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Palestinian Affairs: Death of an Intifada ^ | 6/14/04 | Isabel Kershner

Posted on 06/29/2004 3:08:22 PM PDT by swilhelm73

In the West Bank city of Tul Karm, everyone from Yasser Arafat’s governor to the remnants of the Al-Aqsa Brigades says the Palestinian uprising is as good as over

Hani Aweideh looks like he hasn’t quite grown into his new role as a militia leader. Clean-cut with neatly coiffed hair, pressed beige jeans and a matching polo shirt with embroidered trim around the collar, the only thing that distinguishes this 26-year-old from the ordinary young men of Tul Karm is the AK-47 he brings with him when he emerges out of hiding for an afternoon rendezvous in an anonymous downtown store.

Aweideh handles the gun awkwardly, though with obvious reverence, asking for a plastic bag to hide it in for the short hop from the backseat of a car into the store. Not long ago Aweideh and his comrades from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- the armed cells, affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, that sprung up with the intifada -- would have been swaggering through the streets of this West Bank market town, inspiring admiration in some residents, terrorizing others and plotting what they call "military operations" against nearby Jewish settlements or Israeli cities that lie over the Green Line, the pre-1967 border that skirts Tul Karm to the west.

But the armed men are not walking around here anymore, certainly not in broad daylight. The few of them left after the army’s frequent raids, targeted killings and arrests are said to be feeling hunted and alone. And while predictions of calm times ahead may be premature, many here are already declaring Tul Karm’s intifada over.

"Everybody’s either dead or in prison," says Nidal Jallad, who is hanging around the store shortly before Aweideh makes his entry. "It’s over. We’ve had enough. All we want now is for the prisoners to come home." One of Nidal’s brothers, a Hamas activist, was caught in March 2003 transporting an explosive belt from Nablus in a car with three others, including the would-be suicide bomber. He is now serving a 17-year sentence in Beersheba jail. Another brother, Nidal says, was shot by an Israeli army sniper during a curfew and is just starting to walk again after four operations. Nidal claims his brother was only outside because soldiers had taken him from his house, dropped him off near the hospital, then ordered him to walk home.

Nidal is the cousin of Malik Jallad, known as Jarira, the last commander of the Tul Karm Qata’eb, or Brigades, who was captured four months ago. When Aweideh comes in, he introduces himself as Jarira’s successor, though other local sources say the arrested leader hasn’t been replaced. There’s nobody left of the serious hard core of the Brigades, they say, only the remnants of Jarira’s junior lieutenants such as Aweideh inside the city and "a few thieves" in the two local refugee camps. The mounting tensions between the city and camp militants have turned them more into rivals than brothers-in-arms.

Aweideh, who used to work in a picture framer’s shop, insists that there is still an intifada in Tul Karm. "Only two days ago soldiers opened fire on one of our guys," he notes, adding that 10 days ago there were six more "martyrs" from the Qata’eb in the Nur Shams camp adjacent to the town. But ultimately his protests only serve to confirm what the others are saying. Asked what exactly the Qata’eb want, he replies: "All we want now is to defend ourselves. That’s it. Nobody is giving us any hope or any security."

Residents of Tul Karm are no longer willing to provide refuge for the armed men in their houses, local sources say, for fear of ending up on the army’s demolition list. Furthermore Aweideh, his fingers nervously drumming on the back of his chair, an eye fixed on the door, reveals that it is not only the Israeli actions that are curbing the militants. "The Palestinian Authority used to support us, but we’ve had no funding from them for the past two months," he claims. "They make promises, but nothing ever materializes. The PA wants to calm the situation, but Sharon doesn’t," he concludes.

Hiding has become the armed men’s main preoccupation, since the apparently inexperienced Aweideh attests to "100 per-cent difficulty" in launching attacks. The last local operation took place in early April when a gunman from the Tul Karm refugee camp infiltrated the nearby Avnei Hefetz settlement fatally shooting Ya’acov Zaga, 40, and wounding his teenage daughter. The gunman, 18-year-old Ramzi Arda, was killed by soldiers during the incident, though an accomplice who had driven him there got away.

