November 05, 2006

Arabs use woman and children as shields for terrorists

Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin - Nov. 5, 2006

Palestinian terror organizations used woman and children as human shields this past weekend to save terrorists holed up in a mosque in Gaza. The group of terrorists were under siege and Israel was demanding their surrender. In response, the Palestinians organized a human shield of more than 200 woman and children to surround the men and walk them to safety.

According to the PA daily: "About 200 female residents crossed the village along with their children until they reached the besieged Al Nasr mosque, broke into it and released 15 armed men... During this mission, two women died ." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 4, 2006]

According to the report, the Palestinians had decided that the lives of the terrorists were more important than the lives of the woman and children:

"Muhammad, from the Al Qassam Brigades, the military branch of the Hamas, who was among those under siege [said]: 'What matters is that we were released.' His mother . said that the women waved white flags, 'but the tanks kept shooting at us. All we cared about was to release our sons, even if it cost our lives.' The woman citizens walked quickly surrounding the exhausted fighters. towards the 'safer alleyways' of Beit Hanun." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 4, 2006]

As PMW has reported in the past, this is not the first time the PA has urged civilians to enter combat zones. It is part of a consistent pattern since the outbreak of the terror war in October 2000. In one previous instance the PA called on "woman, children, and the elderly" to stand in front of IDF bulldozers that were searching for weapons tunnels between Gaza and Egypt in May 2004 [Al Ayyam, May 17, 2004].

Meanwhile UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan seemed to blaming Israel for the civilian deaths saying he was: "deeply concerned about the continuing escalation of violence and rising death toll caused by the Israeli military operation in northern Gaza... several civilians have already been killed and wounded, including women and at least one Palestinian child" ( www.imra.org.il ).

The following are 2 stories that appeared in the Palestinian official daily Al Hayat Al Jadida:

"Hundreds of female residents managed, in a dangerous mission, to break the siege on the mosque which was besieged by the occupation tanks in the center of the Beit Hanun village, after dozens of residents, some of whom were armed, took refuge in it...

"The women passed through several armored tanks, which were stationed in the western entrance to Beit Hanun, while under the fire from Israeli combat helicopters. About 200 female residents crossed the village along with their children until they reached the besieged Al Nasr mosque, broke into it and released 15 armed men from different [terrorist] factions. During this mission, two women residents died as Shahids [died for Allah]...

"Iman Al-Yaziji, who was accompanied by her 13 year old only son, told Agence France Presse, that the women tried 'in vain' several times to break into the area of the mosque, and added. 'Finally, we decided to enter despite the fact that some of us died as Shahids and got injured, and we entered the mosque and we released the resistance men [terrorists].' She continued: 'Bullets were showered on our heads from the tanks and the helicopters and killed two of us mercilessly'...

"Muhammad, from the Al Qassam Brigades, the military branch of the Hamas, was among those under siege, and told the French news agency: 'What matters is that we were released.'

"His mother, Um Muhammad. said that the women waved white flags, 'but the tanks kept shooting at us. All we cared about was to release our sons, even if it cost our lives. The woman residents walked quickly, surrounding the exhausted fighters, who seemed to be unarmed, towards the 'safer alleyways' of Beit Hanun." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 4, 2006]

"The occupation forces escalated their attacks, which began three days ago, on the Gaza Strip . while the female residents in Beit Hanun and Bethlehem went out to challenge the occupation army.

"The occupation forces continued their attacks yesterday on the Beit Hanun village, where they killed two women during a march of women who broke through the occupation's armored tanks that besieged the Al Nasr Mosque. The women managed to save dozens of residents and resistance fighters [e.g. terrorists] who were under siege in the Mosque." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 4, 2006]

Please feel free to forward this bulletin, crediting Palestinian Media Watch.

November 3, 2006

Palestinian women help free gunmen

By YAKUB RALWAH, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 40 minutes ago

Hundreds of Palestinian women in robes and head scarves streamed into a Gaza combat zone Friday to help free gunmen besieged by Israeli troops at a mosque. Two women who came under fire were killed and at least 10 wounded, but some gunmen managed to escape.

