The Guardian November 8, 2000


Middle East casualties mount

Last week began with Ehud Barak ordering a missile attack on the offices 
of the political faction and personal security forces of Yasser Arafat. No 
casualties were reported. The week ended with a tentative cease-fire 
proposal with both Mr Arafat and Mr Barak to issue public appeals for an 
end to the bloodshed. That did not happen. During the week casualties 
continued to mount.

A four-person delegation from the International Action Centre (IAC) went on 
a humanitarian and fact-finding mission to Palestine.

The delegation's aim was to document the events unfolding in the region and 
to bring medical supplies for Palestinian hospitals which have been 
declared a state of medical emergency due to the heavy casualties inflicted 
by the Israeli armed forces.

The delegation presented a donation of antibiotics, wound dressings and 
sutures and witnessed widespread damage from Israeli automatic weapons and 
tank fire.

The delegation also commented that the usually crowded streets of Bethlehem 
were completely empty. By evening there was no one in the streets, lights 
were out, the tourist hotels were completely deserted.

The delegation also witnessed the shelling of Palestinian towns.

This is how the IAC organiser Dick Becker described his experience:

"... Then the rocket hit across the street and destroyed the office and 
blew up the whole front of the square unit apartment building. There was 
massive debris everywhere, including pieces of missile inside.

"There was another house where according to the neighbours the people had 
just left five minutes before the rocket hit. This house suffered 
structural damage, large pieces of stone from the house lying in front of 
it, the windows were all blown out."

Dick Becker remarked that the people were well aware that the weapons for 
the shelling were made in the United States.

"One man who had lived for many years in an apartment upstairs picked up a 
piece of a wall that was blown into his apartment, through his window from 
the house that was blown up across the street. He held it up and said, `I 
want to send a message to President Clinton, I want to send it back to 
him.'"

The Israeli parliament (Knesset) reopened after a three-month recess. In a 
35-minute speech to Parliament Mr Barak repeated the assertion that he "had 
left no stone unturned" in the pursuit of peace, accused Mr Arafat of being 
a poor "partner for peace" and called on Israeli people to unite in a time 
of crisis.

Israeli-Arab MPs held up photographs of 13 Israeli Arabs shot dead by 
Israeli police officers shouting: "You killed peace! You murdered it!"

Before the Parliament opened, a political deal was struck between Mr Barak 
and the Orthodox Shas party. Shas agreed to give Mr Barak one month's grace 
during which he will be able to deal with the present conflict without fear 
of being toppled.

Shas's backing has temporarily diffused the situation for Mr Barak who had 
unsuccessfully sought to form an emergency unity government with Ariel 
Sharon, leader of the opposition Likud party.

Actions against Israel's policy towards Palestinians continue in different 
forms.

One statement, signed by 188 Jews from Israel and other countries, calls 
for a suspension of all US aid to Israel.

Stanley Heller, coordinator of the effort said, "Some of the media have 
given the impression that Jews are solidly behind the actions of Ehud 
Barak. This is not accurate. The people who signed on to the letter feel 
Israeli Government actions to be so wrong that they are making an 
unprecedented step of calling for a suspension in aid to Israel."

The statement says:

"We Jews, citizens of the state of Israel and of other countries, are 
sickened that the Barak Government would let the war criminal Ariel Sharon 
enter a Palestinian area and provoke terrible violence.

"Unfortunately this just illustrates the determination of the current 
Israeli Government to keep Palestinians permanently separate, unequal, 
closed up in small territories, and exiled in foreign lands.

"We protest the ever escalating violence against Palestinians. We urge the 
US Congress to suspend all foreign aid to Israel."

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