Tul Karm is known much more as a Fatah bastion than as a stronghold of Hamas, though posters of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his short-lived successor Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, killed in Israeli strikes in Gaza, are plastered up all over town. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the Avnei Hefetz attack, saying it was in retaliation for Yassin’s assassination in March.

Aweideh attributes the difficulty in launching attacks to the recently constructed security barrier that now seals Tul Karm off from Israel, as well as the strict checkpoint regime that controls movement between the city and the rest of the West Bank and "the pressure put on us by the PA." He says that the people he deals with in Ramallah "are scared for Arafat" following Prime Minister Sharon’s veiled threats on the Palestinian leader’s life.

About a dozen of Aweideh’s friends have been killed. Asked if he’s afraid, he points a finger upwards, lifts his eyes to the ceiling and says he’d like to join them.

Tul Karm, a city of 90,000 -- or over 130,000 including the two refugee camps -- figures prominently in the annals of the intifada. Israel launched its "targeted killing" of intifada leaders here when army snipers shot down Thabet Thabet in the last days of 2000. Thabet, a dentist and a local Fatah leader who was well known to the Israeli peace camp as a political dialogue partner, had allegedly become a conduit for funding the Qata’eb network. "He was involved in everything," says Aweideh admiringly. Abd al-Bassat Odeh, the Hamas suicide bomber who carried out the Park Hotel Passover attack in Netanyah in March 2002, killing 30, also came from the city. That bombing precipitated Israel’s massive Defensive Shield operation that saw the army reinvade all the Palestinian cities of the West Bank.

The Tul Karm refugee camp produced Sirhan Sirhan, the 19-year-old gunman who killed five Israelis at Kibbutz Metzer in November 2002, including a mother and her two boys, aged four and five. Tul Karm was also the hometown of Raed Karmi, one of the Al-Aqsa Brigades’ most charismatic leaders in the West Bank who was alleged to be responsible for the deaths of at least nine Israelis, including two who were abducted from a Tul Karm café and executed in retaliation for Thabet’s death. Karmi was killed in an explosion widely attributed to Israel in early 2002, an event that brought a tentative three-week cease-fire called by Arafat to an end. (The PA was supposed to have been holding Karmi in custody at the time.)

Izz Al-Din Sharif, Arafat's personal envoy in Tul Karm, has been the governor of the district since the fall of 1996 when the Israelis withdrew under the terms of the Oslo Accords. Together with the surrounding villages, the population of the district is some 245,000. One of the "outsiders" who returned from exile with Arafat, Sharif had helped form Fatah’s Al-Yarmuk force in Syria in the 1970s, and later moved on to PLO headquarters in Tunis where he worked with the legendary Khalil Wazir (Abu Jihad). When he first came here he says he found the place in a dilapidated mess.

"There were no water wells, there were 90 children to a classroom, there was one hospital from Ottoman times and no clinics in the villages, and the market was flooded with rotten canned food past its legal expiry date," he recalls.

A small, lean man with a trim mustache and dancing eyebrows, he describes how things began to transform. Police and security forces were trained and deployed on the streets, a security plan was created for the whole region, committees were formed to deal with education, health and the rotten food, the Japanese started building a new hospital, the United Nations Development Program and the Europeans helped improve the water system and the foreign donor-funded Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction started paving the roads.

"Commerce prospered and the city was flourishing," Sharif enthuses, in Arabic. "And we were also fighting terrorism. We started meeting with the Israeli army and solving all the problems at the table. At the weekends, Tul Karm was full of Israeli families who used to come and shop. Here everything is cheaper and better. The Jews would return home with wide smiles on their faces. The years from 1996 until 2000," when the intifada erupted, "were a golden era for us."

Although the intifada started under the premiership of Ehud Barak -- and Thabet, who Sharif describes as "a man of peace" who was "trying to organize the armed men and the illegal weapons" was killed on Barak’s watch -- Sharif blames Sharon for the escalation. Ignoring questions about where all the armed militants suddenly appeared from, he says that Sharon set about destroying all that had been built in order to set the Palestinian state back another 50 years. Now, he says, Tul Karm has become a "social case" with about 60 percent of the population living below the poverty line. "There are 248 martyrs from the Tul Karm area, 25,000 wounded, a third in wheelchairs," he rattles off. "These are the latest figures that have stuck in my mind." Between 18,000-22,000 Palestinians from this district used to go to work in Israel. "Now they are living on charity," Sharif says.

