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Humiliating and Exiling Arafat and the Palestinians
THE GOAL IS TO SYMBOLICALLY STRIP AND HUMILIATE ARAFAT, SYMBOL OF THE PALESTINIANS, AND EXILE HIM IN VERY WEAK AND POLITICALLY DESTITUTE STATE
MID-EAST REALITIES - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington, DC - 4/02/2002: The Israelis are not planning to martyr Yasser Arafat, rather they are planning to grossly humiliate and weaken him, while at the same time crushing all Palestinian resistance and arresting key members of the Arafat regime -- except for those like Nabil Shaath, Abu Mazen, and Abu Alla, who have been playing ball with the Americans and the Israelis for a long time now and are conveniently not around these days (plus a few others like Rajoub and Dahlan and Erakat who might still be useful to meet with General Zinni now and then).
The likelihood is the "plot" to do this to Arafat, and to the Palestinians, was finalized at the White House, the Pentagon, and the CIA last month when Sharon and entourage visited Washington.
At the moment the Americans, working in tandem with the Israelis no matter what they say in public, are trying to convince Arafat to personally go into exile in Morocco. And then when the inevitable American arranged "peace conference" takes place down the road, one more time, it won't be Arafat and the PLO at the table and the Palestinians will have been sufficiently crushed and collectively tortured so that some new dastardly even more repressive apartheid-style arrangement can be forced down their collective throats...one more time. HUMILIATING SURRENDER FOR PALESTINIAN POLICE
Israeli army in campaign to destroy security forces
By Suzanne Goldenberg in Ramallah, West Bank
The Guardian - Tuesday April 2, 2002: Cornered and hopelessly outgunned, the Palestinian policemen tore off their uniforms and stripped to their underpants, filing out one by one in the now familiar drill of surrender to the Israeli army.
As the Israeli army swept into three more West Bank towns, a disturbing picture emerged yesterday of a systematic campaign to destroy and dismantle the Palestinian police.
The capture of the 22 policemen at the Darraghmeh apartment buildings in Ramallah offered a prototype for the Israeli army's expanding offensive: raids on residential and commercial buildings, hospitals, private homes and television stations and round-ups of Palestinian men, punctuated by fierce gun battles and, Palestinians say, summary executions.
In many instances, the raids have focused on the Palestinian police, who are entitled to bear arms under the Oslo peace accords, and who are Yasser Arafat's main instrument for the ceasefire Israel and the US are demanding.
The soldiers are also making use of civilians as shields, forcing men to march ahead of them at gunpoint as they shoot their way into suspected hideouts of armed Palestinians.
It is unclear how the 22 Palestinian policemen made their way into the Darraghmeh buildings, past the Israeli tanks prowling the deserted city. But by Sunday night, some two dozen Israeli forces burst in on them in an abandoned third-floor flat, tossing in a grenade which pitted the walls like a rash.
The Israeli soldiers retreated to a stairwell, spraying the door of the flat with gunfire for 20 minutes, neighbours said. They pulled back to a neighbouring building and seized an architecture student, Nader Mansi, 22, setting him the dangerous task of returning to the building to coax the policemen to surrender.
"The officer said he wanted all the Palestinian soldiers to come out of the buildings first, and to take off their boots, their trousers, and their jackets," Mr Mansi said.
The stairwell of the building yesterday provided evidence of the policemen's humiliating surrender, a jumble of boots, khaki trousers, and insignia in the colours of the Palestinian flag.
They were discarded before the policemen emerged from the building, spinning around to show they were unarmed, before they were handcuffed, blindfolded, and bundled into an armoured personnel carrier.
A splash of blood stained the doorway, where one man was shot dead at the start of the raid. "The first one who came down was stupid or inexperienced," said Randa al-Zeer, who watched the drama from her second-floor flat. "He came downstairs with his gun in his hands above his head. So they shot him."
The Israeli army said the dead man was a suspected suicide bomber.
