Skip to comments.***Operation Infinite Freedom - Situation Room - 13 JUN 03/Day 86***
Posted on 06/12/2003 9:11:52 PM PDT by null and void
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AM - War looms in Israel, Palestinian Territories
AM - Friday, 13 June , 2003 08:00:48
Reporter: Mark Willacy
ELEANOR HALL: Another deadly Israeli helicopter gunship attack and dire warnings from both Palestinians and Israelis of even more carnage have torn the Middle East peace Road Map apart, barely a week after it was signed.
In their fifth missile strike in three days in Gaza, Israeli forces overnight launched another helicopter attack, this one killing seven people including a senior Hamas leader, his wife and his young child.
Just hours earlier, in a dramatic escalation of the conflict, Israel had ordered its army to "completely wipe-out" the militant Islamic movement Hamas, the group which claimed responsibility for yesterday's suicide bombing in Jerusalem. And Israel is also threatening to pull out of the US sponsored Road Map to Middle East peace if Palestinian attacks against its citizens do not stop.
For its part, Hamas says it's now activated all its military cells to target Israeli civilians and it has issued a warning to all foreigners to leave the region.
From Jerusalem, Middle East Correspondent Mark Willacy reports.
MARK WILLACY: Standing on the smouldering wreckage of a car, Palestinian men pull the body of a young child out of the twisted mess.
Just seconds earlier an Israeli helicopter gunship had appeared overhead, unleashing its payload of missiles.
Inside the car was Yasser Taha, a senior leader in the military wing of Hamas, long wanted by Israel.
Killed along with him were his wife, at least one of his young children and several bystanders.
This is the third time in just 24 hours Israeli missiles have been launched at Hamas targets in Gaza.
RAANAN GISSIN: This is a war. We did not choose that war. For two-and-a-half years we've been fighting this war.
MARK WILLACY: And Sharon Government Spokesman Raanan Gissin says Israel will now take the war into Hamas territory.
Setting the stage for a possible invasion of the Gaza Strip, Israel's army has been ordered to "completely wipe out" Hamas.
The order directs the military to use whatever means necessary and to target everyone from the lowliest member of the group to its spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin.
MAHMOUD AL-ZAHAR: Okay, let us wait and see who is going to destroy the other.
MARK WILLACY: Hamas Spokesman Mahmoud al-Zahar says the Gaza Strip will be turned into a graveyard for the Israeli Army should it decide to invade.
MAHMOUD AL-ZAHAR: We have to run an effective army struggle against everybody. Now this message would be sent for every Israeli. Your children and your women, your husbands, everybody is a target now.
MARK WILLACY: Hamas has issued a statement warning all foreigners to leave Israel for their own safety.
George W. Bush's so-called Road Map to Middle East peace is now quickly unravelling.
On the Israeli side, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom is threatening to pull the plug on the process altogether.
SILVAN SHALOM: If this terrorist attacks will continue, I think that we won't be able to continue in the same time with the peace process.
MARK WILLACY: And if Israel decides to take on Hamas on its own turf it will get a fight.
(Hamas boys chanting, guns firing)
The Islamic movement has a well-armed militia and its Gaza stronghold is a nest of narrow alleys and tightly-packed buildings.
Sarri Singer is a survivor of Wednesday's suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus carried out by Hamas. Like many Israelis she believes the Road Map to peace is finished.
SARRI SINGER: It's not going to stop and I don't believe there is ever going to be peace. They want total control over Israel and I don't think anyone in the United States understands that.
MARK WILLACY: Here, there is nothing but trepidation, as Israelis brace themselves for the next suicide bombing and Palestinians prepare for the inevitable missile strike.
This is Mark Willacy in Jerusalem for AM.
An elderly Palestinian bids farewell Thursday to one of the people killed by Israeli airstrikes taking place over the past two days.
The airstrike, the fifth in three days, killed seven people, including Yasser Taha, his wife and his 3-year-old daughter, Palestinian sources said.
