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17 August 2004 MER is Free
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Gaza Ghetto, Gaza Prison
As still more Settlements rise
throughout the Occupied Territories

Mid-East Realities - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - 17 August 2004: Long-known by his nicknames -- 'the bulldozer' and 'the butcher' -- Ariel Sharon has indeed bulldozed and butchered the Palestinians of Gaza most of all. And not just in his years as Prime Minster, there is a long history of Sharon bloodletting, massacres, and war-crimes going back to the 1950s in fact. Many forget these days that even an Israeli government commission twenty years ago now found then defrocked Defense Minister Ariel Sharon complicitous for one of the worst massacres in the history of the modern Middle East and 'recommended' that he never again serve in any high-office in Israel.

But that was then, and this is now.

In recent years, after personally and purposefully igniting Intifada II with his Israeli Army visit to the Dome of the Rock while his fellow General Ehud Barak was PM, Sharon has taken the Gaza ghetto and made it into a virtual prison -- which explains why in fact he wants to pull the 7000 settlers out at this point, shut the gates, and let the Palestinians stew on international hand-outs and Sharon's long legacy of seething hatred.

Sharon has gone even further though and this may be his final legacy -- unless he manages to ignite the whole Middle East by attacking Iran and Syria. He has made the long-promised and once anticipated mini-Palestinian State all but impossible by using the same bulldozing and imprisoning techniques he first brought to the Gaza Strip throughout the rest of the occupied territories of historic Palestine.

These BBC and Guardian articles today look at how the Israelis are even now continuing to expand settlements in the occupied territories, as well as at the current situation in and around Gaza -- realities 'on the ground' that Ariel Sharon is more responsible for than any other single individual on any side of the barricades. MiddleEast.org



Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has authorised the construction of 1,000 settler homes in the West Bank.

BBC - 17 August 2004: A cabinet official told AFP news agency the bids would be published after site inspections by the housing minister.

The Middle East peace plan known as the roadmap specifies a complete freeze on settlement activity, but Israel insists the plan has backing from the US.

Correspondents suggest the move aimed to defuse resistance to Mr Sharon's plans to pull out of the Gaza Strip.

Under international law, settlements in the occupied territories are illegal, though Israel disputes this.


This shows Sharon has no respect for the commitments he gave to President Bush to dismantle outposts and freeze construction in settlements
Saeb Erakat

The roadmap peace plan obliges Israel to stop settlement growth, while the Palestinian Authority must act to curb militant attacks on Israel.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the construction of the new homes would bury the roadmap.

"This shows that Sharon has no respect for any of the commitments that he has given to President Bush to dismantle the outposts and freeze construction in the settlements," he told the AFP news agency.

'US pressure'

The Israeli Haaretz newspaper reports that the plan includes 604 homes in Betar Ilit settlement, 214 in Ariel, 141 in Maale Adumim and 42 in Karnei Shomron.


It is within the guidelines of the government and the agreements with the Americans
Israeli government official

The newspaper reports that Mr Sharon delayed announcing these plans last week under pressure from the United States.

The current plans do not include nearly 190 new settler homes that were to be authorised at Kiryat Arba and Geva Binyamin.

A senior Israeli government official insisted the tenders were "within the guidelines of the government and the agreements with the Americans".

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Israel has announced that an American delegation will visit Israel to inspect settlement activity.

Embassy spokesman Paul Patin said that the team was due to arrive next month to "monitor Israel's compliance with the roadmap".

Correspondents say the US is frustrated over Israel's failure to dismantle all but a handful of 100 unauthorised wildcat settlements that have been established since Mr Sharon came to power in March 2001.

Likud critics

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Jerusalem says, Mr Sharon's decision on the settlements comes just a day before he is due to face a tough meeting of his governing Likud party.

He is under pressure because of his decision to withdraw settlements from Gaza and for engaging in coalition talks with the opposition Labour party.

Our correspondent says many in Israel believe the announcements on the settlements may be a way of trying to appease his critics.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/3572142.stm




Death and destruction across the divide

By Conal Urquhart

The Guardian - UK - 17 August 2004:

Sderot

Avi Yehudai's white Fiat Punto is splattered with shrapnel and his daughter's bedroom has been destroyed. Cracks are visible in the walls of his house and its front needs rebuilding.

Mr Yehudai, a father of four and a car repair shop owner, is suffering a relapse of the shell shock he suffered in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. He carries a half-empty packet of Valium in his shirt pocket.

His house, situated among the manicured streets of the Israeli town of Sderot, was hit two weeks ago by a Qassam rocket, fired from the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun, three miles away. Fortunately the house was empty.

