trying to provoke attacks so he can tell the world: Look at the terrorism. But who does the terrorism benefit?”

… The Israeli soldier arrested for shooting a British peace activist left brain dead had been charged with using drugs while on active duty. The unnamed soldier was charged with 10 other members of his unit two months ago for allegedly smoking cannabis while serving in Gaza. The soldier admitted lying about the circumstances in which he shot Tom Hurndall in the head as Mr Hurndall tried to protect children from Israeli gunfire in Gaza. Mr Hurndall is in a persistent vegetative state in a London hospital.