Middle East: The bloodiest day

46 lives were lost in one day of fighting between Palestinians and Israelis. Sharon changes his position of dialogue.

The worst day of violence since the current Intifada was launched has claimed 40 Palestinian and 6 Israeli lives. On the eve of the visit of the US special envoy to the region, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon changes his position and states that he is ready to negotiate with the Palestinians even when under fire. Previously, he had held that there would have to be a seven-day truce before negotiations could begin.

Speaking about a “terrible wave of terrorism” but omitting to mention the colonies built on lands stolen from the Palestinians, contrary to UN Directives, Ariel Sharon declared that “negotiations will take place under fire” but warned that the Israelis would continue to attack the Palestinians while attacks were launched against the state of Israel or against its colonies built on Palestinian lands.

Sharon is faced by two plans drawn up by US envoys, the tenet plan and the Mitchell plan, both of which call for a freeze on the building of colonies. Knowing that his right wing will veto any such plans, Sharon is free to pretend to be the negotiator without any real attempt at being serious.

In Friday’s confrontations, F-16 aircraft, helicopters and tanks killed 22 Palestinians in Gaza, after a Palestinian gunman opened fire on Israeli colonists at Atsmona (Southern Gaza Strip), killing 5 and wounding 20. In Cisjordan, 16 Palestinians were killed when the Israeli army invaded the refugee camp at Tulkarem.

As international journalists claim that Palestinian ambulances are coming under fire from the Israeli military, Amnesty International appeals for international observers to be sent to prevent the Israelis from committing any more crimes. An AI declaration reads: “Palestinian and Israeli children are being murdered, ambulances transporting Palestinians are targets being shot at, Palestinian houses are being destroyed and their villages and towns are surrounded by the army”.

The International Red Cross has confirmed that two Palestinian paramedics have been shot dead by Israeli troops in the last week as they attended wounded Palestinians. Furthermore, the Israeli Armed Forces is denying access of ambulances to the many wounded in Tulkarem, according to Aleksandra Matijevic, Red Cross spokesperson in Jerusalem.


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