From email@example.com Wed Apr 17 18:30:09 2002
Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2002 22:41:16 -0500 (CDT)
From: NY Transfer News <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: The Jenin Massacre of 2002
source - Mid-East Realities (MER)
via Bill Koehnlein <email@example.com>
A fortnight ago, before Israeli forces invaded, this was a crowded, bustling place. The narrow alleys between the cinderblock homes -- spanning barely the width of outstretched arms -- were packed with children.
Yesterday, the Hart al-Hawashin neighbourhood, the heart of the Jenin refugee camp, was a silent wasteland, permeated with the stench of rotting corpses and cordite. The evidence of lives interrupted was everywhere. Plates of food sat in refrigerators in houses sheared in half by Israeli bulldozers. Pages from children's exercise books fluttered in the breeze.
In a ruined house, the charred corpse of a gunman wearing the green bandana of Hamas lay where it fell, beside his ammunition belt. Electric cables snaked through the ruins.
Alleys leading off the square deepened the image of wanton destruction: entire sides of buildings gouged out, stripped out to the kitchen tiles like discarded dolls' houses. The scale is almost beyond imagination: a vast expanse of rubble and mangled iron rods, surrounded by the gaping carcasses of shattered homes.
Yesterday the first definitive accounts of the battle of Jenin began to emerge as journalists broke through the Israeli cordon and gained access to the heart of the refugee camp. Palestinians describe a systematic campaign of destruction, with the Israeli army ploughing through occupied homes to broaden the alleys of the camp and make them accessible to tanks and vehicles.
But they also say the demolition campaign increased dramatically in
the last two days of the battle for Jenin, with Israeli bulldozers
exacting harsh retribution for the killing of 13 Israeli soldiers last
When the soldiers were killed, the Israelis became more
aggressive, said Ali Damaj, who lives on the eastern edge of the
In one night, I counted 71 missiles from a helicopter.
For the Palestinians, the battle for the Jenin refugee camp has become a legend. Before the last of the militants surrendered last Wednesday, the camp saw the bloodiest fighting of Israel's offensive on West Bank towns. The brutal close-quarters combat claimed the lives of 23 Israeli soldiers, and an unknown number of Palestinians, civilians as well as fighters.
Palestinians accuse Israel of a massacre, and there are convincing accounts from local people of the occasional summary execution. However, there are no reliable figures for Palestinian dead and injured. The Red Cross carried away seven bodies yesterday, but the smell of rotting corpses remained.
The soldiers had a map with them of the houses they wanted
bulldozed, and outlined them with a blue marker, said Aisha Salah,
whose house overlooks the field of destruction.
You could see the
houses, you could see the trees. It was a very detailed map. I could
even find my own home.
Ms Salah's home was occupied by Israeli soldiers who entered her
living room by punching a hole through the neighbour's wall. Before
they withdrew, one of the soldiers wrote a message on the wall in neat
I don't have another land.
A week ago, one of the Israeli soldiers bedded down in Ms Salah's house was shot in the face by a Palestinian sniper as he stood at the window. Two days later, 13 Israeli soldiers were lured to their deaths in a nearby alley by a series of booby trap explosives, and then picked off by Palestinian gunmen.
When there was resistance, especially after the 13 soldiers were
killed, I could see a lot more squares on the map, said Ms Salah.
The systematic bulldozing of Palestinian homes began four days after Israeli forces blasted their way into the camp on the night of April 3, strafing houses from helicopter gunships, and pounding them with tank shells. Several civilians were killed in the initial assault, including Afif al-Dasuki. An elderly woman, who lived alone, she was evidently too slow when the Israeli soldiers pounded on her door and asked her to open up. Her neighbours discovered her body a week after her death, by the smell of decomposition, huddled behind the yellow-painted steel door, with the large hole in the middle.
Four days later, the army razed six houses in the Damaj neighbourhood
on its eastern edges. They began with the house of Fatima Abu Tak,
flattening homes on both sides of the street,
When I saw the house
of Ahmed Goraj collapse, there was a tremendous amount of smoke and
dust. I never expected that the bulldozers would continue moving. I
was in a state of shock, said Mr Damaj, who fled to a neighbour's
when his own home became dangerously unstable.
A few hours later, soldiers entered the camp on foot, shooting their way between the cinderblock homes in groups of 15 or 20.
Israeli soldiers injured in Jenin describe this as the most
nerve-wracking part of the battle.
They booby trapped every
centimetre. In one metre you would find 20 small booby traps or a big
balloon attached with a wire. Every metre was very dangerous, said
Dori Scheuer, who was shot in the stomach by a Palestinian gunman a
week ago on Monday.
It was much more dangerous for us than it was
for them because they knew the territory.
People in the camp say the capability of their fighters did not run much beyond pipe bombs packed with homemade explosives. However, the fighters were organised.
Palestinians admit the camp was liberally mined two or three days before the assault. But the strategy failed because Israel had no compunction about razing homes to make roads for its tanks.
The thing we did not count on was the bulldozer. It was a
catastrophe. If the Israelis had only gone one by one inside the camp,
they would never have succeeded in entering, said Mr Damaj.
After the 13 soldiers were killed, Israel appears to have abandoned foot patrols. Instead, the army began knocking houses down indiscriminately, creating a vast plaza of rubble in the centre of the camp, a crossroads for the Israeli tanks.
They just started demolishing with the people inside, said
Hania al-Kabia, a mother of six whose flat is on the edge of the lunar
I used to hear them on the loudspeaker saying come out,
come out. Then they stopped doing that, but they went on