Dangerous Palestine developments
by Hans Lebrecht First of all: the bloody incident on November 15 in Hebron, during which 12 Israelis and three Palestinians were killed and 14 wounded, was not a "massacre of innocent Jewish worshippers on their way home from Friday Night prayers at the Patriarch Cave in Hebron, perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists", as the Israeli Government and foreign ministry spokespersons claimed in their handouts to the foreign media, and repeated again and again. Those who returned from their prayer to the nearby Kiryat-Arba settlement were all at home at their Sabbath evening dinner tables when that incident occurred. In fact, the 12 Israelis killed were not civilian Jewish worshippers but were all officers and men of the Israeli army and border police. They fell during two hours of combat, after having been ambushed by a small group of Palestinian militants of the Islamic Jihad at a bend of the less than four- kilometre road from Hebron to Kiryat-Arba. The three attacking Palestinians were killed too. Among the Israeli victims was the commander of the Hebron Brigade, Colonel Dror Weinberg, the most high-ranking officer killed since the outbreak of the current Intifada 22 months ago, as well as five sergeants, corporals and six privates. The Islamic Jihad maintained that the ambush was in retaliation for the extra-juridical execution of one of their leading members, Eyad Sawalha, five days earlier. The Israeli security services claimed that he was responsible for a murderous attack on Kibbutz Meretz, in which two women, two small kids and the security official of the Kibbutz, had been killed. The whole affair points to a further sharp escalation of the sanguinary mutual retaliation-for-retaliation and revenge acts. This catastrophic escalation should be seen against the background of the current right-wing Sharon-Mofaz-Netanyahu transition cabinet and the pre-election rightist upsurge in Israel's political spectrum. Hebron city in the southern part of the occupied West Bank has a Palestinian population of 150,000. About 450 all-Jewish ultra-messianic fundamentalists have occupied some houses and compounds in an Israeli- occupied part of the city (20 percent), in which there are also some 20,000 Palestinian residents. This interim arrangement was signed in 1998 between the then Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Arafat as part of the framework of the 1993 Oslo Declaration of Principles. Now, Foreign Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Sharon have declared that the whole Oslo agreement and the interim arrangements accordingly are null and void. Only a few weeks ago the Israeli occupation army pulled out of the town of which 80 percent is officially administered by the Palestinian authorities. Now, as a reprisal for the November 15 incident the army has returned with tanks, armored troop carriers and heavy bulldozers into the Palestinian city, to continue its work of destruction and violation of human rights. In the wake of last Friday's bloody event, a group of Kiryat-Arba settlers have set up an "outpost" tent encampment at the site of the incident. They demand that all the Palestinian houses along that road should be eliminated and the road to be broadened and become a fortified "security promenade", connecting Kiryat-Arba with the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Sharon was quick to visit the gang and promise them he would comply with their demands. The first houses along that road had already been destroyed. From the 20,000 Palestinian residents of the Israeli occupied area only about 4000 might be allowed to remain. The others would be expelled either into the Palestinian administrated parts of the city, added to the 150,000 Palestinians residing there, or be "transferred" somewhere else.