Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Beit Hanoun: Israelis pull out leaving trail of death

Well done, Israel! Round them up, let’s create another massacre, another reason for all sensible-minded people world-wide to find your state’s actions morally repugnant and against any hint of taking responsibility for your racist occupation and land theft and incarceration of a whole people, who lob mostly ineffectual home made rockets and unsurprisingly resist territorial dispossession, humiliation and being treated like cattle in your warped sense of entitlement.

Long live the dignity and resilience of the Palestinians and may you wake up to your morally repugnant collective self. You have alienated us and compelled your own good people into exile, former Israeli residents like Gilad Atzmon and Tanya Reinhart.

You’ve outdone yourself Israel, truly. You take the cake.


Beit Hanoun: Israelis pull out leaving trail of death

Rory McCarthy in Beit Hanoun | The Guardian | Wednesday November 8, 2006

Hours after the Israeli military pulled out of the town of Beit Hanoun yesterday morning, Talal Nasr was at the cemetery to search for a spot to bury the body of his 13-year-old daughter. It was the first time for six days that any of the town’s residents had been allowed out of their homes, the duration of Israel’s biggest military operation in the Gaza Strip for months. The streets quickly filled and many headed out to mourn and bury their dead.

The cemetery at Beit Hanoun is small and overcrowded, and it took Mr Nasr three hours to find a space for his daughter Wala’a, the victim of an Israeli sniper’s bullet to the forehead. In the end he found a spot almost on top of a grave dug 30 years before, and he and his family filled the new hole, setting up six folded palm fronds to shade it.

Wala’a died last week in the middle of the military incursion. It was dusk and Mr Nasr, 52, was at home with his four young daughters and his sister-in-law. Through loudspeakers the Israeli military had called all men in the town between 16 and 45 to appear for questioning. Mr Nasr’s son and brother, who lived in an apartment next door, went for interrogation.

Israeli troops appeared outside the family’s house and began shouting. “They were screaming but we couldn’t understand what they were saying,” Mr Nasr said. “I asked my sister-in-law to open the window a little.” There was no electricity so the family lit a candle. “She shouted out of the window to the soldiers: ‘What do you want? Do you need anything from us?’ Suddenly the firing started.”

His sister-in-law was hit in the shoulder. Then a bullet came through the window, across the living room and into the corridor where Wala’a was standing. A pool of dark blood still lay yesterday on the spot where she died.

“We couldn’t move, we were so scared,” Mr Nasr said. “I started screaming: ‘My daughter is dead’.” They took the candle and hurried downstairs and out on to the street. There a unit of Israeli soldiers told them they believed there were militants in the building. Once the soldiers had taken Mr Nasr with them to search the house and found nothing, ambulance workers removed Wala’a’s body. Yesterday the family returned to the house for the first time.

“It was just an act of aggression,” Mr Nasr said. “They said this operation was to stop the rockets. But if I was convinced of the need for a peace process before, now I am not. And my daughters – when their sister was killed before their eyes how can you convince them of the peace process?”

Later, Wala’a’s uncle Nidal stood over her grave in the cemetery and said: “You know, the more pressure they put on the militants, the more the people stand with them.”

At least 50 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in the operation. Among the dead were civilians and militants. Fierce gun battles left large parts of the town centre in ruins, including the al-Nasr mosque, where a group of fighters were holed up last week and which had been reduced to rubble except for the minaret with its turquoise roof.

The front walls of many houses and shops had been punched through, so that living rooms and kitchens were exposed to the street. Rubble was strewn across the streets, sewage flowed thick and gardens had been ripped up by tanks.

The Israeli military said the goal of Operation Autumn Clouds had been to attack militants launching rockets into Israel. It said dozens of armed gunmen had been killed and large amounts of weaponry discovered, including rocket launchers, grenades and rifles. It said “nine rocket launching cells” were hit. “The IDF operation targets terrorist organisations and terrorist infrastructure only, while making every effort to avoid harming civilians,” it said. “The IDF continues to warn civilians to stay away from combat areas.”

Israeli troops were still operating in other parts of Gaza last night and militants continued to fire rockets into Israel.

Cost of incursion

· At least 50 Palestinians, including civilians, killed in six days of fighting.

· Among dead were two women marchers attempting to help free gunmen holed up in mosque on Friday.

· One Israeli soldier killed and another seriously injured.

· Forty homes destroyed and 400 damaged, according to Hamas mayor. Al-Nasr mosque, scene of heaviest fighting, flattened.

· Thousands of men questioned. Dozens held for interrogation.

· Large amounts of weaponry uncovered, dozens of gunmen killed and nine “rocket-launching cells” hit, according to Israeli military.

· One female suicide bomber blew herself up, injuring an Israeli soldier.

· More rockets fired into Israel yesterday and at least seven Palestinians killed in Gaza by Israeli forces.

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