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Another round of madness in Gaza

Another round of madness in Gaza & a protest in Tel-Aviv

Some days of Sharon babbling about withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, and we are once more in the middle of a cycle of bloodshed; 14 Gazans killed by the Israeli army; many more wounded; no Israeli casualties whatsoever; the cries for revenge already in the air.

It began with a prominent morning radio news item: "Large IDF forces are operating at the Sajaiyah Neighborhood of Gaza City as well as at Rafah on the Egyptian border". In official communiques, as broadcast verbatim by the Kol Yisrael state radio, the army never attacks, or invades, or raids a Palestinian city, it is simply "Operating". At 10.00 AM the radio mentioned that nine Palestinians had been killed so far, and according to unnamed "security sources" this was not yet all: "Our forces will continue the operation until the objectives have been met."

After ten, the Gaza developments disappeared almost from the radio, to make place for extensive coverage of an earthquake which hit Israel. Not a particularly severe one but apparently much more newsworthy than another raid in Gaza. But still the death toll mounted in Gaza, as those who anxiously searched the internet found out. At two o'clock thirteen dead. By then, hasty phone consultations reached the conclusion of mobilizing an emergency protest. "It must be already today; there must be an immediate response."

At six, we were for the umpteenth time on the dreary parking lot opposite the Defence Ministry gates, on Tel-Aviv's Kaplan Street. The Gush Shalom two-flag signs were supplemented with specific signs written on the spot on the backs of posters from an artistic performance. "Stop the killing! Stop the madness!" - "Killing in Gaza today, killing in Israel tomorrow!" - "13 dead - why?" - "Stop the war crimes!" - "Sharon is inviting suicide bombings!" - "Soldiers, stop killing!" - "Stop the murder of Palestinians!" - "13 dead in Gaza, 13 unilateral steps!" (A participant who listened to the latest news pointed out that the number 13 was already outdated.)

The Gush Shalom hard-core were joined by former Knesset Member Tamar Gozanski, as well as by a contingent of young anarchists. A pensioner from Be'er Sheva in the Negev saw the email alert and embarked immediately on the train to Tel-Aviv, to join the protest. There were some discussions with passing motorists. "Why are you only talking about the murder of Palestinians." But most of the passers-by seemed more or less to understand that maybe it's not the leftists who are crazy; that Sharon is actually zigzagging in a very dangerous way. "Don't listen to what Sharon is saying; watch what his hands are doing" was the typical comment of Uri Avnery.

The measurable result of the frantic organizing: on the Ha'aretz site the gloomy news from Gaza was interrupted with the following one-liner:

22:14 (in Hebrew:) òúé"í: òùøåú ôòéìé ``âåù ùìåí`` äôâéðå îåì îùøã äáéèçåï áîçàä òì äôòåìä áòæä. ðùàå ùìèéí òí äëúåáåú ``ãé ìäøâ äîèåøó`` å``ùøåï ôåùò îìçîä``

22:33 (in English:) Dozens of Gush Shalom activists demonstrate outside Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv to protest Gaza raids [Photos of the protest on the Gush Shalom website soon.]

Here follows the Ha'aretz report on this bloody day:

for Hebrew: ontrassID=0&sbSubContrassID=0

IDF troops kill 14 Palestinians in Gaza By Haaretz Service and Agencies Hamas vowed revenge Wednesday after at least 14 Palestinians, including 10 militants, were killed by the Israel Defense Forces, in two separate incidents in the Gaza Strip. In a neighborhood at the eastern edge of Gaza City, 12 Palestinians were killed and at least 50 wounded in an exchange of fire with IDF soldiers. In Rafah, two men were killed in an operation aimed at demolishing tunnels used by Palestinians to smuggle arms over the border from Egypt.

Also Wednesday, Palestinians fired two mortar shells at the Gaza settlement of Karni and eight Qassam rockets at Israeli territory, Israel Radio reported. There were no injuries.

The fighting in Gaza City erupted before dawn and continued for several hours. By early afternoon, the troops pulled out, the army and witnesses said.

During the fighting, dozens of youths stood in the streets watching the battle as gunfire whizzed by. Masked gunmen took up positions in front of a building and ordered civilians out of the area. At one point, a gunman picked up a young schoolboy by his backpack and whisked him out of the battle zone.

Later in the day, the army blew up the house of a Hamas militant who was killed and sent tanks into Gaza City.

The dead Palestinians included 10 militants, Palestinian sources said.

They included Mohammed Hilles, 18, the son of Ahmed Hilles, the top leader of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction in Gaza, and senior Hamas activist Hani Abu Skhaila, who was suspected of involvement in the October 2003 attack on a convoy carrying U.S. diplomats in Gaza in which three American security guards were killed.

Hamas said Abu Skhaila had survived two previous Israeli attempts to kill him, including a missile strike on his car last June, in which he suffered shrapnel wounds.

Hamas, which called Abu Skhaila "the great brave hero," said he had participated in several deadly attacks on Israelis, including a suicide bombing last month that killed four people at the Erez border checkpoint.

At least nine of the wounded were in critical condition, doctors said. The wounded included at least three youths who were hit as they watched the battle from side streets, witnesses and doctors said.

In a statement, Hamas' militant wing called on all of its cells to carry out "huge martyrdom operations."

Thousands of people participated in funeral prayers later in the day. Masked men in military uniforms carried bodies on stretchers, while others fired machine guns into the air.

"God willing, our retaliation will be soon and [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon should prepare plastic bags to collect the remains of his soldiers," said one of the gunmen.

The IDF said it had entered Gaza City to search for militants who fired rockets at nearby settlements. It said the fighting broke out after anti-tank missiles were fired at Israeli tanks.

"There was great resistance by armed cells in a very densely populated area," said Col. Yoel Strick, a division commander in the Gaza Strip. He said everyone who was killed was a militant.

Strick said that troops shot and killed gunmen in a house. Searching the house later, troops found an explosives belt of the type worn by suicide bombers and other weapons. Soldiers arrested the family living in the house and blew up the building.

There were no Israeli casualties in the fighting, Strick said. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, forces also carried out arrest operations in the northern Gaza Strip against militants suspected of planting roadside bombs and firing mortar shells into nearby Israeli towns.

During the course of the operation, an anti-tank rocket was fired at troops, but no injuries were reported.

-- (òáøéú/Hebrew) (English) (selected articles in Arabic)

with \\photos of recent actions \\the weekly Gush Shalom ad \\the columns of Uri Avnery \\Gush Shalom's history & action chronicle \\position papers & analysis (in "documents") \\and a lot more

N.B.: On the Gush Shalom website links for Articles and documents in German, French and Spanish

In order to receive Gush Shalom's Hebrew-language press releases mail to: + NB: write the word "subscribe" in the subject line.

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