Operation Defensive Wall, the code name for Israeli army operations in and around Ramallah, Qalqilya, Tulkarm and Bethlehem, is no less than a conventional war waged against unarmed civilians. The operation, with 1,000 tanks and 50,000 troops, daily defiles Palestinian dignity and Palestinian homes.
A hundred tanks rolled into the small town of Qalqilya shortly after midnight, Sunday 31 March, firing ceaselessly. Snipers and tanks took up position, trained their guns on the streets and prepared to shoot anything that moved. Nervous soldiers, many just-mobilised reserves, began house-to-house searches for “wanted terrorists,” the Israeli term for those suspected of supporting the Palestinian resistance.
The “searches,” involved much more than just “searching.”
Locals report that Israeli soldiers beat civilians and ransacked their homes and property.
“They are destroying everything, their aim is not to fight terror, but rather to punish the civilians for wanting to be free from this Zionist Nazi occupation,” Ahmed Nasser said. “They are really Nazis, Nazis, Nazis.”
In the end, only a handful of suspects were arrested. Most of the Palestinian resistance had vanished.
Eight Israeli soldiers were injured, one critically, when a charge exploded as they stormed a house.
Another hundred tanks and 10,000 troops stormed the town of Tulkarm on Monday afternoon. Following the same tactic, the tanks took up strategic positions and placed the town under curfew.
Several other Palestinian towns and villages were also invaded and reoccupied. The PA accused the Israeli government of planning to reinstitute direct military rule. Israeli military rule had been suspended on the conclusion of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.
Bethlehem was next. On Monday evening, Israeli tanks entered the city, taking up position by Manger Square not far from the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
The Israeli army also overran Dheishe, Ayada, Azza refugee camps and the small town of Beit Jala, west of Bethlehem, where Israeli soldiers shot and wounded seven international peace activists for “walking in a closed military zone.”
The seven were members of a hundred- strong crowd of foreigners, mostly Europeans, who marched from Bethlehem to Beit Jala. The Israeli army considered the peace activists to be “hindering military activities” and ordered them to leave the country.
The eviction of foreign activists and journalists from reoccupied Palestinian towns is an ominous sign. What is Israel going to do that it does not want the world to see?.
The Israeli government claims its reoccupation of the West Bank is an attempt to stop Palestinian “terror” and suicide bombings.
But it is clear that continued Israeli repression is compounding the problems. More than 20 Israelis were killed in three separate bombings in Haifa and Jerusalem in three days. The Israeli death toll for March was 126, the largest number of Israelis killed in Palestinian territory since 1967.
Sections of Israeli public opinion have now come to plead with their government to put an end to “the nightmare.” But the government has no strategy to deal with the crisis. It has no answers even for the security problem, except revenge and more revenge. This only breeds suicide bombings and more suicide bombings. Some Israelis now view the reoccupation of the West Bank as an indication of Israel’s political, as well as military, bankruptcy.
And the Israeli government is seething for its failure to stop Palestinian resistance operations. This week, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called Palestinian bombings a “threat to the whole world.” Peres accused Palestinians of using suicide bombs not as a tactic of last resort, but as a strategy in itself.
Palestinian leaders denied such charges accusing Peres of lying and misleading the world. “Instead of blaming the defenceless victims for defending themselves,” Mustafa Natshe, a Fatah leader from Hebron, said. “He should ask his own Nazi- like army to stop its genocide of a people who are struggling for freedom from Jewish oppression and enslavement.” He continued, “Peres and his criminal cohorts offer us either annihilation or perpetual enslavement and occupation, we shall not accept either; we insist on freedom and we are willing to sacrifice our lives for it.”
Ahmed Hassan, a Hamas spokesman in Bethlehem, explained why, despite reservations from many Muslims and condemnation from the West, suicide bombs were increasingly necessary. “We don’t have an army, we don’t have an air force, we don’t have tanks. The Arab world is impotent, and the United States is urging Israel to kill more Palestinians. If you were in this situation, what would you do?” Hassan said. “Martyr- bombings are not our strategy; they are not our goal. Our strategy is freedom from this diabolic military occupation. No nation on the face of earth can accept perpetual rape and domination by another nation… people fight and die for freedom, don’t they?”