The Israeli ‘withdrawal’ – only partially true

Israeli military forces and media have announced that the Israeli troops have withdrawn from the Palestinian towns of Tulkaram and Qalqiliya. This is only partially true – they have withdrawn from the town centers, but remain in complete control of the towns with a ring of tanks and other armed vehicles around them. People in Qalqiliya and Tulkaram remain isolated from the surrounding villages and towns, and no one is able to leave the cities.

As the governor of Qalqiliya, Mustafa Malki said, “this whole Israeli move is an empty political manoeuvre in response to the statement of President Bush, and because Colin Powell will come to visit the area next week”.

Qalqiliya has been destroyed with sustained attacks on the infrastructure and buildings; electricity poles have been torn down, houses have come under heavy fire from tanks and helicopters, and the water pipes and sewerage networks have been destroyed. Mr. Malki estimates that about 100 people have been detained or arrested from among the numerous men rounded up and held during the invasion. The lack of water poses a serious problem; food shortage is not yet an issue as the people were able to stock up prior to the invasion – however if the siege is not lifted and access to other towns and villages permitted soon, shortages will become a problem.

The same situation has been revealed in Tulkaram with the moving back of the troops to positions surrounding the city. Izz Ad-Din Al Sharief pointed out that the tanks and Israeli troops are still surrounding the city – hardly a withdrawal. In his view “the whole so-called withdrawal from Qalqiliya and Tulkaram is merely a charade – the Israeli government and army are using this to cover up the most terrible crimes that they are carrying out in Jenin and Nablus as we speak. These attacks are barbaric and have to stop immediately”.

This is a reoccurring sentiment in Palestinian society – the false withdrawal is being pointed to whenever the attacks on Jenin and Nablus are mentioned.

Furthermore, according to Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, this also provides the Israeli army with an opportunity to expand further their operations and invasions; numerous villages have been invaded, such as Doura near Hebron, and Aboun and Arruara, both near Ramallah.

The attack on Doura came at 3AM today, when approximately 50 Israeli tanks attacked and entered the village, killing three Palestinians. Two of the three killed, Aaref Muhammaed Sa’ed Ahmad and his cousin Na’ir Sa’ed Ahmad were both shot and wounded, but medical staff were prevented access to them until 11:30AM – by which time they had both bled to death. Houses were entered and searched, doors blown up, people detained without reason – the same things that have occurred for the past 11 days as Israel has systematically assaulted the towns and cities of the West Bank.

The situation in the Jenin refugee camp and the city of Nablus are currently indescribable. A doctor from Nablus tells how he has received numerous phone calls from residents who are trying to prevent dogs from eating the corpse of Muhammad Abu Khatib, a 40 year old man whose body has lain in the streets since the 3rd of April; medical teams are prevented to reach him and many others.

In Hawwara, near Nablus, Israeli soldiers shot dead Samir Wakat after he was released from Israeli detention. This is the second instance of a detainee being shot after release.

More than ever before it is becoming obvious that the cause of all violence and the problems in the Middle East is the continuing illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The only way to achieve peace is through the full Israeli withdrawal from all the areas occupied by Israel in 1967 – and not just the most recently re-occupied towns and cities.