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Palestinians Parade Israeli Soldiers’ Remains
DEBKAfile Special Analysis
May 11, 2004, 11:00 PM (GMT+02:00)
Six Israeli counter-terror troops perish in fireball over Gaza
Six Israeli members of the Givati infantry brigade’s engineers platoon were killed Tuesday, May 11 when their armored personnel carrier was blown up by a roadside bomb at the end of an operation to demolish rockets and arms manufacturing facilities in Gaza City’s Zeitoun district. The bomb detonated the 130 kilos of explosives in the Israeli vehicle.
Masked Islamic Jihad and Hamas gunmen snatched the fragmented bodies, paraded them through Gaza streets, firing off victory salvos, and then announced they were open for negotiation for their return. Israeli troop reinforcements thereupon streamed into the city and began house to house searches for their comrades’ remains, announcing they would stay until they were recovered. The Red Cross was instructed to demand the bodies of the fallen men.
The atrocity Israel and its servicemen confronted that day in Gaza City cannot be divorced from previous deadly events:
1. After four Americans were lynched and mutilated in the Iraqi Sunni Triangle town of Fallujah on March 31, the US Marines backed off and withdrew to siege positions on the city’s perimeter without taking custody of the killers. The Baathists and al Qaeda forces left unscathed chalked up a victory that gave the rest of the Middle East an example of how to get away with vicious atrocities.
2. Another example came from the Palestinians themselves. They have still not brought to trial the real killers of three CIA security men who died on October 15, 2003 in a powerful Palestinian roadside bomb blast similar to the device that slew the six Givati sappers Tuesday. IN an effort to lay hands on the terrorists, Washington has since tried threats, ultimatums and money prizes - to no avail.
3. Yasser Arafat has further radicalized the Palestinian movement and boosted its most extremist fringes by two new directives: one, to integrate the Hamas into his PLO and give it equal status to all the other factions of the umbrella organization; two, to place hardline Farouk Kaddumi, the Damascus-based Palestinian foreign relations executive, in charge of operational collaboration with Iran and Hizballah. According to DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources, Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in and out of Kaddumi’s office to the point that Palestinian visitors are crowded out. Arafat has also initiated merger negotiations between the PLO amd the rejectionist Palestinian groups working out of Syria and Jordan, a move that will hold back any Palestinian group from entering into talks with Israel.
4. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s amorphous disengagement initiative that planted in Gazan Palestinian minds - Hamas included - that Israel was shortly on its way out of the territory. Palestinian terrorists decided to speed Israel’s exit with fire, blood and gruesome atrocity.
They were not dismayed by the inner cabinet session called by Sharon for the evening of May 11. On June 1, 2001, after 22 young Israelis were murdered and more than 100 maimed by the terrible bombing attack on the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium night spot, Sharon’s inner cabinet sat for 24 hours and did nothing. Hamas decided therefore to jump ahead with two moves:
A. Just as the Iraqi guerrillas and their terrorist allies in Fallujah gathered the body parts of four murdered Americans and strung them up over a bridge, so too did Palestinian terrorists take possession of the remains of the six dead Israeli soldiers. They decided to use the body parts as “hostages” to ward off an allout Israeli offensive against Gaza Strip Palestinians and, at a later stage, as chips for extorting concessions, such as the release of Palestinian prisoners.
B. All the Palestinian groups sent heavy forces to Zeitoun both to hamper the Israeli troops’ search for remains and hold them back from spreading out to other parts of Gaza where they have hidden the Israeli bodies. This presented Sharon’s cabinet with a fait accompli before it convened.
The alternatives facing the cabinet are cruel. Massive Israeli forces could find themselves trapped in hand-to-hand combat in Gaza City alleys, costly in casualties - as Hamas may have intended – failing which, to leave the bodies of Israeli servicemen in the hands of the terrorists.
The chief of staff, Lt.- Gen. Moshe Yaalon opted for the midway course: to comb the Zeitoun district house by house, after ruling out negotiations. It stands to reason however that the objects of their search have been removed for safe hiding to other parts of Gaza City.
The tragic events of this Tuesday refuted a key element of Sharon’s disengagement plan which was to deploy Israeli forces on the perimeter of the Gaza Strip to protect southern Israel. Incursions would be staged from time to time to keep the terrorists in check. The Battle of Zeitoun has proved this tactic to be worthless.