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Palestine News Update

29 Mar 2002


From: BW
Date: 03/29/02 12:32
Subject: inside the invasion
To: John Judge

Palestine News Update

  1. Internationals Come Under Fire
  2. International Group Plans To Act As "Human Shields" Tonight
  3. Report I From Invasion Of Ramallah
  4. Report II From Invasion Of Ramallah
  5. Urgent Call From The International Solidarity Movement
  6. Urgent Call From Palestinian Civil Society Leaders
  7. Los Angeles Times: Israeli Gov't - "Strike Everywhere -- Restraint Is Dead."

March 29, 2002


International civilians are trying to assist ambulance teams in Ramallah as they attempt to get to wounded and dying people. The ambulances of the International Red Cross, Red Crescent and U.N. have been prevented from moving in the city. The ambulances are now coming under fire and international civilians have been trying to act as human shields on board since 1400 today. Internationals will continue to ride aboard the ambulances in the hope that this may increase the chances of getting to those in need.

The muka'ta has been under constant tank shelling and the electricity has been cut in the city since early this morning.

For more information contact:

In Ramallah - Huwaida 972 2 052 642 709

In Bethleham - Heather 972 2 067 270 398

March 29, 2002

Contact: Amanda Ream, 212-541-4226 x241, Direct Action for a Free Palestine Bethlehem, Palestine
Friday, 29 March 02
Report from Bethelem by New York Human Rights Observers Over 10 New Yorkers are in the West Bank as part of a coalition of international groups. They are sending reports as violence takes over in Bethelem and the surrounding region.

"Troops are surrounding Bethelem where the International Solidarity Movement of 100 is currently stationed. There is no way in or out. The area and all checkpoints are completely closed. A suicide bomber detonated inside a West Jerusalem supermarket at noon today. The ensuing Israeli attack depended on where the suicide bomber was from. She is from Dehesha refugee camp in Bethlehem. Her video-taped statement was released on Fatah TV around 2pm. Israeli tanks are rolling into Beit Jala, a town connected to Bethlehem."

"Thirty-five Italians are inside Dehesha refugee camp as observers and human shields. They have been staying at Ibdaa Cultural Center nearby for the past week. The sound of F-16s is in the air, as is an unseasonable hail and wind storm, which is making conditions even more chaotic. The ISM will spend the night as human shields at Beit Jala, or in Ad doha guarding would-be bulldozed homes, or as shields and observers inside Dehesha.

Ramallah is under seige. Two buildings inside Arafat's compound have been taken over. There are bodies strewn about the compound. There are 60 internationals inside Ramallah. All power has been cut off, but their hotel runs on a generator so they may be able to get information out. Some internationals are riding inside of ambulances, which are being fired upon."

"There are 10 dead (eight Palestinians and two international journalists) at Al aqsa in Jerusalem, the scene of now-Prime Minister Sharon's arrogant visit to the muslim holy site which marked the beginning of the second Intifada."

Report from Kristen Schurr
Bethlehem, Palestine
cel: 011 972 56 622017

The Palestine Monitor,
A PNGO Information Clearinghouse

29 March 2002 3:15 p.m

At this time the Israeli military occupies Ramallah and el-Bireh with over 200 tanks and military armaments and have imposed a 24-hour curfew over all areas of the two cities. Residents are locked in their homes, unable to leave for food supplies or medical care. The Israeli army has shot those who have tried to leave their homes at.

The Israeli army has also closed down all local radio and television stations, and is shooting at press vehicles, attempting to cause a total information blackout. One journalist has already been shot in the face, as was documented by his cameraman.

Our reports indicate that so far four Palestinians have been killed and that 35 have been injured. We fear this number may soon rise significantly as the Israeli army is now shelling the Palestinian Authority headquarters from inside the walls of the compound, threatening the life of those inside including Chairman Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian leaders.

Furthermore, Israeli soldiers are preventing ambulances from reaching those wounded inside the compound.

Once again we call on the international community to exercise the utmost pressure on the Israeli government to withdraw their tanks from Ramallah and to stop this aggression against the Palestinian people. Sharon is attempting to reconstitute occupation which is the cancer that is eating the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis, and which may lead to a regional disaster. We urge you to take action to stop Sharon's criminal behavior.

For more information please contact The Palestine Monitor, +972-59-208-258

Israeli occupation army ransacks Ramallah, troops shoot at everything moving Posted on Friday, March 29 @ 09:07:34 EST by RamallahOnline

Occupied Jerusalem: 29 March, 2002 (IAP News)
More than 200 Israeli tanks and over 20,000 troops have invaded the Palestinian town of Ramallah Friday morning as part of a far-reaching Israeli operation aimed at crushing Palestinian resistance to Israeli military occupation and apartheid.