The Israeli military did not know the militant's family was in the car when the helicopter gunships fired at it, the Israeli source said.
A statement from the Israel Defense Forces said Taha was "one of the senior commanders of the military wing of Hamas in Gaza [Izzedine al-Qassam]" and "was involved actively and intensively in murderous attacks, smuggling of weapons and directing vicious terrorists cells."
JERUSALEM - Israel calls them targeted killings, attacks using pinpoint accuracy to liquidate Palestinians preparing terror attacks on Israeli civilians. Palestinians say Israeli missile strikes are crude assassinations carried out in crowded streets that often kill the innocent.
Israeli missile attacks that killed 20 Palestinians in three days more than half of them civilians have reopened debate over the morality, effectiveness and political wisdom of Israel's strategy.
Israel considers the strikes a prime tool in its effort to destroy Palestinian militant groups, but critics say the assassinations have done little to stop terror.
"This is immoral, totally ineffective and it doesn't fit a democracy," said Yossi Beilin, the former justice minister who opposed the policy when it was adopted in November 2000. "These assassinations are capital punishment without trial."
After four airborne attacks by the Israeli military in three days, the Hamas militant group ordered an all-out assault on Israel and urged foreigners to leave. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) pressed a "war on terror" while ridiculing the new Palestinian government.
The United States on Thursday called a meeting of its fellow Mideast mediators to try to salvage their "road map" peace plan, which is in danger of disintegrating.
Israeli helicopters on Thursday killed a Hamas commander and six others, including his wife and 2-year-old daughter in Gaza. Later, Israeli soldiers went to the West Bank town of Jenin and killed two Islamic Jihad activists.
Between those two operations, Palestinians shot and killed an Israeli motorist in the West Bank. Early Friday, Israeli tanks entered the Tulkarem refugee camp in the West Bank, residents said, blocking roads.
Masked activists from Izz el-Deen al-Qassam brigade, military wing of Hamas, raise their hands swearing to continue their struggle against Israeli targets during demonstrations against the Middle East summit in Jordan led by President George Bush, in Gaza city, Friday June 6, 2003. After four airborne Israeli assassination attacks in three days, the Islamic Hamas ordered an all-out assault on Israel and urged foreigners to leave. Israel's prime minister pressed a ``war on terror'' while ridiculing the new Palestinian government. Arabic on headbands read 'No Gods, only one God, Mohammed is Prophet of Allah'. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
An Israeli police explosives expert searches a bus destroyed by a suspected Palestinian suicide bomber in Jerusalem June 11, 2003. The blast killed at least 13 people and injured more than 60 on a bus in Jerusalem Wednesday, a day after an Israeli assassination attempt against a militant leader.
Relatives of Bat-El Ohana carry her coffin during her funeral in the cemetery of Kiryat Atta, near the northern city of Haifa, Israel, Thursday, June 12, 2003. Ohana, 21, was one of 16 people killed in Wednesday's bus bombing in Jerusalem.
Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin attends the funeral of nine people killed during Israeli helicopter strikes in Gaza June 12, 2003. The U.S. accused the militant Hamas on Thursday of being the major obstacle to Middle East peace amid a wave of bloodshed that has thrown a U.S.-backed peace plan into turmoil. 'The issue is Hamas. The terrorists are Hamas,' White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters traveling with President George W. Bush to Connecticut.
Palestinians pray next to nine bodies at Gaza City's al-Omari mosque
13/06/2003 - 06:04:26
Hundreds of protesters called for the death of Irans supreme leader Ali Khamenei as thousands of onlookers watched early today, the third day of demonstrations in Tehran despite threats by the hard-line regime to crack down to end the disturbances.
The three nights of demonstrations have produced the largest outpouring of public opposition against Irans leadership in months, involving hundreds of young Iranians, some still teenagers.
They shouted chants including, Khamenei the traitor must be hanged, Guns and tanks and fireworks, the mullahs must be killed, and Student prisoners must be freed, witnesses said.