The women, many with ties to the Islamic militant group Hamas, left their homes after daybreak in response to appeals on the local Hamas radio station or telephone calls from friends and relatives. By nightfall, they were celebrated as heroes, an unusual role in a deeply conservative society that tends to keep women on the sidelines. Until Friday, battling Israeli troops had been men's business in Gaza.

The mosque standoff came on the third day of Israel's fiercest bid in months to halt Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli border communities. The offensive began Wednesday, when Israeli forces took over the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, close to the border with Israel.

In all, 35 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Wednesday, including 17 on Friday. Among those killed Friday were the two women protesters, a 16-year-old boy, two medics and at least 10 militants. Most of the deaths Friday were a result of a series of Israeli air strikes after sundown. In the deadliest hit, five Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike in the Jebaliya refugee camp.

The army said the strikes targeted militants trying to plant explosives or launch rockets.

The Beit Hanoun sweep is different from previous Israeli incursions into Gaza, a senior Israeli military official said. Rather than staying on the outskirts of populated areas, troops are going house to house in Beit Hanoun, sometimes breaking through inner walls to cut down on exposure to gunmen.

In another new tactic for Gaza, troops have rounded up hundreds of men for questioning, releasing most of them but detaining dozens, the army official said. On Friday evening, for example, soldiers ordered men between the ages of 16 and 46 in Beit Hanoun's Al Masri neighborhood to report to the local agricultural school for questioning.

In the most dramatic episode of the Beit Hanoun incursion, dozens of Palestinian gunmen, many from Hamas, took cover in the town's Al Nasser Mosque on Thursday and were quickly surrounded by Israeli forces. The two sides exchanged fire throughout the night. An army bulldozer knocked down an outer wall of the mosque, causing the ceiling to collapse.

On Friday morning, Al Aqsa Radio, the local Hamas station, broadcast appeals to women to come to the rescue of the trapped gunmen. Hundreds responded, many of them Hamas supporters. The women marched toward the mosque, coming under Israeli fire at times, and approached armored personnel carriers and bulldozers near the mosque.

Volleys of shots were fired toward them, sending the group rushing toward a nearby wall for cover, according to Associated Press Television News footage. In all, nearly 60 shots were heard on the footage, but it was not clear in every case who fired.

Two women, both age 40, were shot and killed, and at least 10 others were wounded, hospital officials said.

One of the wounded was Tahrir Shahin, a 36-year-old housewife. She said that after hearing the radio appeal, she left her seven children sleeping at home and set out for the mosque, an hour's walk away, with her sister. En route, a bullet hit Shahin's left leg; it had to be amputated above the knee.

Still, she said, she did not regret her choice. "I was so upset about what was happening, so I answered their call," she said from her hospital bed.

Maj. Avital Leibovich said Hamas was exploiting women. "They were using those poor women as human shields," she said. "This is a clear example of use of innocent population for terror."

The army said the gunmen inside the mosque took advantage of the demonstration to escape because there were not enough infantrymen to block the women from approaching the building, and troops did not want to shoot into the crowd.

The army said troops spotted two militants hiding in the crowd of women and opened fire, hitting the two.

As the women rushed away from the scene, at least two men disguised in women's clothes were seen in the crowd. Jubilant bystanders embraced them, celebrating their escape.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas "saluted the women of Palestine ... who led the protest to break the siege of Beit Hanoun." Haniyeh urged U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to witness firsthand "the massacres of the Palestinian people," and appealed to the Arab world to "stop the ongoing bloodshed."

Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour said he sent letters to Annan and the presidents of the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly "requesting from them to do whatever they can to stop this aggression immediately" and to pressure Israel to withdraw its forces from Gaza.

Annan expressed deep concern at the continuing escalation of violence and rising death toll and urged Israel "to exercise maximum restraint, do their utmost to protect civilians and to refrain from further escalating an already grave situation," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Loudspeakers across Gaza called on people to come to demonstrations after Friday prayers to express solidarity with Beit Hanoun. Tens of thousands representing various Palestinian factions massed in streets throughout the coastal strip,

The army said Beit Hanoun was targeted because it was a major staging ground for rocket attacks. But Israeli officials have said the takeover of the town did not signal the start of a wider-scale military offensive in Gaza.

Militants have been undeterred by the offensive, however, and have continued firing rockets, including four that landed in southern Israel on Friday, slightly wounding two people.