Israel Continues its War on Palestinian Civilians

Update (8 March, 10:30 a.m.):

Military Attack and Invasion in the Bethlehem Area: Irtas and al-Khader villages; towns of al-Doha, Beit Sahour, Bethlehem, Beit Jala; Aida, Azza, and Deheishe refugee camps

In the early morning hours of 8 March, Israeli F-16 bombers attacked the Bethlehem police and security compound for the third consecutive day. These bombing attacks have resulted in massive damage to Palestinian homes, shops, schools, and public institutions within a radius of 500 meters from the declared target. The F-16 attack was followed by heavy shooting from Israeli tanks and gun-ship helicopters, which lasted until 6 o’clock in the morning. No Palestinian shooting occurred before or during the Israeli attack.

The current Israel invasion of the Bethlehem area began with tank incursions from the southern (Irtas, al-Khader, al-Doha), eastern (Beit Sahour), and northern (Jerusalem) borders of the district, where the Israeli army took up positions in strategic locations, many of them in private Palestinian homes. The tank incursion was accompanied by heavy shelling and shooting from gunship helicopters, which have so far resulted in three Palestinian deaths and at least 12 injuries, especially in the refugee camps of Aida and Deheishe. The Palestinians killed are: Suleiman Al-Dibbs (37) and Ibrahim Al-‘Araj (24) from Aida refugee camp, and Sa’ed Al-S’oud ‘Id (17) from Deheishe refugee camp, all of them shot by helicopter fire. Among the persons seriously injured is also the secretary of BADIL’s Board, Mr. Adanan Ajarmeh, a resident of Aida camp employed at the al-Moqassed Hospital in Jerusalem, who sustained chest injuries from helicopter fire.

Since the morning hours, the Israeli assault has focused on Aida refugee camp in the northern part of the Bethlehem district. Israeli ground forces have launched house-to-house searches following the model of the recent attack on the refugee camps of the northern West Bank (Balata, Jenin, Nur Shams, Tulkarem). Israeli soldiers took up position in the camp’s school operated by UNRWA and in several private homes, and are causing major damage to civilian homes and properties. Deheishe refugee camp located in the southern part of the district is encircled by tanks, however ground forces have not yet entered the camp.

The Israeli government already declared that it will continue the massive military assault on the Palestinian people, irrespective of the half-hearted international protests and diplomatic efforts to stop the current escalation. The latter includes yesterday’s decision by the US administration to renew the mission of General Tony Zinni to bring about a cease-fire based on the Tenet-Mitchell plan which has been proven ineffective since the summer of 2001.