Economically, the city is barely functioning. Everybody owes money to everybody else, judging by what they say. The younger members of the unemployed are going back to school, while 70 percent of the college graduates can’t find a job. The coffee shops are full of bored men who have nowhere else to go. "If you shake them, you’ll find they haven’t got two shekels in their pockets," says a local businessman. Nobody can pay their electricity bills, he adds, and the PA tax collectors don’t even dare come looking.

Nidal Jallad, who says he works with the PA security forces, is also one of 12 partners who opened a garden restaurant near the Tul Karm Town Hall during the good years of the mid-90s. It’s been closed for the past three years and only operates as a mourning venue "to receive condolence calls for martyrs," he says. "Many people still come. We offer them food. They can’t pay but we serve them anyway."

In a sign of the times, a recent headline on the local TV station was not about any Al-Aqsa Brigade action, but the fact that a certain chain of stores was selling ground coffee at 18 shekels a kilo rather than the usual 20.

"There is no intifada in Tul Karm. The army is still arresting people on the pretext that they are planning attacks, but they are liars," the governor rasps.

Some of the blood that has been spilled here in recent years has been the result of internal strife, as the militants take revenge against local Palestinians accused of having helped the Israeli authorities track their colleagues down. During Jarira’s reign, three alleged collaborators from one of the refugee camps were executed outside the city morgue, to save the trouble of having to transport the bodies. And in August 2002, Akhlas Khouli, a mother of seven, was shot dead, followed by her niece. Khouli was accused of having planted the bomb that killed Raed Karmi on behalf of the Israelis, and of passing on information about the whereabouts of another senior Al-Aqsa Brigades member who was assassinated.

"People are so poor, they will agree to collaborate for very little in return," notes a local who says he was present at some of the alleged collaborators’ confessions. Khouli’s niece is said to have agreed to help in return for the promise of a cell phone card -- which she never even received.

More recently, though, militants from the Tul Karm camp are said to have abducted an alleged collaborator, taped his confession, then let him go in return for a ransom of 80,000 shekels ($18,000). The freed man is said to have taken refuge inside Israel.

Now, Governor Sharif suggests that Israel should stay out of Tul Karm and that his forces should be allowed to assume control. Shortly before the interview in his first floor office, an army jeep was seen idling inside Tul Karm, not far from the town center, and locals say the soldiers enter the city every night. A few uniformed PA police are visible on the streets, but they are not armed and they are confined to dealing with civilian matters like traffic and petty crime. In the absence of orders from Sharif’s "close friend" Arafat, nobody expects that they will go after the militants themselves. All Sharif will say on the matter is that "security for Israel can only be achieved at the negotiating table. When we get the right to live, then we’ll give them the right. Israel wants a leadership of spies, of yes-men," he goes on, adding that Arafat "says he’d prefer to die a hundred times than to be a collaborator."

After 15 minutes at the store, Hani Aweideh looks like he wants to be on his way before the army gets wind that he’s out and about. Now that Tul Karm is relatively quiet, I ask him, if Israel were to stop its operations here, would you agree to do the same? "We’ll stop our operations," he says, "but we won’t hand over our weapons. Not to Israel, nor to the PA."

The AK-47 goes back in the plastic bag, and Aweideh speeds off again. Everyone in the store breathes a sigh of relief. Nowadays, around these parts, the novice militia leader seems to be viewed as more of a liability than a hero.

TOPICS: Israel; War on Terror

1 posted on 06/29/2004 3:08:22 PM PDT by swilhelm73
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To: swilhelm73

Very interesting read.

I thought the tactic of shooting the leaders one by one was a very good strategy (which depended on good intelligence of course).

The guys are basically cowards and after seeing several killed, no one wants to step up.

The AQ are trying the same tactic in Iraq. However, it will fail. The reason: after 30 years of Saddam, they have now experienced freedom and even death won't stop them now.

