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From owner-imap@chumbly.math.missouri.edu Tue Jul 23 13:30:15 2002
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 22:59:58 -0500 (CDT)
From: axeoxala@aol.com
Subject: [toeslist] How they bulldozed Jenin
Article: 142595
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

How they bulldozed Jenin

By Asma Rashid, DAWN (Pakistan),
28 June 2002

On May 31, Israel's widely circulated newspaper Yediot Aharonot published a chilling account of what actually happened in Jenin after it was stormed by Israeli air and ground forces last April.

It described how an army reservist Moshe Nissim - a frustrated, drunken, fanatic football fan and a habitual troublemaker - was told to drive a 60 ton armoured demolition bulldozer, with only two hours' training, straight into the congested Jenin refugee camp, where more than half of its residents were under 18 years of age.

The funny bit is, he told Aharonot, I didn't even know how to operate the D-9. I have never been an operator. But I begged them to give me a chance to learn.

Before we went into Shekhem (Nablus), I asked some of the guys to teach me. They sat with me for two hours. They taught me how to drive forward and make a flat surface.

This is what happened in Jenin as well. I have never demolished a house before, or even a wall. I got into the D-9 with a friend of mine, a Yemenite.

In the Jenin refugee camp, he was called, over the military radio Kurdi Bear - 'Kurdi' because this was the name he insisted upon and 'Bear' after the D-9 he was driving. He tied a flag of his home football team on his bulldozer vowing to turn the camp into a stadium.

The moment I drove the bulldozer into the camp, something switched in my head. I went mad. All the desperation, caused by my personal condition, just vanished at once. All that remained was the anger over what had happened to our guys. Till now I am convinced, and so are the rest of us, that if we were let into the camp earlier with all our might, twenty four soldiers would not have been killed in this camp.

His first mission was 'to open a track inside the camp' to bring food supplies for the Israeli soldiers. What is 'opening a track'? he asks and explains: You erase buildings on both sides. There is no other choice, because the bulldozer was much wider than their alleys. But I am not looking for excuses or anything. You must 'shave' them. I didn't give a damn about demolishing their houses, because it saved the lives of our soldiers....

I had no mercy for anybody. I would erase anyone with the D-9, just so that our soldiers won't expose themselves to danger. This is why I didn't give a damn about demolishing all the houses I've demolished - and I have demolished plenty....

He filled the bulldozer till the roof, and drove it right up to the door of their post so that they would not have to take even one step outside their shelter and expose themselves to harm. You could not tell where the charges were. They (the Palestinian fighters) dug holes in the ground and planted charges....

But they posed no danger to him. Even 80 kilos of explosives only rattled the bulldozer's blade. It weighs three and a half tons. It's a monster. I was willing to do with my bulldozer anything they would ask for. I begged for work. 'Let me finish another house, open another track,'I would say.

Do you know how I held out for 75 hours? I didn't get off the bulldozer. I had no problem of fatigue, because I drank whisky all the time. I had a bottle in the bulldozer at all times. I had put them in my bag in advance. Everybody else took clothes, but I knew what was waiting for me there, so I took whisky and something to munch on. Clothes? Didn't need any. A towel was enough....

Difficult? No way. You must be kidding. I wanted to destroy everything. I begged the officers, over the radio, to let me knock it all down; from top to bottom. To level everything. It's not as if I wanted to kill. Just the houses. We didn't harm those who came out of the houses we had started to demolish, waving white flags. We screwed just those who wanted to fight.

No one refused an order to knock down a house. No such thing. When I was told to bring down a house, I took the opportunity to bring down some more houses; not because I wanted to - but because when you are asked to demolish a house, some other houses usually obscure it, so there is no other way. I would have to do it even if I didn't want to. They just stood in the way....

For three days, I just destroyed and destroyed. The whole area. Any house that they fired from came down. And to knock it down, I tore down some more. They were warned by loudspeaker to get out of the house before I come, but I gave no one a chance. I didn't wait. I didn't give one blow, and wait for them to come out. I would just ram the house with full power, to bring it down as fast as possible. I wanted to get to the other houses. To get as many as possible. Others may have restrained themselves, or so they say. Who are they kidding? Anyone who was there, and saw our soldiers in the houses, would understand they were in a death trap. I thought about saving them. I didn't give a damn about the Palestinians, but I didn't just ruin with no reason. It was all under orders.

