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Last night in Gaza ghetto

January 16, 2001


It's quite a game of international political brinkmanship. At the same time that Yasser Arafat is being tremendously pressured, and quite possibly further tricked, to sign some kind of "framework agreement" with Clinton and Barak before it is too late -- his regime is also being threatened with extinction both from within and without. And at the same time that he is playing these games with Arafat it also appears that Peres is using the political moment of Clinton's leaving and Barak's desperation to pressure his own Prime Minister into signing the same agreement as his only way to now have a chance of defeating Ariel Sharon in the Feb 6th election. Just who is fooling whom, just who is tricking whom, just whose threats are real and whose transitory, this is one of the most complicated and multifacted games of international political chess ever played out on the modern world stage. And the new age of instant communications, CNN, and the Internet complicates and speeds up everything much more than ever before thus making every minute, quite literally, count.

Meanwhile, last night in Gaza, more Jewish Pogroms against the penned up Palestinians. Gaza has become even more than in the past a kind of reverse Warsaw Ghetto, the Israeli occupation army (and the "settlers") taking on still more characteristics of the once despised Nazis in a horrendous twist of history.


By Phil Reeves in Jerusalem

Peace talks about talks put 'on hold' after missing man is found shot and Israeli tanks slam the door on Palestinian territories

[The Independent - 16 January 2001]
The Gaza Strip was swept up in a new vortex of sectarian violence last night as Jewish settlers torched Palestinian homes to avenge the killing of an Israeli farmer. As Israel imposed a new military blockade on the strip, settlers descended on an Arab village, setting light to crops, greenhouses and several houses after the farmer was found with a bullet through his head.

Ehud Barak, Israel's Prime Minister, described the killing as a "terrible blow for the peace process", and blamed Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority for initiating the violence. He said the killers would be "punished as others have been punished for attacks in the past", an apparent reference to Israel's illegal policy of assassinating leaders of the Palestinian guerrillas.

At Israel's request, talks planned for yesterday were put on indefinite hold, although they had been going nowhere. Israel also closed Gaza airport, reopened last week during a slight thaw in relations, shut the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, and barred all Palestinian workers from Israel.

The case of Roni Tsalah, a 30-year-old farmer, was a political crisis even before his horrifying fate was clear. When news of his disappearance reached the Israeli army's southern command on Sunday, it dispatched tanks back into offensive positions on the edge of Palestinian-run areas, carving up the 40-mile long strip into four isolated sections again. Israel's relaxation of its rigid internal and external blockade of Gaza last week, meant to nurse along the talks-about-talks, was over.

In scenes with which the 1.2 million population of the strip is wearily familiar, Israeli tanks fired shells into Gaza, one landing less than a mile from Yasser Arafat's seafront offices. A few hundred yards out in the Mediterranean, Israeli gunboats patrolled back and forth.

All Gaza, Arabs and Jews alike, spent a restless night, illuminated by Israeli military parachute flares to help search parties of armed settlers and soldiers as they scoured the area for Mr Tsalah. Early yesterday his body was found in an orange grove, 200 yards from his tomato greenhouses, close to his home at Kfar Yam. He had a bullet in the head, apparently from his own gun. A satellite tracking device in his pick-up truck showed his captors had driven it to the nearby Palestinian town of Khan Younis, where it was set ablaze.

A group affiliated with Fatah, the political organisation nominally under Yasser Arafat, reportedly said it had killed him.

As Mr Tsalah's grieving fellow settlers prepared for his funeral yesterday afternoon, their outrage was levelled not only at his Palestinian killers, but also at Mr Barak, who is struggling to avoid a trouncing in next month's elections.

"We are very angry that the government does not do anything to protect us, and we are very angry with the country for letting us down," said Nissim Sroussi, a 47-year-old agricultural consultant.

He was, he said, "just waiting" for the elections in the hope that it will bring to power ex-general Ariel Sharon, leader of Likud. Among the Palestinians, Mr Sharon awakens less positive emotions. They remember him as the ruthless army commander in charge of "pacifying" Gaza in the aftermath of the 1967 war.

Palestinians still shudder when they recall how Mr Sharon's soldiers bulldozed their houses to clear the way for the Israeli military roads that divide up the strip, allowing the army to impose control over the area within hours.

