Tuesday, April 23, 2002
In the meantime, Angie Schultz emailed earlier today:
Just now, on the BBC, Chris Patten says, "We believe Israel's response is not proportionate..." This was BBC World on TV, where he was interviewed at a conference in Valencia, where Arab nations walked out in protest that that Nobel-prize-thief Peres dared to show his face.
BBC's web site has a story about this, but it's very short and does not mention Patten.
I'd love to have the documentation in the form of a transcript from the BBC, but in my experience Angie is far more accurate than that organization anyway. So I have just emailed Chris Patten's office, the European Commission's external affairs office. I expect to hear back any day.
So, to help with the recap, I plan to maintain a daily tally of responses, time since question was submitted, etc.:
Voicer of "disproportionate" complaint....................Time since my email
Peter Hansen (UNRWA)...........................................................1.25 days
Bill Graham (Canada Foreign Minister).................................1.25 days
Francine Lalonde (Bloc Quebecois foreign policy critic)....1.25 days
Chris Patten (EU Commissioner, External Affairs)..............1 minute
A senior member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad who surrendered to Israeli forces in Jenin described the battle as "a very hard fight" in which both sides took on casualties, but he said he didn't see "tens of people" killed by the Israeli army.
Mardawi said he and other Palestinian fighters had expected Israel to attack with planes and tanks. He spoke enthusiastically about Israel's decision to send in infantry.
"It was like hunting ... like being given a prize. I couldn't believe it when I saw the soldiers," he said. "The Israelis knew that any soldier who went into the camp like that was going to get killed."
He added: "I've been waiting for a moment like that for years."
Israel Defense Forces spokesmen have said that the decision to use infantry to spearhead the attack – rather than using air power and artillery – stemmed from a desire to limit civilian casualties, even at the risk of higher IDF casualties.
The decision to take the crowded refugee camp – with its narrow streets and alleyways – block by block did prove costly to the Israeli forces. In the worst single incident, Palestinian gunmen ambushed an Israeli unit on April 9 and killed 13 reservists and troops sent to rescue them.
Mardawi drew a map of the camp and talked about the course of the battle. Their weapons were guns and crudely made bombs and booby traps -- "big ones" for tanks and "others the size of a water bottle." He estimated 1,000 to 2,000 bombs and booby traps were spread through the camp.
"It was a very hard fight. We fought at close quarters," he said, "sometimes just a matter of a few meters between us, sometimes even in the same house."
He said there were about 100 Palestinians in the battle -- 60 to 70 fighters from the camp and 20-30 members of the Palestinian security forces.
That figure is not so different from what Israel has said. The Israel Defense Forces has said as many as 200 fighters were in the camp but that about 100 surrendered during the fighting.
Asked about the allegations of a massacre, Mardawi said, "By my own standard, what happened there was a massacre. But if you are asking, 'Did I see tens of people killed?' Frankly, no. In my group, we were in an area with no other people. Three fighters with me were killed. Later when we started to move from place to place, we saw destroyed houses and could smell bodies."
Abu Mujahed said the group had survived the West Bank incursion and was planning for more war, but had decided to change tactics out of regrets about civilian casualties and concerns that continued attacks in restaurants, buses and clubs risked turning public opinion against the cause of a free Palestinian state.
"I am sorry for all the civilians that died in this intifada, both Israelis and Palestinians," he said. "I want to fight whoever is in charge of the government of Israel, not civilians."
[Indeed. Maybe I've been all wrong. Perhaps in Arabic culture, dancing in the streets upon the announcement of a successful bombing attack on women and children is actually a ritual of mourning. And the distribution of candy is a mark of sweetness to offset deep sorrow.]
Of course, as an Israeli official noted in response, "the statements could be a ploy by a group that has been hobbled by Israel's military campaign and needed a public excuse for decreased activity."
Q: There are dead people in the camps and elsewhere who have not been buried until now. Would you appeal to the religious leadership of the world to exert pressure on Israel to allow at least the dead to be buried in decency. Second question, your people have entered Ramallah. Could you tell us about the situation of the presidential compound first hand, and how are President Arafat and the people surrounding him.
Q: What is your opinion about the UN Commission on Human Rights considering sending an observer team out to the territories. Do you think that can be helpful, that they will actually be able to get through to observe anything? And secondly, apparently the Israeli public, in terms of opinion polls, has increased Sharon's ratings this month over last month. I find that quite appalling considering everything that is happening.
Q: Israel's public opinion is apparently supporting Mr. Sharon's moves against the Palestinians, this onslaught, which we have not seen a precedent to since 1982.
Q: Sir, would you remind us how long UNRWA has been in existence and, in your experience and opinion, who must be responsible for the continued presence of these refugees locked up in these camps, and why have the world community, or the Arab and Muslim community, or just the Israelis, waited this long for this violence to solve the problem. And a quick second question. It is alleged that several ambulances of Palestinians had been found to contain hidden bombs or soldiers. Do you know if that is true, and approximately how many were might have been?
Unfortunately, the one question to which Peter Hansen did not respond was the "quick second question" about bombs in Palestinian ambulances.