Many people were inside the houses we sought to demolish. They would come out of the houses we were working on. I didn't see, with my own eyes, people dying under the blade of the D-9. and I didn't see house falling down on live people. But if there were any, I wouldn't care at all. I am sure people died inside these houses, but it was difficult to see, there was lots of dust everywhere, and we worked a lot at night. I found joy with every house that came down, because I knew they didn't mind dying, but they cared for their homes. If you knocked down a house, you buried 40 or 50 people for generations. If I am sorry for anything, it is for not tearing the whole camp down....

I had plenty of satisfaction. I really enjoyed it. I remember pulling down a wall of a four-story building. We would go for the sides of the buildings, and then ram them. If the job was too hard, we would ask for a tank shell.... On Sunday (April 14), after the fighting was over, we got orders to pull our D-9s out of the area and stop working on our 'football stadium', because the army didn't want the cameras and the press to see us working. I was really upset, because I had plans to knock down the big sign at the entrance of Jenin - three poles with a picture of Arafat. But on Sunday, they pulled us away before I had time to do it.

I had lots of satisfaction in Jenin, lots of satisfaction. It was like getting all the 18 years of doing nothing - into three days. The soldiers came up to me and said: 'Kurdi, thanks a lot. Thanks a lot'.

No one expressed any reservations against doing it. Not only me. Who would dare speak? If anyone would as much as open his mouth, I would have buried him under the D-9. This is the reason I didn't mind seeing the hundred by hundred we've flattened. As far as I am concerned, I left them with a football stadium, so they can play. This was our gift to the camp....

After the publication of the story - and in spite of it - the unit to which the man belongs received from the army command an official citation for outstanding service.

When after a three-week total news blackout, the UN and International Red Cross officials were allowed to enter Jenin, they were appalled by the sight of the devastated camp. Pictures of a vast grey wasteland that only days before was home to thousands of Palestinian refugees sent shock waves around the world and the UN Security Council was forced to pass a unanimous resolution on April 20 asking the secretary-general to dispatch a fact-finding commission. But though Israel had initially acquiesced to the inquiry, it refused to allow the commission to enter Jenin, and on May 4, Kofi Annan who as late as on April 29 had expressed his resolution to proceed with the inquiry, quietly dissolved the commission, apparently under strong American pressure.

Since then Israeli forces have vandalized again and again the ruined, bleeding camp, with the world community looking the other way. America's reluctance to allow an inquiry mission into Jenin is understandable as it could evoke certain ugly memories of the 1991 Gulf War. As revealed months after the war ended, the US Army division that broke through Iraqi defensive frontline on the second day of the ground offensive, had used ploughs mounted on tanks and combat earth removers to bury thousands of Iraqi soldiers - some still alive and firing their weapons - in more than 70 miles of trenches. After the first wave of bulldozers had incapacitated the Iraqi defenders, a second wave filled the trenches with sand, ensuring that none of the wounded could survive.

However, it has not inhibited the US from carrying out some discreet fact-finding on its own with an eye to the next mass air and ground offensive it proposes to launch against Iraq. According to a special report published by WorldTribune.com dated June 6, the US marine Corps and Israeli military commanders are studying the capture of the Palestinian refugee camp outside the West Bank city of Jenin. The Marines - struggling to reduce casualties in urban warfare simulations - want to learn from the Israeli experience in urban warfare and the recent massive search-and-destroy operations for the Palestinian freedom fighters in West Bank.

Lt. Col. Dave Booth who oversees the Marine Corps-Israeli defence force exchanges told the US Marine Corps Times: We're interested in what they are developing, especially since Sept. 11. We're interested in their past experience in fighting terrorism. So there's a lot of things we could learn from them. The weekly said the marine war fighting laboratory plans to revise the corps' urban warfare doctrine after an examination of Israeli tactics. This includes adapting Israeli methods in the deployment of air and armour in urban areas. According to the report, America also sent a delegation from the joint chiefs of staff last month to review Operation Defensive Shield, the term used for the month-long offensive against the Palestinians.