2 posted on 06/29/2004 3:42:51 PM PDT by BushisTheMan
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To: swilhelm73

I am happy that Israel has ignored the idiotic demands of the UN and terrorist sympathizers, and in return have done the right thing to protect their civilians.

3 posted on 06/29/2004 4:06:25 PM PDT by Mike1973
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To: BushisTheMan


Its nice to see these animals suffer the consequences of their evil and murderous "uprising". What they call the intifada I call the wholesale and intentional murder of innocent men, women and children of Israel.

These idiots deserve every minute of unemployment, hunger and general suffering becuase they brought it on themselves. No one should have any sympathy for these animals because they had the chance to govern themselves in peace, and in typical muslim fashion resorted to violence instead of civilized negotiation.

Where is your muhammad and allah now palestinians? SHARON IS YOUR ALLAH!!!!! hahahahaha

And all of the crying about the wall. Enough. Its working. Anything the liberals, eurotrash or islamowhackos cry about loudly, usually indicates it is a good thing for US and Israeli national security. If it were up to me, I would unleash hell on the Palestinians once the wall is built. Any incursion into Israel's borders would be treated as an act of war. After the first incursion, I would have the Knesset declare war, and then simply level the slums of "Palestine" and make them uninhabitable for humans.

They deserve no better. They had their chance and don't deserve another. Let their supposed friends in the Arab world take them in. Like that will ever happen.

4 posted on 06/29/2004 4:14:23 PM PDT by ChinaThreat
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To: swilhelm73; veronica

Veronica, I see you are a close follower of events in Israel, so you may be able to answer my question. Early in June, there were apparently credible reports that Mubarak had sent his intel chief to tell Arafat that he had until 15 June to turn over much of the PA security apparat to Qureia (sp?) or Mubarak (and the U.S.) would not stand in the way of Sharon, should the latter decide to move lethally against Arafat.

Have you heard anything more about this situation?

Appreciate your assistance, lancer

5 posted on 06/29/2004 4:27:03 PM PDT by lancer (If you are not with us, you are against us!)
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To: lepton

bookmark bump

6 posted on 06/29/2004 5:02:26 PM PDT by lepton ("It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift)
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To: swilhelm73
Residents of Tul Karm are no longer willing to provide refuge for the armed men in their houses, local sources say, for fear of ending up on the army’s demolition list.

Hint to Iraqi government: Try This.

7 posted on 06/29/2004 6:22:55 PM PDT by Oatka
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To: swilhelm73

This Article alreday Posted


8 posted on 06/29/2004 7:12:28 PM PDT by abu afak (where do i enlist!)
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To: dennisw; Cachelot; Yehuda; Nix 2; veronica; Catspaw; knighthawk; Alouette; Optimist; weikel; ...
If you'd like to be on or off this middle east/political ping list, please FR mail me.
9 posted on 06/29/2004 8:58:47 PM PDT by SJackson (Michael Moore lies like he eats, without discretion or moderation, Teri O'Brien WLS890am)
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To: swilhelm73
"Commerce prospered and the city was flourishing," Sharif enthuses, in Arabic. "And we were also fighting terrorism. We started meeting with the Israeli army and solving all the problems at the table. At the weekends, Tul Karm was full of Israeli families who used to come and shop. Here everything is cheaper and better. The Jews would return home with wide smiles on their faces. The years from 1996 until 2000," when the intifada erupted, "were a golden era for us."

That tells it all! And not a word of thanks to Arafat, for starting his "intifada"!

Maybe the years from 2005 onwards will be the new golden era for them,,, We can only hope!
10 posted on 06/29/2004 11:02:06 PM PDT by RonHolzwarth
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To: RonHolzwarth

It's no secret that the second intifada impacted the majority of the palestinians more than anyone else. Many of them are living in abject poverty and misery. They can't get to the jobs that they had in Israel and they have no other source of income.

On the other hand there are the professional refugees who have been supported by the UN for three generations - for whom new flats are being built at the moment. These people have the most to lose if there is ever a palestinian state or a real peace in the Middle East.

A third group are those who have some mysterious source of income and have built themselves very comfortable villas during the past few years.

11 posted on 06/30/2004 1:30:14 AM PDT by FreeReporting
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