Mr Tsalah's Jewish neighbours remembered him yesterday as a quiet and pleasant father of a baby boy, uninterested in politics, who got on well with his Palestinian farm workers. But politics can never be set aside in the cauldron of Gaza, particularly in the area where he lived and died, the radical south, where Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority carry limited weight.

The militants behind the intifada have made clear they regard the 6,500 Israeli settlers who occupy a quarter of Gaza in defiance of international law as legitimate targets.

In November, they bombed a settler school bus, killing two Israeli adults and maiming several children, and shot dead twosoldiers. The Israeli army replied with collective punishment, sealing off Gaza, demolishing homes and flattening acre after acre of olive and orange trees.

Yesterday's events will lead to more of the same, and more proof that these tactics do not work. For even as the new closures were being enforced, a roadside bomb went off close to an Israeli army patrol, this time claimed by Hamas militants, a grim reminder that the intifada that started in late September is far from over.

By Amos Harel and Amira Hass

Strip divided into three after Israeli murdered; settlers rampage against Palestinians in protest

[Ha'aretz - 16 January]:
Israel has reimposed a full closure on the Gaza Strip, and divided the strip into three sections between which no traffic is permitted, in response to the murder of Roni Tzalach of Kfar Yam on Sunday.

In addition, all diplomatic and security negotiations with the Palestinian Authority were suspended yesterday. However, they will apparently resume today, at least partially.

Tzalach's body was found yesterday morning after an all-night search, in a Palestinian agricultural zone some 200 meters from his greenhouses in the Gush Katif settlement bloc. He had been shot in the head at close range. Having found the body, the Israel Defense Forces now believe the attack on Tzalach was a straightforward murder rather than a kidnap attempt.

The kidnapping theory stemmed from the conflicting Palestinian reports that reached the IDF after Tzalach was reported missing on Sunday. Some of these reports said Tzalach was dead, but others said he had been seen alive in Khan Yunis later that day.

Tzalach's killers, apparently a group of three or four people, fled to Khan Yunis in Tzalach's car after the murder, and the car was then torched by local residents. The PA returned the remains of the car to the IDF at about 3 A.M. yesterday.

Tzalach was buried in Gush Katif yesterday. Before and during the funeral, dozens of settlers organized a rampage through Palestinian villages near to where his body was discovered, though the IDF believes the murderers probably came from Khan Yunis.

The settlers burned greenhouses, homes, stores, cars and fields, uprooted trees and damaged irrigation equipment, and fired in the air.

Settlers and Palestinians also threw stones at each other, and some Palestinians said they were beaten. According to Palestinian sources, the rampage lasted for two hours. The IDF intervened only belatedly.

Police have arrested two of the suspected rioters.

The army believes that Tzalach's killers might have included some of the young Palestinian laborers employed by Tzalach, in defiance of IDF security regulations.

Brigadier-General Yair Naveh, commander of the IDF forces in Gaza, said the fact that these workers were employed without a permit makes it harder to identify and trace them.

The Gazan settlements' regional council, however, objected to the implication that Tzalach was partially responsible for his own murder. "Roni believed in coexistence... and he provided employment for his neighbors," the council said in a statement.

It is not yet clear which Palestinian organization was responsible for the killing, as two groups claimed responsibility yesterday: one affiliated with Hamas and one with the Tanzim militias. But the IDF considers Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, with whom the Tanzim are associated, a likely suspect.

The Palestinian Authority is not thought to have been directly involved in the attack, but Naveh said the PA "created the atmosphere" that made the murder possible.

The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement saying that it holds the PA responsible for Tzalach's murder, and demanding that the PA halt the attacks against Israel and capture the killers.

Due to the murder, Israel reimposed a full closure on Gaza yesterday, shutting down the international border crossing at Rafah, the Karni crossing into Israel and the Gaza airport. The IDF also reinstated the roadblocks that trisect the strip and prevent traffic between the different sections.

Finally, the IDF forbade the entrance of Palestinian laborers into Gush Katif - partially for their own protection.

But military sources complained yesterday that the closure is ineffective, due to the fact that it is constantly being lifted and then reinstated. Officers in Gaza have asked the government for permission to take harsher measures against the PA.

Palestinians said that phone service and electricity in Khan Yunis were also cut off Sunday night, and restored only yesterday afternoon. However, they said, it is not clear who was responsible for this step.

Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), the speaker of the Palestinian legislature, criticized the murder of a civilian in an interview with Voice of Palestine radio yesterday, but also protested the collective punishment Israel had imposed in response. Other Palestinians, however, said they did not share Qureia's objection to killing settlers. Ahmed Hilis, a leader of the Fatah movement in Gaza, for instance, said that the settlers are the aggressors, and the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves and protest the "occupation."

Tzalach's murder was the first in Gush Katif in almost two months, apparently because a new IDF deployment in Gaza had helped to frustrate most attacks.

January 2001


Leila Khalid - refugee from Haifa, fighter for Palestine
(January 31, 2001)
When Palestinian liberation fighter Leila Khaled hijacked her first plane in 1969, she became the international pin-up of armed struggle. Then she underwent cosmetic surgery so she could do it again. Thirty years on, she talks to Katharine Viner about being a woman at war.

The end of Israel?
(January 30, 2001)
At a time with rampant current events breaking daily, often hourly, there is much need to remember the importance of sometimes taking time for reflection, of sometimes stepping back to contemplate both the past and the future.

Sharon - the REAL legacy of Clinton and Barak
(January 30, 2001)
As the Barak era fades from view -- more short-lived than anyone predicted just a long year and a half ago -- his epitaph is already being written and Ariel Sharon's government and policies are already being debated.

Looming civil war in Palestine
(January 29, 2001)
Fears are growing in the international community that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) is heading for collapse.

Arafat blasts, Peres maneuvers, Barak sinks
(January 29, 2001)
For all practical purposes Ehud Barak is gone and Yasser Arafat is now desperately trying to save his own skin.

Barak's 3 no's, and Bush's 7 minute call
(January 28, 2001)
The Americans leaked it, a 7-minute Saturday call from the new U.S. Pres to the sinking Israeli PM -- leaked its brevity that is.

The Bomb and Iraq
(January 28, 2001)
As war clouds gather in the Middle East public opinion is being prepared for a possible regional war that could likely include a combined Western/Israeli effort to take out the weapons of mass destruction in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The "nuts" in the next room
(January 27, 2001)
In recent years Israel's most important and serious newspaper, Ha'aretz, has taken to not only reporting Palestinian affairs much more deeply but to interviewing major Palestinian personalities abroad.

Get ready for Prime Minister Sharon
(January 27, 2001)
The new Ma'ariv-Gallop poll questioned a particularly large sample of 1,100 people, putting special emphasis on the Arab population and new immigrants.

Panic in the Barak camp
(January 27, 2001)
All the tricks and lies of the Israeli Labor Party have now come back to haunt it. Barak, never a politician, bears the brunt of popular blame for all the political deceptions and tricks that have for so long accumulated.

War alert in Europe and Middle East
(January 27, 2001)
We've noted the "war fever" growing in the region for some months now. There's considerable anxiety about who may now strike first.

Israeli and Jewish soul-searching
(January 26, 2001)
The Intifada, coupled with Israeli brutality and recognition that the term "Apartheid Peace" is in fact applicable after all, are having an effect on at least some Israelis and some Jews; even while Ariel Sharon marches to the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem (and maybe because of this).

"Disastrous" American intervention
(January 26, 2001)
ou've got to wonder about these Palestinian "negotiators". What others saw decades ago those who have been most involved are apparently beginning to see only now.

Sharon marches on, Barak stumbles on
(January 25, 2001)
The 554,000 Arabs eligible to vote represent 12.3 percent of the electorate. The Arab turnout in 1999 was 76%, and 95% voted for Barak.

An alliance of the outcasts? Iran, Iraq and Syria
(January 24, 2001)
So the Israelis are going to elect war-criminal tough-guy General Ariel Sharon to be Prime Minister. This after the most top-heavy military-intelligence government in peacetime history for Israel -- that of General Ehud Barak.

General Powell says no to sanctions on behalf of Corporate America
(January 23, 2001)
Hamas has struck again and the "negotiations" are "suspended" again. Two Israelis were assassinated by masked men while eating at a restaurant in Tulkarm. Though this time it was Israelis who were killed it was another warning to Yasser Arafat. Last week similarly masked men in Gaza killed a close Arafat friend, the head of Palestinian TV in Gaza, just as it was rumored Arafat was about to sign some kind of new deal with the Israelis.