Another policeman, who was shot in the back during the firefight, was left to bleed to death. "I went and checked his pulse. He was barely alive," said Mr Mansi. "I asked the officer to bring an ambulance, and he said: 'They are terrorists, they shoot at us, the policemen'."
The rest of the raid passed without further bloodshed, unlike Saturday when five uniformed policemen were shot dead in a windowless room of a nearby building, apparently at close range.
After the surrender of the policemen, civilian male residents of the flats stripped, marched down stairs, and sur rendered. Then came the women, pulling their shirts up above their waists, residents said.
Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has described the broad military offensive in the West Bank as a war on terror: that is, against the Palestinian suicide bombers who have launched a relentless campaign inside the Jewish state.
But in Ramallah at least, the focus appears to be the main Palestinian police agency: the national security force, whose commander in the West Bank, Haji Ismail, is one of Yasser Arafat's most trusted aides.
Unlike other senior Palestinian officials, who have scattered, Mr Ismail is said to be hunkered down in Mr Arafat's crumbling headquarters, vowing to fight to the last alongside his leader.
Mr Ismail's men are the most professional of the Palestinian police forces - which were trained by the CIA during the 1990s - and their targeting by the Israeli army sits uneasily with Israel's demands that Mr Arafat use the security forces to crack down on the suicide bombers.
Yesterday, such doubts were beginning to emerge inside Israel as well. "Even if we stay on a long time, we will not be able to smash the terror infrastructure," said Danny Yatom, the former chief of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.
· Four Britons and a Japanese student from Bradford University suffered shrapnel wounds yesterday after Israeli tanks fired warning shots near international "peace volunteers" in the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Jala. A woman who asked to be known only as Kate suffered a serious stomach wound but was said to be out of danger in hospital.
ARAFAT'S KEY AIDES TARGETED
Emphasis on Arrests Reflects Policy Shift
By Lee Hockstader
Washington Post - Tuesday, April 2, 2002 - Jerusalem) -- With its military sweep of Palestinian cities and camps, Israel has set out to hunt down hundreds of suspected militants and terrorists, among them some of Yasser Arafat's political and security lieutenants, a senior Israeli security official said today.
The determination to take in ranking officials from Arafat's Palestinian Authority represents a shift in Israeli policy, which until now has granted what amounts to immunity from arrest or assassination to Arafat's inner circle, the official said.
The official's remarks, coupled with similar comments in the Israeli media, constituted the most detailed attempt Israel has made to lay out the goals and scope of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's five-day-old military thrust into Palestinian-administered territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some of the suspects sought by Israel have taken refuge with Arafat, the Palestinian leader, in his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Others, he said, were among hundreds of Palestinians in the sprawling hilltop headquarters of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service, a powerful agency that is one of Arafat's main points of contact with the CIA and is Israel's negotiating counterpart in attempts to coordinate security agreements.
The Preventive Security headquarters, near Ramallah, was surrounded by Israeli forces determined to arrest all the wanted men inside. A spokesman for the Palestinian security force, Samir Rantisi, said Israeli troops launched an attack on the headquarters complex early this morning, using heavy machine guns and other weapons. Israeli helicopters also fired missiles at the building, the Palestinian officials said, engulfing it in flames and causing many casualties. Palestinian sources said the battle ended before daybreak and that the fire had subsumed.
"Most of the important activists of Ramallah are now in these compounds," a senior Israeli security source said. "They are not going to get away. We are going to arrest all of them."
Among the most pronounced changes in its policy, Israel has also decided to track down and arrest Arafat's top political lieutenant in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti, the Israeli security source said. Barghouti, 42, an electrifying speaker and charismatic street leader, is often mentioned as a possible successor to Arafat. Despite identifying him as a key figure in terrorist and other attacks, Israeli until now has exempted Barghouti from arrest on the grounds that he is too popular, too influential and too close to Arafat.
"We're going to arrest him, of course," said the source. "Our big mistake is we used to respect the [Palestinian] VIPs too much."
