The Guardian November 27, 2002

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 

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.

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