In the past few hours, street battles between lightly-armed Palestinian defendants and the Israeli army resulted in at least 50 casualties on both sides.

Palestinian hospital sources said at least four defendants and a civilian were killed and over 30 people, mostly innocent civilians, injured by Israeli bullets.

And in a gruesome scene, the Abu-Dhabi satellite television showed Israeli snipers kill a Palestinian civilian in a cold-blooded manner as he was walking outside his home.

The Israeli army said an Israeli officer was killed and four soldiers injured by the Palestinian defendants' fire.

In mid-morning Friday, Israeli tanks and bulldozers stormed PA chairman Yasser Arafat's headquarters, knocking down the perimeter wall.

Palestinian officials besieged in the building said parts of it were on fire.

Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said "the President is under siege," adding that "the situation here is very dangerous, this is a declaration of war."

Palestinian sources said the Israeli army was shooting at everything moving and sabotaging Palestinian private and public property.

"They are crushing private cars, they shooting at water containers on rooftops?it seems they want us to die of thirst," said a local resident who was reached by telephone.

The Israelis are also reportedly shooting at journalists and foreign cameramen.

Hospital sources in Ramallah said an Egyptian cameraman working for the Egyptian satellite channel, Nilesat, was moderately injured after an Israeli sniper's bullet hit him in the chin.

Later reports said the Israeli occupation army placed Ramallah under curfew and threatened to shoot and kill any Palestinian seen in the streets.


Friends as you may be hearing, seeing or reading the situation in Palestine is desperate. Israeli forces have invaded almost every area of Ramallah and we are under heavy tank shelling and gun fire. An unidentified number of people are dead and scores are injured. Ambulances have been prevented access and soldiers are opening fire on them.

There are international civilians in the areas under fire witnessing the carnage of the Israeli soldiers wreaked on the Palestinian people.

Other internationals have been beaten down for trying to get into Ramallah to help Palestinians.

We extend a plea from the Palestinians and the international witnesses to all of our friends abroad to immediately phone and/or fax your representatives and respective governments to demand urgent and decisive action to stop Israel's brutal offensive on the Palestinian people

Gather, march, and protest in the streets! We need the voices of all good people around the world!


Witnesses on the ground in Bethlehem:
(for international dialing drop the 0 before the phone number)
English - Heather 972 2 067 270 398
English - Georgina 972 2 055 840 767
Arabic/English - Bilal 972 2 052 814 992
Italian - Francesca 00 39 3389 77 3899
There are French and Swedish speakers available as well.

29 March 2002

We, the undersigned, believe that a full-scale Israeli offensive throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is imminent and that such an unprecedented attack demands from global civil society an unprecedented response. For this reason, we urge global civil society - including human rights organisations, solidarity groups, and individuals - to take immediate direct action to stop Israel's all-out war against the Palestinian people and its 35-year belligerent military occupation of the Gaza strip and West Bank, including east Jerusalem.

Today, Israeli occupying forces invaded the compound of PNA President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah as part of a systematic and longstanding campaign to undermine, humiliate, and destroy the Palestinian political leadership. Israeli troops have also seized complete control of Ramallah and imposed a total curfew. At the same time, Israeli officials have begun a massive military build-up, including the mobilization of 10,000 army reservists, in preparation for an openly declared war throughout the OPT that promises to be widespread, prolonged, and bloody.

Earlier this month, escalating Israeli attacks - including willful killings, indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment, complete economic and social suffocation, and mass destruction of housing and agriculture - culminated in full-scale invasions of Palestinian refugee camps and villages that killed hundreds of civilians.

Statements by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today referring to Arafat as the "enemy" and speaking of the need to "extirpate Palestinian terrorism everywhere it exists" indicate that such attacks are set to resume, with greater ferocity and scope, leading to disastrous consequences.

Palestinian civil society groups have warned for years that Israel's freedom to act as a state above the law would severely undermine chances for a just and lasting peace. After decades of occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing and 18 months of all-out war against a civilian population, we call for the international community not to wait for massacres on the scale of those in Sabra and Shatila in 1982; the time for action is now.

The support for the Palestinian people shown by international solidarity groups, manifested in numerous statements, visits, and actions, has proved invaluable throughout this crisis. Now is the time for global civil society to use the momentum it has generated and the ethical integrity it has demonstrated to forcefully demand immediate action from governments to end the occupation, which is the root cause of the conflict.

