As Big Powers Meet, West Bank, Gaza See Another Brutal Day
Palestinian: 'The World Has Lost Sensitivity'
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, December 21, 2002
JERUSALEM, Dec. 20 -- This is what a 24-hour period is like in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after more than two years of conflict in the Palestinian uprising against Israel:
A 40-year-old rabbi and father of six was shot and killed by a Palestinian gunman in a roadside ambush this morning as he drove to a wedding celebration with his family from the Jewish settlement where they live in the Gaza Strip. A few hours earlier, a Palestinian man was killed in a shootout with Israeli soldiers as the troops attempted to demolish houses in a central Gaza Strip town.
An 11-year-old Palestinian girl was shot in the chest and killed Thursday afternoon as she leaned out her bedroom window in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip. She was watching the funeral procession of a teenage Palestinian boy who had been shot the previous day. A Palestinian man, meanwhile, was killed when an Israeli armored personnel carrier smashed into the minivan in which he was riding in the northern West Bank town of Jenin.
Israeli police, alerted by a wary pedestrian, this morning discovered a shrapnel-filled bomb hidden in a gift-wrapped box near a shopping mall in the northern Israeli city of Netanya. And over the 24 hours that ended this afternoon, Israeli security forces said they arrested and jailed 42 Palestinians accused of anti-Israeli activities.
It was a brutal day, but not much different from every other brutal day in what has become a war of attrition matching the high-technology Israeli military against a Palestinian guerrilla force and Palestinian civilians so determined to strike Israelis that they commit suicide in the process. It is a war in which many more civilians than combatants on both sides have been casualties.
This day, one Israeli and three Palestinian lives were lost, a fairly accurate reflection of the overall ratio of deaths the two sides have suffered in 27 months of fighting.
As the violence continues relentlessly and Israel braces for the consequences of a possible U.S. attack against Iraq, the informal group of Middle East mediators known as the quartet -- the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- met in Washington and postponed action on a peace plan until after Israeli elections scheduled for Jan. 28. That is just about the time U.S. officials have warned that a military assault against Iraq could begin.
"Unfortunately, it seems the world has lost sensitivity to what's happening here," said Mustafa Barghouti, director of the Palestinian Monitor, a nongovernmental organization that tracks violence and its impact in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Since the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in those territories began in September 2000, between 1,700 and 2,000 Palestinians and an estimated 670 Israelis have been killed, according to human rights groups and government tallies.
Palestinian gunmen routinely shoot Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian suicide bombers have instilled pervasive fear in restaurant patrons, bus passengers and shoppers throughout Israel. Israeli tanks and helicopters have launched repeated attacks in every major Palestinian city and refugee camp, and patrols have killed farmers, women, children and other civilians in hundreds of cases near borders, at checkpoints and in Palestinian enclaves.
"What's changed for Israelis in the last year is that we don't see this as terrorism anymore, but as war," said Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli political analyst and journalist. "If this is terrorism, then it becomes an unbearable level of suffering. If it's war, it somehow makes more sense."
Many of the victims have been Israeli or Palestinian civilians who were shot dead as they went about their daily routines. For example:
• Yitzhak Arama, 40, an ultra-orthodox rabbi in the Netzer Hazani settlement, was driving his wife and six children to a pre-wedding party when a Palestinian gunman ambushed their car. Arama was shot in the chest and died at the scene, according to settlement officials. The Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.
• Israeli troops entered the town of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip before dawn to demolish houses of Palestinian families the Israeli military has said are tied to militants. Majdi Moussa opened fire on the soldiers, who killed him and wounded seven other Palestinians, according to local media reports.
• Nada Madi, 11, had just come home from school Thursday afternoon in the Rafah refugee camp and had opened her bedroom window to watch the funeral when a bullet punctured her chest. It is unclear who fired the bullet, but the family said it came from the direction of an Israeli army observation tower about a quarter-mile away. Military officials said soldiers were firing toward a Palestinian gunman allegedly hiding in a nearby house at about the time the girl was hit.
• Near Jenin, the Palestinian passenger in a minibus died when an Israeli armored personnel carrier crashed into it, according to local media reports. A military spokeswoman described the crash as an accident and said the army was investigating. The Palestinian driver, however, said the vehicle intentionally rammed his van.