Last night in Gaza ghetto
January 16, 2001
INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL BRINKMANSHIP IN THE AGE OF THE INTERNET
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.
IN THE GAZA GHETTO:
SETTLERS GO ON RAMPAGE TO AVENGE MURDER OF FARMER
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
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
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.
ISRAEL CLAMPS NEW CLOSURE ON GAZA STRIP
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
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
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
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
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