Governments, including those currently meeting at the UN Commission on Human Rights, must face direct and unambiguous pressure from their own people to immediately secure Israel's respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention and its complete withdrawal from the OPT as necessary steps towards achieving a just and lasting peace.

To this end, we call upon all those who oppose occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes, who are committed to justice and peace, who are willing to speak truth to power, to:

  1. Raise your voices to break the conspiracy of silence among governments that allows Israel, which enjoys the unlimited and unconditional support of the US, to commit war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law with impunity.

  2. Clearly, vigorously, and publicly demonstrate before governments and international organisations to demand immediate and effective protection for Palestinian civilians in the OPT, through protests, marches, media campaigns, and other peaceful means.

  3. Demand that governments end military assistance to Israel, suspend economic ties, and support the prosecution of war criminals, and urge other states to do so.

  4. Continue and intensify your activities as part of a sustained and systematic campaign to end the occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes in the OPT and to support the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Now is the time for immediate and direct action, as the pattern of escalating oppression and brutality that we have experienced over the past 18 months moves inexorably towards a disaster whose consequences we can only begin to imagine. In this dark hour of suffering and determined resistance, we are sure that the worst is yet to come, but we are equally sure that, with the support of global civil society at this crucial time, peace and justice will prevail.

Dr. Heydar Abdel-Shafi
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti
Dr. Azmi Bishara
Rana Nashashibi
Dr. Eyad Sarraj
Khader Shkirat
Raji Sourani



This morning, Sharon emerged from the seven-hour meeting and said his government was launching an "extended operation against Palestinian terrorism." It was "not a reoccupation" of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he said, "but a long, complicated war" that "knows no borders."

The army was ordered to "strike everywhere" and to destroy as much "terrorist infrastructure" as possible. "Restraint is dead," one official said. "We will fight terror until it is vanquished."


Israel Attacks Arafat Compound;
Army Calls Up Reserves, Has Orders to 'Strike Everywhere'

By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
March 29, 2002

JERUSALEM -- Israeli forces today smashed their way into the Ramallah headquarters of Yasser Arafat and fought fierce gun battles with his bodyguards. Israel formally declared the Palestinian leader an enemy and said he would be "completely isolated."

Arafat desperately appealed to world leaders to save him as Israel launched its most punishing large-scale offensive yet against the Palestinians in the wake of a Passover suicide bombing that killed 21 Jews.

About 40 tanks and armored personnel carriers roared into the West Bank city of Ramallah before dawn and surrounded Arafat's compound. They punched gaping holes in the front gates as his guards manned the walls and roofs and exchanged fire with tanks shooting heavy machine guns. Several Palestinians and Israeli soldiers were reported wounded. The tanks then fired rockets into the blocklong compound, witnesses said, setting several buildings ablaze. Tanks approached within yards of Arafat's private office, which was filling with smoke, said Mohammed Dahlan, a Palestinian security chief.

"The situation is very grave," Arafat advisor Nabil abu Rudaineh said from inside the besieged buildings, where the Palestinian Authority president and his inner circle were holed up. "We've been trying to reach world leaders, but it's early and they're still asleep."

Firefights erupted elsewhere in the city as troops and tanks took up positions and rounded up Palestinian men. One woman was reported killed in her car.

Branding Arafat's eleventh-hour offer of a cease-fire a ploy, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon presided over an extraordinary all-night meeting of his government to plan the offensive. Many members wanted to expel Arafat, but the majority decided to cut him off from the outside world but allow him to remain in Ramallah. Expulsion remained a future option, however.

The army was ordered to "strike everywhere" and to destroy as much "terrorist infrastructure" as possible. "Restraint is dead," one official said. "We will fight terror until it is vanquished."

Israel also called up combat unit reserves to expand its manpower, another reflection of the deepening war footing that Israel and the Palestinians are now on.

In addition to the killing of 21 people at a Passover Seder on Wednesday, a Palestinian gunman on Thursday burst into a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and killed four Israelis from the same family, and early today a Palestinian infiltrated a settlement in the Gaza Strip and stabbed two Israelis to death.

Medical examiners worked to identify mangled bodies from Wednesday's suicide bombing in the coastal city of Netanya. The attack was one of the deadliest in 18 months of relentless bloodshed, and its psychological impact for Israelis was all the more devastating because it came on a date of utmost religious significance for Jews, the opening night of Passover. Israelis called it a watershed event, a point of no return.

Israeli officials earlier said the army had been instructed to abide by a commitment not to physically harm Arafat. However, Sharon said this week that he was sorry he ever made that promise to President Bush.

