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Israel Shells Palestinian Refugee Camps in Bethlehem

Increasing Violence by Israeli Settlers

Child from 'Aida Camp Shows Remains of Israeli Missiles Fired at His HomeFor the last two nights (December 3 and 4), the Palestinian town of Beit Jala and the adjacent refugee camps of 'Aida and Beit Jibrin ('Azza) have been targets of massive Israeli shooting and shelling from Israeli army positions located on the opposite hill just below Gilo settlement and next to the entrance of 'Aida refugee camp (Bilal Bin Rabbah Mosque) on the main Bethlehem-Hebron road, as well as from Israeli gunship helicopters. In the night of December 3, the Israeli attack started at approximately 8:00 p.m. and lasted for more than six hours. The densely populated refugee camps were shelled with heavy ammunition and bombs. Two LAU missiles shot from an Israeli gunship helicopter at around 1:00 a.m. hit the home of Yahya, Omar, and Jamal Da'ajneh in 'Aida camp destroying three floors and their car. Damages were caused to dozens of family homes in the two camps and to the only community center in Beit Jibrin camp. The home of Aiman al-'Azza caught fire and was completely destroyed. Six persons were injured by shrapnel, many elderly and children suffered from shock and anxiety attacks. 

The night-time raid was preceded by an attack of Israeli settlers, supported by the military, on the Palestinian village of Hussan, located south-west of Bethlehem. Some 30 Palestinians villagers were injured in this attack, seven of them seriously. According to Israeli press reports, Israeli settlers also decided to patrol the main Jerusalem-Hebron highway (Road No. 60), thus posing an additional threat to the safety of Palestinian travelers.  

Gilo settlement was established in the 1970s on lands confiscated from the Palestinian town of Beit Jala following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967. Today, the settlement houses almost 30,000 Jewish immigrants, many of them originating from the former Soviet Union. 
Residents of Beit Jibrin camp (1,500) and  'Aida camp (3,500) are Palestinian refugees evicted by Israeli forces in 1948 from their original villages (al-Malha, al-Walaje, Beit Jibrin, a.o.) located in  
the former districts of Jerusalem and Hebron. Implementation of their right of return, restitution and compensation according to UN Resolution 194 is one of the major issues yet to be resolved in a future comprehensive solution of the historical Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

In the meantime, and in response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in the 1967 occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Municipality of Bethlehem has announced the cancellation of this year's Christmas celebrations. Since 29 September, some 280 Palestinians have been killed and some 10,000 injured; the Palestinian economy, especially tourism, has collapsed as a result of Israel's repressive military and economic policies. Palestinian hopes that, this time, the international community would intervene effectively and enforce UN resolutions and international law in the region, are fading rapidly. According to Israeli press reports today, the Israeli government will reject cooperation with the US-led Commission of Investigation, approved by the 17 October Sharem Al-Sheikh Emergency Summit and headed by former US Senator George  
Mitchell, if the Commission's mandate "is based on UN resolutions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." (Voice of Israel Radio, 5 December 2000). 

For additional information and additional photographs of the recent damages in 'Aida and Beit Jibrin ('Azza) refugee camps, see Intifada2000