The demonstrators concentrated in two areas, around Tehran University and near the Intercontinental Hotel, though the protesters had left the university area late last night.
Before they dispersed, police had prevented some two dozen pro-Khamenei vigilantes on motorcycles from confronting the students.
Thousands of people looked on, sometimes clapping with the protesters and taking up their chants. Residents near the university hospital left their doors open so that demonstrators could find quick shelter if the authorities cracked down.
Similar scenes were evident near the hotel, where about 500 hard-liners on motorcycles chased down protesters, beating them with cattle prods and circling around, gunning their engines, witnesses said. Some onlookers struck back at the vigilantes, hitting them with their fists. Near the hotel, two motorcycles were set aflame.
Riot police later rushed the crowd near the hotel, dispersing the demonstrators and sending the onlookers running. Even as it approached 2am local time today, traffic was bumper-to-bumper in central Tehran as curious residents stayed out to watch developments.
Though the demonstrators seemed disorganised, with no apparent leadership, the countrys hard-line clerics were clearly taking them seriously.
Khamenei, in a speech broadcast on state television and radio, referred to violence in 1999 when security forces and extremist supporters of hard-line clerics attacked students protesting media restrictions. At least one student was killed and the clash touched off the worst street battles since the 1979 revolution that ousted the US-backed shah.
If the Iranian nation decides to deal with the (current) rioters, it will do so in the way it dealt with it on July 14, 1999, Khamenei said.
It should not be allowed that a group of people contaminate society and universities with riots and insecurity, and then attribute it to the pious youth, he said.
But the protesters ignored Khameneis warning. Some in the crowd urged demonstrators to gather again after a soccer match tonight between two popular teams. They said demonstrations would continue until the July anniversary of the 1999 protests.
Reformist newspapers, which reflect the thinking of some established politicians who have been fighting for change for years, offered little commentary on the unrest the two days before.
The young demonstrators face a determined foe that has defied popular calls for reform for years and is likely to justify anything done to restore calm - including violence in the name of Islam.
Exiled opposition groups, on the other hand, have seized the opportunity created by restless Iranian youth, encouraging dissent through avenues like Los Angeles-based Persian TV channels. US pressure on Iran, which Washington accuses of hiding a nuclear weapons programme and harbouring terrorists, may have further emboldened those who hope to see the regime toppled.
Late yesterday, hundreds of police locked down central Tehran and blocked off all streets leading to a dormitory housing Tehran University students. Police also prevented people from gathering in the streets.
About 200 students milled inside the dormitory grounds, occasionally throwing stones from behind the main gate at the police, who did not respond.
People on foot and carloads of interested onlookers converged on the scene to take in the overwhelming police presence and apparently to witness any repeat of the previous two nights clashes, but were prevented from going anywhere near the dormitory.
Demonstrators also called for the resignation of President Mohammad Khatami, a popularly elected reformist, accusing him of not pushing hard enough for change.
Iran's conservative supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appealed to hardline vigilantes yesterday not to take the law into their own hands after a second night of anti-regime student protests in Tehran.
The vigilantes, an offshoot of the revolutionary guards who helped to create the clergy-run system in 1979, had arrived on motorbikes to back up police, and taunt and attack students at the start of protests on Tuesday.
Their actions provoked a bigger student gathering on Wednesday evening at a university dormitory, where violence had erupted between police and protesters four years ago. While some students in the 3,000-strong crowd denounced the leading moderate, President Mohammed Khatami, others chanted "Death to Khamenei".
One Reuters reporter claimed that students had seized three plainclothes Islamic militiamen after they entered the campus during clashes.
"They had walkie-talkies, chains, gas spray, and their pockets were full of stones," a student said.
In a clear sign that the establishment is worried that protests could get out of hand, the ayatollah went on television yesterday to urge caution on the vigilantes and blame the US for stirring up trouble.
"Now America itself is openly saying it wants to create disorder inside Iran. Their solution is to create disputes among the people and separate the people from the system," he said. He urged "young believers" - Islamic militiamen and vigilantes - not to be drawn in.