Earlier on Thursday, in a clear bid to temper the fury of the expected Israeli onslaught, Arafat summoned reporters to his headquarters and said he was ready to work toward a truce. But he didn't declare a cease-fire outright, and his statements fell short of the unilateral cease-fire he declared Dec. 16 under intense U.S. pressure.

"I assert our readiness to implement an immediate cease-fire, and we have informed Gen. Zinni," Arafat told the news conference, referring to U.S. special envoy Anthony C. Zinni, whose truce-seeking mission here has all but collapsed.

Opening the sober, angry Cabinet meeting, where the Passover killings dominated the agenda, Sharon said Arafat and only Arafat was to blame. The prime minister said Israel now faces "a new and different situation."

This morning, Sharon emerged from the seven-hour meeting and said his government was launching an "extended operation against Palestinian terrorism." It was "not a reoccupation" of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he said, "but a long, complicated war" that "knows no borders."

"Arafat, who has formed a coalition of terror against Israel, is an enemy and at this stage shall be isolated," Sharon said at a hastily arranged news conference in Jerusalem.

He refused to say what would be done to Arafat.

Palestinians accused Israel of ignoring efforts by Arab states and U.S. mediators to ease tensions. The Bush administration had earlier pressed Sharon to show restraint but also called on Arafat to make an Arabic-language appeal to his people for calm. Neither Middle Eastern leader appeared to be paying heed.

In Elon Moreh, a Jewish settlement near the West Bank city of Nablus, a Palestinian gunman burst into a house where a settler family was celebrating Passover with guests. He killed or mortally wounded four members of the family and then barricaded himself on an upper story when armed settlers and troops rushed to the scene.

Two sons in the family managed to hide, and for a time it was thought that the gunman had taken hostages. But the two were able to leap from a window and escape.

In a gun battle, soldiers shot dead the Palestinian. The radical Islamic organization Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, as it had for Wednesday's bombing. Settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip were placed on high alert.

Elon Moreh is one of the more radical settlements among the more than 170 that fragment the West Bank and Gaza Strip and are considered illegal under international law. Yet in the current climate of hardened hatreds, the radicals have become more mainstream.

"There may be only one terrorist in Elon Moreh tonight, but there are tens of thousands of terrorists throughout the land of Israel," the settlement's rabbi, Elyakim Levanon, said. "They must all be cleaned out. Otherwise, there will be no peace, not only in Elon Moreh but in all of the land of Israel."

About the same time that Elon Moreh was under attack, Arafat was cautioning that a massive Israeli military operation now would endanger a new peace proposal endorsed at an Arab League summit just concluded in Beirut.

Palestinian officials said their security forces had begun rounding up a number of militants from Hamas and its sister organization Islamic Jihad. The arrests could not be confirmed independently; past roundups have been only token in nature.

Israel scoffed at Arafat's gestures.

"What we need are actions, not empty statements after which more Israelis die," Sharon advisor Dore Gold said.

Israeli officials had little use for the Arab League proposal, saying it is difficult to speak of peace when terrorism is rampant.

Terrified Palestinian civilians, meanwhile, braced for what they expected to be a harsh Israeli military onslaught. This time, they fear, Israeli forces will invade and stay.

In Ramallah, Palestinians emptied store shelves in panic buying. They stocked up on food, water and other supplies in expectation of indefinite confinement to their homes. By the afternoon, Ramallah looked a ghost town. People went home early from work or collected their children from school, everyone trying to stay out of harm's way.

Suad Attalah, a mother of three from Ramallah's Al Birah neighborhood, filled her grocery cart with milk, bread and cans of food.

"We expect another invasion, and this time it may take longer," she said. In the first two weeks of this month, scores of Palestinians were killed and hundreds arrested in a huge military operation.

Some Ramallah residents also hoped to flee, at least temporarily. Huge crowds massed at the main military checkpoint that Israel has set up to control Palestinian comings and goings. But no one seemed to be able to leave.

Israeli tanks could be seen massing around Ramallah and Nablus. In Gaza, tanks sliced the narrow strip that is home to 1.2 million Palestinians into three segments, blocking transit from north to south.

Israel's next offensive may be more far-reaching than the incursions into Palestinian towns and refugee camps earlier this month. That sweep was Israel's biggest military operation in the West Bank and Gaza since capturing those territories in the 1967 Middle East War, and it triggered a barrage of international condemnation.

Speaking on Israel TV, military affairs analyst Ron Ben-Ishai said senior army officers and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer had come up with a plan to send troops into Palestinian territories to capture suspected militants and deter attacks. The operation, which needs Cabinet approval, would exceed the scope of previous ones but would stop short of a full reoccupation, he said.

Copyright © 2002 Los Angeles Times
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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