"The day before we were hit, my 14-year-old daughter became very nervous and said she didn't want to stay at home. We went to stay with relatives and thank God we did," said Mr Yehudai.

Afik Zahavi, three, and his grandfather Mordechai Yosepor, 49, were not so lucky. They were killed outside a nursery in the town at the end of June by another Qassam, weapons which were regarded as a joke until Hamas engineers worked out how to increase their payload.

Since then some of Mr Yehudai's neighbours in Rahefet Street have left, others sleep elsewhere at night; everyone takes special precautions.

Tamar Trabelski, a teacher and mother of four, said: "We don't sleep here at night. We go to my parents and come back in the morning. They [the rockets] are rarely fired after 7.15 am.

"This street has been hit five times. When it happens it feel like the whole town is exploding. Fixtures fall off the wall and the children start crying. The children become very tense. It's hard to be very comfortable when you don't know what is going to drop from the sky."

The sound of suburban lawn mowers cannot hide the noise of Apache helicopters hovering over Beit Hanoun. "We feel we are very much on the frontline," said Mrs Trabelski. "We hear everything that goes on in Gaza."

The Qassam rockets, named after an Arab rebel leader killed by the British in 1935, are crude devices consisting of a steel tube with metal fins. The propellant is a mixture of sugar, oil, alcohol and fertiliser. Their range is up to five miles and they can carry up to 6.8kg (15lb) of explosives.

Hamas sees them as essential against Israel's military superiority. Israel has sophisticated defence systems against ballistic missiles but can do nothing to stop the unpredictable Qassams.

More than 300 of the rockets have been fired and about 70 have landed in Sderot, including five in Rehefet Street. While the chances of being hit are small, the fear of the new design is great.

Eli Moyal, the mayor of Sderot, said: "People do not leave their homes after dark. We had a concert last night and 300 people turned up. Last year at something similar we had 15,000 people."

On Rehefet Street, opinion is divided on the plight of the Palestinians. Mrs Trabelski sees no parallel between her fears for her children and the fears of a Palestinian mother.

"The army is only there [in Beit Hanoun] because they were firing the missiles at us. I feel safer knowing that they are there," she said.

But Mr Moyal believes that there is no military solution to the rocket issue. "You can't have tanks fighting against civilians. It's a disaster. We need some kind of political solution," he said.

Beit Hanoun

Amid the demolished factories at the entrance to Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, there are several signs placed by a charity called CHF. "These trees were donated by CHF, please look after them," they say.

The signs remain but the trees have long gone along with the majority of the town's citrus groves, olive trees and vines, all of which which could provide cover for a Qassam rocket launcher.

They were destroyed by the Israeli army, which occupied Beit Hanoun in strength for six weeks, to stop the firing of Qassams.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, based in Gaza City, the army killed 16 people, injured 119 and destroyed more than 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of farmland and 14 factories. But the rockets continued to be launched from Beit Hanoun and nearby towns.

New roads into the town were ploughed up and sewage spread across the roads from burst pipes.

The damage is random. A road cut here, a house destroyed there. On a mound of rubble between two buildings, a tent had been erected and children were playing inside.

Khalil Zaneen, 62, owned the house behind the rubble. He said there were 40 people sheltering in his home as the soldiers laid explosives around his neighbour's house. "They would not allow us to leave and when they set the explosives off it was terrifying. The house shook and the children cried," he said.

Basel Janeen, a relative of the two families of 11 people living in the destroyed house, said: "Even if we had the money I don't know if the Israelis would let us rebuild it. They might just blow it up again."

The Janeen family have little sympathy for the residents of Sderot but say they long for peace and stability.

Khalil Basel, a policeman, 29, said: "They didn't give us a reason. We have no martyrs and no rockets were fired from here. They said they just wanted to clear the way.

"They do not think of us and we do not think of them and our lives are different. We sleep in tents under watchtowers and they don't think for a moment when they use F-16s, tanks and Apache helicopters against us.

"I say stop firing the Qassam rockets. Stop the incursions and let's go back to the negotiating table. But I don't think that will work. Sharon just wants to invade and destroy.

"Look at the ceasefire last year. Not one rocket fired but the incursions and assassinations continued. In the West Bank there are no Qassam rockets but there are incursions and Palestinians killed.

"When someone takes your home away from you, you don't just shut up and accept it. Resistance is resistance. But I say enough is enough. Let's put a stop to it. But do the Israelis ever say enough is enough?"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1284418,00.html


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Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2004/8/1066.htm