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The Rise and fall of the Merkava-3 Tank: Forcing new facts in the field Tuesday, February 19, 2002
In the evening hours of last Thursday, Feb 14th. a dramatic and significant incident took place only few kilometers south of Gaza City. Palestinian fighters, called members of the unified committee for resisting the occupation, dealt a humiliating and agonizing blow to the military establishment of Israel. The Palestinian fighters successfully blew up an Israeli tank called the Merkava 3, regarded by military specialists as the most powerful tank in the world. The explosives, weighing no more that 100 kg, detonated underneath the tank creating a 1.5 M diameter hole. Immediately, the explosion killed three of the five soldiers inside the tank. The other two badly injured.
To the world outside, probably, no one emphasized the significance of what happened. But, both in Israel and the occupied territories, the news of blowing up the tank flew very quickly. It captured headlines in both communities.
To Israelis, the tank represents a powerful symbol of Israeli military superiority. More than any military item within Israel's arsenal of weaponry, the Merkva 3,single handedly, kept scoring points in terms of delivering firepower and protection to the soldiers throughout the ongoing clashes. The tank, consistently, helped to convince Israeli military general that it is possible (may be possible) for the army to suppress the Palestinian revolt and hence placing more confidence in Israel's military prowess.
On the other hand, to the Palestinians, the tank meant a harsh and deadly reminder of the inadequacy of the means and material on the dispense of their hands. Hundreds of young Palestinians, including little kids, killed facing the tank either with stones or at best machine guns during nemours stand off between their fragile human bodies and the mighty Merkava tank. The tank could not, even, be scratched. Thus, Israel was able to maintain the upper hand in military terms and imposing a stringent occupation.
After the destruction of the tank, the myth seemed to come to an end. The Palestinian operation・was performed with extreme precision, according to news sources. What happened was that a convoy of cars carrying settlers protected, regulalerly, by military jeeps suddenly faced gun fire on their way to the Netzarim settlement only few KMs south of Gaza City. Normally, the settlers use the route coming from the east border of the Gaza Stirp. At first, the firing of machine guns seemed like any other regular attack on Israeli jeeps operating within the Gaza Strip. In such a case, the Merkava 3 rushes to the scene to provide protection. As described in media sources, powerful explosives were waiting for the tank and within seconds the explosion ribbed through the consolidated body of the tank.
Israeli reaction was in shock. One major Israeli paper said,・the Palestinians have succeeded in bringing down one of Israel's symbols of power.・Peres, the main
Partner in Sharon coalition government commented,・it was very difficult in every way.・Israeli military specialists are still looking for answers of how actually an explosive device could destroy this tank. Was it the ammunition store inside the tank that added to the impact of the explosion? What kind of device did the Palestinians use; no matter how primitive the used method? The military is facing many questions. The Israeli army, operating within the occupied territories, is seriously thinking of changing tactics. On important factor is the fact that the Merkava 3 can no longer be considered providing protection to the crew inside.
But, in the occupied territories, one could feel a mood of upbeat among the Palestinians. That is not only because of what happened to the Merkava, but also due to recent successful operations against settlements and army units. Palestininas believe that Sharon is in trouble. He has been in power for almost a year. When he took over as a Prime Minister he promised his people to qeull the Intifada within 100 days. He called it the 100-day campaign back in early April 2001. On the contrary, during Sharon's first year in government, Israelis felt the least secured. Sharon has no political vision. And in the same time, he can not defeat the Palestinians. Many observers think that Sharon could be counting his days. It is his failure to provide a clear policy and security that made many people in Israel frustrated, especially, those on the left. Last year, it is believed, Israeli casualties registered the highest record due to Sharon's insistence on refusing to sit down and negotiate.
With the demise of the Merkava 3 tank, Palestinians hope that Israeli decision-makers come down to their common senses that only through negations and talks an end to conflict can be possible. No human being accepts others to control his/her life, dreams and aspirations. Human beings will do anything for the sake of freedom. Freedom becomes even more of a precious value when you do not have it.
Feb., 19th., 2002
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