Cameraman records the slaughter of bicycling children
By Stephen Farrell in Jenin
The tank pulls into view, its barrel pointing straight down Jasmine Street towards the children cycling back from the shops after buying a chocolate bar.
On a nearby rooftop an amateur cameraman stops panning across the Jenin skyline and films the group of stick figures moving quickly away from the Israeli war machine. Suddenly a plume of orange erupts from the barrel and the cameraman dives for cover as shrapnel slams into the second-story wall just below him.
A hundred yards away teenagers sheltering behind walls look at the shell bouncing down the street, slamming first into the tarmac then into a low wall, where it explodes, blowing 11-year-old Tariq Abu Aziz off his bicycle and ripping apart his two brothers.
This is the first filmed record of the incident in which, Palestinians say, Israeli forces opened fire on civilians who ventured out into a quiet middle-class neighborhood of Jenin on June 21, mistakenly believing that the curfew had been lifted.
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the Israeli Defense Minister, has apologized and the Israeli Army has announced an inquiry, conceding that initial inquiries suggested that its forces "erred" by firing two tank shells to disperse curfew-breaking Palestinians while its troops searched for a bomb factory near by.
Limping past the blood spattered wall where his brothers Jamil, 13, and Ahmed, six, were killed, Tariq winces in pain after three operations to repair his punctured stomach, kidneys and spleen.
"We heard the earlier gunfire and we were running away. Some hid behind buildings and I was cycling in front, with Ahmed in the middle and Jamil at the back," he said, pointing to the spot in the dusty road. The first sign of trouble, he said, was a white car that turned into the street moments earlier, its horn blaring.
"Suddenly there was an explosion and a cloud of black smoke. I was knocked off my bike. I was dizzy, but I got up and walked towards my house. I knew my brothers were injured, but I didn‚t know how badly."
Jamil, witnesses said, lay dying in the street calling: "Dad, Dad." Ahmed was killed instantly, both his legs, an arm and his intestines strewn across Jasmine Street. It was only two weeks later, just before his discharge from hospital, that Tariq found out that his brothers were dead, although he had long suspected, after listening to indiscreet nurses pointing to "the brother of the two martyrs". In the corner of the family courtyard lie three bicycles, Jamil‚s orange mountain bike barely scratched, Tariq’s red machine with its saddle punctured and Ahmed’s tiny purple minibike, its handlebar snapped off. He was buried with his chocolate bar in his hand.
The boys’ father, Yousef, and mother, Hamda, can scarcely bear to watch the video, now worn out with constant playing for relatives.
"This is a catastrophe," says Yousef, who adds that the Israeli authorities have not contacted him once. "Two of my children killed and a third on the verge of dying. Why?"
Copyright 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd. - 16 Dec. ?