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Israeli Military incursion: Catching Terrorists or a collective punishment      Wed, February 14, 2002

The town of Beit Hanoun, located on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip, has witnessed an overwhelming show of Israeli military force. In the early hours of February 13th, about 35 heavy tanks stormed the small town from the eastern edge creating horror and panic on the residents. Under the cover of heavy machine gunfire and shelling, the tanks forced their way into the streets and homes of the terrified civilian population.

Soldiers attacked homes turning furniture's upside down on sleeping family members. Boldourzers plowed into farms leveling down agriculultre trees and vegetable plants. The Israeli incursion continued for hours, approximately till 6:00 AM. The tanks returned to its bases. However, a couple of hours later, another convoy of tanks drove again in the middle of town. This time, Palestinian youngsters and children, about 300 of them, faced the advancing tanks with rocks. The tanks fired at the children from machine guns positioned on top of each tank. One young man by the name Amjad Hamad from the Beit Hanoun was killed as a result of three bullets. Israeli military killed another civilian from the nearby Jabaliaya camp named Musa Abu Shinnar, 30 years old.

At the same time, and in a similar practice, Israeli tanks were firing and shelling other parts of the Gaza Strip primarily in the Deir Balah area in middle of the Gaza Strip. The Tanks advanced on this town from the eastern border of the Gaza Strip as soldiers fired heavily and indiscriminately at homes and civilians on the way. Three people were killed as a result. The gunfire killed three policemen. They were Abed Hassanat, 30 years old, Shadi Al Hassanat, 24 years old and Khaled Abu Sitta, 25 years. Also, there were 18 cases of injuries reported as very serious.

International media mentioned a brief reporting about this incursion. CNN cover was only about few seconds reporting that it was ・a military operation to arrest terrorists・ No details of the havoc and terror on the Palestinian community resulted from the incursion. The BBC was not that different in tone and content.

Israeli government spokesperson always states that such military incursions are justifiable in order to arrest ・terrorists・ However, Palestinians see it entirely differently and much express regret that many in the international community buy the Israeli argument. People here in the occupied territories view it as Israeli official policy of Collective Punishment. Sharon's government intends to break down the will of the Palestinian people in order to submit to the law of Israeli occupation. A terrorist does not wait for an Israeli column of tanks to come and be arrested. He, be whatever one call him, a terrorist a freedom Fighter or a resitantce fighter knows very well his moves. Any Palestinian would say that and also would shrugs off Israel's unfounded claim of arresting such individuals.

So, why the incursions? Incursions allow Israel to attempt to break down the will of the Palelsniains by destroying one segment of the economy; agricultural farms and productive trees. Beit Hanoun area is famous for producing the largest amount of oranges in the Gaza Strip. Many locals depend on the annual income of the orange crops. Now, it is the beginning of the orange season and many farmers look forward to this time. Unfortunately, Israeli tanks and bulldozers storms in from the borderline to uproot the trees and even bury them with giant military machines.

One farmer in the Beit-Lahia town, only few KM east of Beit Hanounn faced the same predicament. His farm was adjacent to a settlement called Eli Sinai. The Palestinian farmer owned a fig farm, which he was very proud of. He used to boost that his farm made the best figs in the Gaza Strip. At the end of summer, fig season, he used to pick each fig one by one. The entire family, including his married sons, depended on the annual farm for an income. One night, the Israeli tanks and bulldozers attacked the farm killing all the fig trees. Some of the trees could not be seen. The tanks buried them.

Next day, the farmer was in deep shock. He threw his hands in the air, how can trees be guilty? What crime did they do to Israel?  He watched the assassinated trees with immense sadness. He said, I feel my life, my self, buried here not my trees. He continued, I pray to Almighty God that Israel pay for this crime one day.

Israel has a policy, however, not a declared one. The policy is to make life impossible for the Palestinians step by step. Otherwise, a policy to be implemented with full-scale force may bring world condemnation and eventually may lead to undesirable results for Israel. For example, if world opinion turns sharply against Israel, the UN may find itself obliged to send an International Protection force to the Palestinians or seriously call for an end to Israeli occupation, or possibly call for an economic embargo against Israel. In addition, some international voices may demand the arrest of Israeli army generals who are committing crimes against humanity. To Israeli politicians, such scenarios are to be avoided at all costs. That is why we hear in the news of occasional incursions, but regular, attacking Palestinian towns. Sometimes, we see them more intense in the West Bank and at other time, in Gaza. Two weeks ago, the scene was in the town of Jenin, north of West Bank. A month ago, it was the scene of leveling down 73 houses in Rafah. Yesterday, Beit Hanoun faced the painful turn. Of course, Israeli army was never short of excuses and answers. The easiest answer expectedly is ・fighting terror・

As long as the world community remains dysfunctional and apathetic, the above-described practices of Israeli government will keep continuing. With that, the world community, if there is one to listen and act, can not be considered fighting terror but actually enflaming it. Every one, members of the world body, is a partner in the on going crime against an armless civilian population trying to ride itself of a vicious and illegal occupation.

Gaza City,

Feb. 14th. 2002


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