Monday, January 08, 2007

ANALYSIS: Israel's unprovoked attack in Ramallah kills 4, By Mohammed Mar'i

Who decides in Israel?
By Mohammed Mar'i
(Arab American Media Services -- Permission granted to republish with full attribution.)

(Ramallah, Occupied Palestine) -- As expected in similar cases, the Israeli Occupation Forces(IOF) investigation into the West Bank city of Ramallah raid that left four Palestinians dead on Thursday revealed that" the army had acted appropriately and that there had been no flaws in the performance of either the commanders or the soldiers in the field", Israel Radio reported Sunday.

According to the probe" the four Palestinians killed by IDF fire had been armed, and the troops had fired only rubber bullets at Palestinians who threw stones".

The (IOF) incursion in Ramallah occurred while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was meeting with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak at Sharm el-Sheikh in Sinai last Thursday to advance the two main topics on the agenda: the prisoner exchange deal involving kidnapped (IOF) soldier Gilad Shalit and Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails, and furthering negotiations with the Palestinians. Beside the four killed Palestinians, about 30 were injured.

This incident casts a shadow over the meeting. When their meeting ended, Mubarak told reporters at their joint press conference: "I expressed to the prime minister our indignation at what happened today in Ramallah and said that Israel and all the people in the region will achieve peace only by refraining from all practices which obstruct its course." In his attempt to explain the Ramallah operation, Olmert reiterates Israel's honoring of the cease-fire and its restraint in responding to the Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at the Negev.

"Things developed in a way that could not have been predicted in advance. If innocent people were hurt, this was not our intention," he said in reference to the West Bank raid.

The military operation which was approved by the (IOF) OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Ya'ir Naveh Naveh and Judea and Samaria Division head Brig.-Gen. Yair Golan aimed to arrest Rabee' Hamid, a member of the Fateh military wing. The (IOF) undercover unit injured Hamid.

Once the unit was recognized by Palestinians who were living a calm day of Eid Al Adha, they gathered and stormed them with stones. Israeli bulldozers and armor plated jeeps, as well as helicopter gunships that fired against open areas to cover the retreating force.

These unbalanced confrontations left four Palestinian killed and about twenty injured. Among the Palestinian killed that the (IOF) investigating report accused as armed was Khalil Al Bairouti.

Al Bairouti is known for all Ramallah citizens and other local and foreign visitors due to his craft. He has a small cart where he used to sell hot drinks to locals at al Manara Square in Ramallah every day. His bad luck that he was at the place to earn some money for his kids when the (IOF) interred Ramallah.

Another Palestinian who is also was accused by the (IOF) investigating report as armed and also was killed is Jamal Jweelis. He came to Ramallah from Sho'fat, a neighborhood of Jerusalem to buy new clothes and sweets for the engagement party of his bother Mahmoud which was scheduled on Friday, the next day when Jamal was killed. Jamal left the clothes store to remove his car when he new that the (IOF) bulldozers began to crash the cars in Ramallah roads. He was shot dead.

Israeli Diplomatic officials and other Israeli defense sources harshly criticized Naveh for not informing Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz of the raid. They blamed the raid for the poor results of the meeting, at which Mubarak denounced the attack as disrupting peace negotiations.

The Israeli politicians and even Peretz blame the defense institution of the bad timing of the operation. The (IOF) sources described it as "fairly routine" mission which do not need the approval of (IOF) Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz or Peretz.

This leads to a big question: who decides in Israel?

On his comment about Ramallah operation, published in Haaretz on Jan. 5 th, former Israeli left politician Yossi Sarid may have given an answer. He wrote: "Is anyone in control of this country? Is the entire country one small no-man's-land? Isn't there anyone left who can tell right from left? This much is clear: There is no government. There's no prime minister worthy of the name, no defense minister worthy of the title. The army is running things, and that's how it looks - tedious and out of control."

A known fact about Rabee' Hamid and emphasized by one of his comrades in Al Aqsa Brigades, Fateh military wing, is that Hamid an "easy target" to be arrested or killed by (IOF). He appears in the streets all the time, attends regularly lectures at a local university. It was possible to postpone it, to save the lives of Palestinian civilians.

This reality clarifies the fact that the timing of the operation is a message to the meeting of Mubarak-Olmert. If not so, this deepens the image of Olmert as being no more than a mayor and Peretz as no more than a secretary of a labour union.

(Mohammed Mar'i is a Palestinian journalist based in Ramallah.)