He also said Israel is studying the possibility of arresting a number of top Palestinian security officials, most of whom have been in close contact with the CIA since Arafat established the Palestinian Authority in 1994. With the goal of building Palestinian agencies strong enough to rein in militant Islamic and other groups, the CIA provided extensive advice, equipment and training to Arafat's security chiefs, with Israel's knowledge and approval. Over the years, U.S. officials based in Tel Aviv developed reasonably close relations with their Palestinian colleagues.
These include Tawfiq Tirawi, Arafat's intelligence chief in the West Bank, and Rashid Abu Shbak, the No. 2 man in the Preventive Security force in the Gaza Strip. According to Israel, Tirawi has been involved in planning attacks on Israeli targets since the outset of the current Palestinian uprising in September 2000, and Abu Shbak is the key figure in the manufacture of Palestinian rockets and mortars in Gaza.
In widening its list of wanted men to include some of Arafat's top aides, Israel faces a dilemma. Israeli officials have often said they would like to somehow exile or remove Arafat in the hopes that the next generation of Palestinian leaders would be more "moderate" and "pragmatic." But it is precisely that group of Palestinian leaders -- men in their forties with growing power bases -- whose arrests Israel is now contemplating.
Israeli officials acknowledge that the dilemma goes deeper, and includes the question of whether to expel Arafat. Sharon, who calls Arafat a "bitter enemy" and has publicly wished him dead, has favored expulsion, despite opposition from the United States and its Western allies.
Israel's security and intelligence agencies appear to agree with only part of this assessment. On the one hand, the agencies contend Arafat would represent a greater threat to Israeli interests if he were overseas, with free access to the world's leaders and television cameras, than he does caged up in his Ramallah headquarters surrounded by Israeli tanks, Israeli newspapers have reported.
On the other hand, the agencies have warned that Arafat's likely successors include militants who made their names organizing attacks on Israel, but lack the prestige and power to exert near-term control over Palestinian areas, rein in radical groups or make political compromises with Israel.
Staying "with [Arafat] is a very hard alternative, and without him is also a very bad alternative," said the security source.
For the time being, Israel is keeping its hands off some of Arafat's most senior security chiefs, apparently hoping to preserve some infrastructure that might corral militant groups and would-be terrorists in the future.
Chief among them is Jibril Rajoub, chief of Preventive Security in the West Bank, who Israeli officials believe has not joined the Palestinian militants and others who have taken refuge inside the Security Service headquarters. They also include Mohammed Dahlan, Arafat's security chief in the Gaza Strip, who has close ties with the CIA and is regarded as a pragmatist by Israelis and Americans.
As Israeli officials describe it, the current military campaign, in scale and ambition, goes well beyond any previous offensive in the conflict. Israeli forces have already entered four of the eight largest Palestinian population centers in the West Bank -- Ramallah, Tulkarm, Qalqilyah and Bethlehem -- and are preparing to enter more. About 20,000 military reservists have been called up for duty in what the army has dubbed Operation Defensive Shield. Speaking Sunday evening, Sharon defined the operation's goal as to "wipe out terrorist infrastructures from their foundations," suggesting a long and arduous campaign. For the time being, there is substantial support for the Israeli policy from the Bush administration, Israel's main strategic ally.
But there is a growing tension between the ambition of Sharon's goals -- which many Israelis say are virtually unattainable -- and the constraints of a world worried about instability in the Middle East, especially the Arab world. Some Israeli officials are mindful of international criticism and suspect Israel will be forced to curtail operations within a few weeks.
"Every additional day of occupation [of Palestinian territory], every additional day of pictures of tanks opposite women and children increases the international pressure on the government," wrote Nahum Barnea, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth. "Sharon knows he is living on borrowed time."
Shimon Peres, the foreign minister, played down the idea that Israel might have set too broad a goal for itself or was in effect planning to reoccupy the territories it ceded to the Palestinians in the mid-1990s under the Oslo agreements. "We will be staying weeks at the most, not months," he said. "We are not fighting a war of prestige here, we are fighting a war of existence. Our first concern is not our image but our lives."
Correspondent Daniel Williams in Ramallah contributed to this report.
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