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Palestinian Politics

Who’s in Charge Here?

By Amira Hass
January 19, 2005

The Israeli intelligence officials and those who quote them in the press are right when they say that it’s not Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority security services who are in control in the Gaza Strip. The intelligence sources and those who quote them are misleading however, when they say that armed gangs and the Hamas run Gaza. The IDF runs Gaza.

Not only according to international law, not only as far as the Oslo Accords are concerned by leaving the IDF as the supreme sovereign in all of Gaza and the West Bank, but rather in a concrete, spatial, physical manner. It controls Gaza through its fortified positions, which dominate densely populated residential areas; it controls Gaza with its airborne drones and their unceasing buzzing; the bulldozers that have not ceased demolishing, flattening, exposing, uprooting for the last four years; the helicopters that fire missiles; the military orders that turn roads and farmlands and half the coastline into areas “prohibited to Palestinians” so that any Palestinian using them ends up dead; orders that close all the passages into Gaza; the tanks that fire into civilian neighborhoods with Qassams, sorry, tank shells and other forms of munitions with a frequency that makes it impossible to count them, as opposed to the Palestinian Qassams, which fired one by one are counted one by one.

A mother and her son were killed on Sunday in a very routine affair, getting only a single line of mention in the Israeli press and immediately sinking into the depths of Israeli disinterest, where the information is buried among many hundreds of other cases of deaths of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli soldiers in recent years in the war for the peace of the settlements.

On Sunday, at 7:30 P.M., the Palestinians reported Israeli artillery fire from Gush Katif toward houses in the Khan Yunis refugee camp. A fire broke out in the wood on the roof of the Aram family, about 300 meters from an Israeli military position. Firemen were called to the scene and put out the flames. Later, the residents of the house - Suleiman Arab, 54, Fada Aram, 50, their son, Abdullah, 30, and their nephew, Khaled, 38 - went up on the roof to examine the damage. And then, says the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, IDF troops fired. The four civilians on the roof were wounded. Two bullets struck the neck and chest of the woman, Fada, who died in the hospital. Her son was killed by a bullet to his head. The father was severely wounded in his back and the nephew was wounded by shrapnel in his leg.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office did not initiate any report about this incident, as opposed to the immediate reports issued after the Palestinians shoot. The following report, from Israeli military sources, therefore is only a reaction to Palestinian information.

“An examination found that a tank shell was not fired,” said the sources, “the only two cases of shooting that are known from those hours are: one, IDF troops opened fire at suspicious figures who appeared to be preparing a mine near the fence around the Gush Katif settlements. The other case was fire at figures gathering information about IDF troops in the Khan Yunis area in an area characterized by mortar fire toward the settlements of Gush Katif and the IDF outposts in the area.”

Sderot residents, suffering under the Qassam barrages and their lethal strikes, are the victims of a deliberate IDF policy of escalation that has been in force since the first day of the current intifada. With inspiration from the political echelons, the army orders soldiers to fire live ammunition at demonstrators and stone-throwers, on the patronizing assumption that intensifying repression will cut off the civil unrest in its infancy.

The contrary took place, and the sides went into a dizzying armed competition. Who will hurt the other side more, deter more, kill more, whose vengeance will hurt more. The competition is between the Israeli army and the armed Palestinian organizations, and between the organizations. The IDF is the winner. But the residents of Sderot and the surrounding kibbutzim are the soft belly in the offensive/defensive structure the IDF built to control Gaza.

Sderot residents are experiencing, particularly in recent days, what Gazans have gone through on a daily basis for years. The bereavement, the fear, the nights without sleep, the flight from their homes - and when the Palestinians leave their homes, the IDF calls them abandoned so the demolition is justified.

Now Abu Mazen is being asked to defend the soft Israeli belly lest he be punished by a massive military offensive. Gazans are reporting a certain degree of success to the Israeli threats: apparently, the Palestinian public is hoping that the Hamas and its organized imitators will stop firing mortars. Then Abu Mazen can make demands of the Hamas without being accused of being an agent of the occupying army. But people are expecting something in exchange, that someone protect their soft belly, prevent this unending and unreported, unimportant killing of mothers and their sons. And that is exactly what Abu Mazen, the elected Palestinian president, cannot promise his voters. Because it is the IDF that controls them, and him.

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Palestinian Liberation Organization

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