EyeWitness Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa
(January 23, 2001)
The depressing element of this entire struggle is that the Arafat regime survives and...will be the one to ultimately determine the fate of the Palestinian people.

War Fever - Israel and Syria
(January 23, 2001)
Tensions continue to grow in the Middle East region, armies continue to prepare, public opinion continues to be manipulated. Though Ehud Barak too is a militarist -- a former commando, General, and Chief of Staff of the Army -- Ariel Sharon brings with him historical baggage and war-criminal image which could easily contribute to a clash of armies sooner rather than later, even if not fully intended by either side.

EyeWitness Gaza
(January 22, 2001)
A year or so ago, I visited the Mouwasi area in Gaza. It was a green paradise, on top, and in the midst, of white sand dunes. I particularly remember this Guava grove, where the guavas hanging from the trees were the size of large oranges; I hadn't seen anything like that ever before.

Reaping what they have sown
(January 22, 2001)
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak abruptly cut short a radio interview on Sunday after being asked about his poor showing in opinion polls, prompting speculation he was buckling under pressure of a February 6 election.

Israel's president departs
(January 21, 2001)
There has never been, and there probably never will be, a president who had such fantastic relations with the State of Israel. It's unbelievable.

Ross officially join Israeli lobby
(January 19, 2001)
During the Lebanon War of 1982 -- some think of it as Sharon's war -- the Israelis and their American Jewish friends felt they had a difficult time when it came to public relations. And when the American Marines pulled out, symbolizing the failure of the Israelis to force Lebanon into the American-Israeli orbit and out of the Syrian-Arab one, the Israelis realized that they had much power in Washington on Capitol Hill, but not enough power with the media, intellectuals, and think-tanks.

War preparations in Israel
(January 19, 2001)
It's always called "The Peace Process" but more behind-the-scenes the whole Middle East region continues to be an arms bazaar with more weapons being sold to the countries in the area than ever before, most by American arms merchants and allies.

Palestinian TV Head killed
(January 17, 2001)
It may have been a warning to Arafat not to dare sign any new agreements, as has been rumored in the past few days he was planning to do tomorrow in fact. It may have been another Israeli assassination - though usually they don't take such risks and use such methods, strongly preferring instead to use high-technology and long-distance means.

Iraq, Saddam and the Gulf War
(January 17, 2001)
It was 10 years ago yesterday that the U.S. unleashed the power of the Empire against the country of Iraq after created the regional conditions that lead to the Iraq-Iran and then the Iraq-Kuwait-Saudi wars. In that period of time somewhere in the number of 1.5 million Iraqis have been killed, the history of the Middle East altered, the future of the region more uncertain and dangerous than ever.

Last night in Gaza ghetto
(January 16, 2001)
It's quite a game of international political brinkmanship. At the same time that Yasser Arafat is being tremendously pressured, and quite possibly further tricked, to sign some kind of "framework agreement" with Clinton and Barak before it is too late -- his regime is also being threatened with extinction both from within and without.

Generals Sharon and Barak as politicians
(January 16, 2001)
With Jan 20 (Clinton leaves office) and Feb 6 (Barak likely to be defeated by Sharon) fast approaching, desperation and near panic are evident in the traditional power centers, including various Arab capitals.

"Unilateral separation" one way or another
(January 15, 2001)
The separation plan would go into the event of one of the following three scenarios: as a response to a unilateral declaration of statehood on the part of the Palestinians; under a severe security threat; or as part of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority

Up in arms against Apartheid
(January 13, 2001)
At the end of the second millennium, three million Palestinians are imprisoned in ghettoes by the very man whom the Palestinian leadership hailed as the saviour of peace. Netanyahu had driven the peace ship off course. Barak scuttled it.

Locking in Oslo
(January 12, 2001)
The Americans and the Israelis continue to try to twist the screws. Their minimum goal now is to "lock in" the "Oslo Peace Process" approach to the conflict. It may be an "Apartheid Peace", and it may have resulted in considerable bloodshed, but even so it is leading to a form of "Palestinian Statehood" and "separation" that the Israelis strongly desire as the best alternative for themselves.

Sharon charges on
(January 12, 2001)
he long-serving (now recalled to Cairo) Egyptian Ambassador to Israel was quoted saying last week that if an Israeli-Palestinian agreement isn't reached in the next two weeks there won't be an agreement for the next two decades.

