Mofaz to Destroy Palestinian Refugee Camp

Al-Jazeera TV website.  Saturday, 6 April 2002, 10:30 G.M.T.

[translated by Eric Mueller]

An al-Jazeera correspondent in Palestine has reported that the Israeli Chief of Staff, General Shaul Mofaz, is personally leading the operation to destroy Jenin refugee camp after two days of failed Israeli attempts to storm the camp. He adds that the commander of the brigade who had been in charge of the operation has been relieved of his command and Mofaz is personally in charge of the operation to destroy the camp over the heads of its residents.

Residents of the camp whom al-Jazeera was able to contact say that the Israeli chief of staff who is leading the operation from a helicopter in the air gave orders to his forces to intensify the bombardment from helicopters, tanks, and heavy artillery on the houses and positions in which the resistance fighters are taking cover and on anything that moves in the camps. Residents add that bodies are strewn throughout the streets and that their numbers can’t be counted because of the intensity of the shelling. Meanwhile this morning six bodies were discovered, three of which belong to Palestine Security Force men.

Senior Palestinian Negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has announced that all means of communication with President Yasir Arafat, who is besieged in his headquarters in Ramallah, have been cut off since dawn this morning. Erekat said on the American news network CNN from Ariha [Jericho] that this morning he had failed to make contact with Arafat.

An al-Jazeera correspondent in Palestine reports that explosions and gunfire can be heard near the headquarters of the Palestinian President as Israeli helicopters hover in the area. This was shortly after Israel cut the electricity off from the President’s headquarters. Palestinians say that these explosions might be the prelude to an assault on the headquarters that has been surrounded by Israeli tanks.

The Palestine News Agency (Wafa) quotes security sources as saying that the Headquarters of the Presidency in the city of Ramallah this morning came under sporadic heavy machine gun fire from Israeli occupation tanks concentrated near the headquarters. Grenades were also used.

Invasions of New Areas

Two Palestinians died as martyrs and seven others were wounded today as the Palestinian resistance stood up to the Israeli occupation forces that were storming the town of Yata, south of al-Khalil [Hebron]. Israeli infantry units supported by tanks this morning entered the town of Yata where battles are still continuing between occupation force and the Palestinian resistance.

Occupation forces also stormed al-Fawwar refugee camp south of al-Khalil [Hebron] and the town of `Atil in the Tulkarm region, and the town of Qabatiya in the area of Jenin. Palestinian security sources said that the occupation army this morning, Saturday, entered Qabatiya, located 10 kilometers south of Jenin.

The Resistance Continues

In the cities of Jenin and Nablus and their adjoining refugee camps – where the number of martyred dead since yesterday has risen to 36, including a child – the Palestinian resistance fighters have defied death in their resistance to the occupation forces. Israeli helicopters and tanks have intensified their bombardment of the two cities and camps. A correspondent for al-Jazeera in Palestine says that there are numerous wounded people who are bleeding to death without medical assistance in the camps of Jenin and `Askar and the old town in Nablus. He said that columns of tanks are massed at the entrance to the city of Jenin in preparation for an assault.

The correspondent explained that the occupation forces are carrying out an operation of systematic destruction of Jenin camp that is surrounded on all sides. Fifteen houses have been destroyed with everyone inside. The Palestinian resistance announced a guerrilla operation carried out yesterday by a Palestinian among a group of Israeli soldiers inside a house in Jenin. Palestinian security officials said that the leader of the al-Aqsa Martys Brigades in the West Bank, Nasir `Uways, died a martyr in a commando operation in the city of Nablus when he blew himself up among a group of occupation troops in the Ras al-`Ayn area.

Three Israeli soldiers were killed and more than ten injured, one of them in grave condition, in Palestinian guerrilla attacks in Nablus, Jenin, and the adjacent camps. In an appeal he broadcast over al-Jazeera network, Palestinian Minister of Information, Yasir Abd Rabbuh warned of a massacre in Jenin refugee camp in the next few hours as more than fifty Israeli tanks have surrounded the camp.

In Bethlehem the occupation forces have maintained their grip on the city despite their declaration that the curfew had been partially lifted. The blockade that the occupation forces have imposed on the Church of the Nativity is still in force. Inside, food and medical supplies have been exhausted for the more than 200 people besieged in the building. As many foreign countries have evacuated their nationals from Bethlehem in fear for their safety, occupation forces are targeting ambulance crews who have as a result failed to reach the wounded Palestinians to take them to hospitals.

Christian sources expressed their fear that the Israeli forces would try to legalize an attack, which appears imminent, on the church by claiming that the monks inside are being held as hostages.

Attack on a Jewish Settlement

In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian died a martyr in a violent battle that erupted inside the Rafih Jewish settlement that is next to the city of Rafah. A correspondent for al-Jazeera in the Gaza Strip reports on the authority of eyewitnesses that a number of Palestinians infiltrated into the settlement and battled with Israeli forces inside. Four Israelis were wounded during the battle.

The Islamic Jihad Movement announced its responsibility for the operation over loudspeakers in the streets of Rafah. Palestinian security sources said that Israeli tanks opened fire on the Tell Sultan area in Rafah inflicting damage on a number of buildings.

Powell – Arafat Meeting

In another development, Saeb Erekat, Senior Palestinian Negotiator, has repeated today in an interview with al-Jazeera that Palestinian officials will refuse to meet with American Secretary of State Colin Powell if he refuses to meet with the Palestinian President Yasir Arafat during his trip to the Middle East, which is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

Erekat said, “If he does that, Powell will cause the failure of his trip before it even starts.” But Erekat believes that Powell will meet Arafat “because he knows full well that the Palestinian President is the address of the Palestinian people and the key to any solution of the crisis.”

A spokesman for the American President, Ari Fleischer, said yesterday that Powell had not yet decided whether he would meet Arafat during his trip. After meeting the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Marwan al-Ma`shar in Washington, Powell said in response to a question about Fleischer’s statement that there are no plans at the moment for a meeting of this kind, but that does not mean that it would not take place at an appropriate time.

Powell said that Israel must withdraw its military forces from the Palestinian territories quickly and without delay. Powell told journalists that President George Bush expects that the Israeli incursions would stop in the shortest possible time and that the withdrawal of forces would begin without delay.

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