"Sharon leads to peace"
(January 11, 2001)
The last time the Israeli "Arab vote" was pushed toward Shimon Peres for Prime Minister -- back in 1996 -- there was much resistance. Then Peres was acting Prime Minister after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Army had just committed the Qana massacre in Southern Lebanon, and Peres was busy trying to cover it up.

Grandfather Sharon
(January 10, 2001)
If the polls remain as disastrous as they now are for Ehud Barak, expect him to be pushed out and Shimon Peres substituted. Barak has no chance; Peres has some, especially with the "Arab vote".

The Dangerous weeks, months ahead
(January 10, 2001)
Guys like Commando-General-Prime Minster Ehud Barak don't go easily from the scene. Barak's daring-do was lavishly praised just a few years ago; now it has even the military types fretting. No telling just what Barak and friends might try in the next few weeks.

Assissination, siege and war crimes
(January 9, 2001)
The Israeli government, both as a group and as individuals, bears full responsibility for the crimes that were committed. We will do everything possible, including declaring members of this government war criminals who are eligible for trial by the world tribunal." Palestinian Authority "Minister"

Soul-searching Israelis
(January 9, 2001)
The "liberals" among them, the most cosmopolitan and internationally-oriented of the Israelis, are now getting extra nervous. Not only is Ariel Sharon coming to power, not only is regional war possible, not only are the cold treaties with Egypt and Jordan in jeopardy, but even Israel's future has come into question

Israel acts while Arafat talks
(January 8, 2001)
srael continues to take major steps designed to shrink, isolate and control the Palestinian areas forever. The policy is termed "unilateral separation" and it is linked to bringing about a so-called "Palestinian State" that serves Israeli interests, making everything worse than ever for the Palestinian "natives".

Clinton's Israel speech
(January 8, 2001)
On his way out the Presidential door Bill Clinton went to New York City to speak to his American Jewish supporters and further grease his way toward his future. This is the Bill Clinton that turned the U.S. government over to the Israeli/Jewish lobby in his years in office; of course pretending otherwise.

Specter of an "ugly future"
(January 5, 2001)
Lofty, humanitarian goals like 'peace and democracy'? No, America's primary interest in the Middle East is effective control of the world's most important energy reserves, Noam Chomsky tells Ha'aretz

Prime Minister Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
Did President Hindenburg and the German intelligentsia feel this way in 1930s when they saw that Adolf Hitler, and his brownshirt thugs, were about to be elected to power?

Barak and Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
While the Labor "Doves" are busy running ads in Arab papers showing dismembered corpses in Palestinian Refugee Camps -- with the caption "Sharon" -- the reality is that Generals Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon are more two of a kind than anything else.

Arab nations add their voices to the chorus of despair
(January 4, 2001)
All chance of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future is vanishing, destroyed by hardening opinions on both sides, continuing violence, the precarious position of the political leaders involved and disagreements over key issues.

Darling of American Jewry
(January 4, 2001)
Over the years, most of the strongest advocates of Israel have usually been people who are not Jewish....[I] look forward to working with him...

Barak publicly warns of regional war
(January 4, 2001)
Amid veiled threats from the Israelis to start targeting even more senior Arafat Regime persons, and even to bring the Arafat "Palestinian Authority" to an end, Ehud Barak has also started publicly talking about the possibility of regional war.

No deal for Arafat
(January 3, 2001)
In particular, the Palestinians are concerned that the proposed settlement would create Palestinian territorial islands separated from each other by Israeli territory and therefore not viable as a nation. They object to a proposed land swap that would allow some Israeli settlers to remain on the West Bank in exchange for land that the Palestinians claim is desert and a toxic waste dump.

Arafat rushes to Washington
(January 2, 2001)
Clinton and the Israelis have set the stage for the last act of their multi-year drama attempting to trap the Palestinians on controlled reservations and calling it "an end to the conflict". But like a modern-day computer game the users can interact and change the outcome to various scenarios.

Top Palestinian Leader in the Arafat Regime
(January 2, 2001)
The whole house of political quicksand built by Bill Clinton at the behest of the Israelis (and popularly known as the "Peace Process") is bubbling, steaming, and swallowing many of its key participants.

Arafat hangs up on threatening Clinton
(January 1, 2001)
The coming issue of TIME magazine reports that Arafat hung up the phone receiver on Clinton a few days ago, turning to an aide and saying: "He's threatening me!

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