Several reformist papers called on students yesterday not to go too far with their demonstrations, which began as a protest over privatisation but has escalated into calls for political prisoners to be freed and for a secular regime.
The newspaper Tose'eh urged them to "use their wisdom and awareness", warning that protests only played into the hands of the anti-reform lobby.
Debate over the pace and scope of reform has raged in the media and parliament for several years, although there is an informal agreement that street protests could have unforeseen consequences.
With the revolution almost a quarter of a century old, a new generation has emerged which is less interested in the old consensus. Rising unemployment, despite healthy oil revenues, adds to their anger.
It is hard to predict whether the demonstrations will escalate further - large pro-reform protests took place four years ago but fizzled out, while last autumn's support of a popular academic sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy also faded away.
Reformist MPs working within the system are focusing on gaining support for a referendum on reducing the powers of clerics and even towards separating mosque and state.
Khameni says no mercy will be shown TEHRAN Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme cleric, accused the United States on Thursday of trying to foment disorder in the Islamic Republic, warning after a second night of protests outside Tehran University that the government would show no mercy toward those acting in the interests of foreign powers.
. "If it sees that disgruntled people and adventurers want to cause trouble, and if it can turn them into mercenaries, it will not hesitate to do so in giving them their support," Khamenei said of the United States.
. "Leaders do not have the right to have any pity whatsoever for the mercenaries of the enemy," he added in a speech from the southern city of Varamin that was televised nationwide.
. The protests, which started quietly Tuesday and erupted into clashes on Wednesday, come at a time when the government is attempting to forge a policy toward a newly belligerent United States.
. The fall of the regimes in Kabul and Afghanistan, although both despised by Tehran, created a certain sense of vulnerability here given that U.S. troops are stationed along two major borders and the Bush administration last year lumped Iran together with Iraq and North Korea as part of the "axis of evil."
. Senior American officials have called for regime change in Iran as well, accusing it of stirring up trouble in Iraq, undermining the Middle East peace process, developing a secret nuclear weapons program and sheltering fugitives from the Al Qaeda terrorist organization.
. The sudden appearance of hundreds of protesters on the capital's streets, although disorganized and insignificant in number, evidently contributed to a case of jitters within some circles in Iran's jigsaw of a government.
. The unease was certainly increased by the fact that opposition-run Persian language television stations beamed into Iran from the United States helped swell the protests by calling on people to go out into the streets, although their reports on the numbers and the extent of the demonstrations proved wildly exaggerated.
. The protests were expected to continue for a third night Thursday, although analysts said they were unlikely to turn into a social movement. Still, the protests could build as the students were planning to stage demonstrations to mark the July 14 anniversary of serious riots in 1999 that erupted against the closing of newspapers and jailing of dissidents. One student was killed that summer, leading to the fiercest street battles since the 1979 revolution that brought down the shah.
. Khamenei's speech was the second time in a week that the ruling ayatollah has attacked the United States publicly, saying that the Americans had undoubtedly reached the conclusion that they could not strike the Islamic Republic militarily.
. Instead the United States "wanted to create trouble in Iran," he said, seeking to "divide the people and create a chasm between the regime and the populace."
. Members of the reformist movement in Parliament and around President Mohammed Khatami played down the seriousness of the demonstrations, saying it was a common occurrence that reflected Iran's attempt to engender a more democratic system.
. For the first time, some of the protesters chanted against Khatami, saying his reform movement had failed. Students and other younger Iranians, who voted for Khatami in droves, have grown increasingly angry that the Khatami administration has been unable to confront the conservatives over their grip on judiciary, the military, the country's broadcasting and the overall pace of change.
. But the reformists have avoided moving the confrontation into the streets, believing that time is on their side and bloodshed will help the extremists.
. "We do not want to see blood on the streets, we don't believe in street protests," Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, Khatami's spokesman, said Thursday in an interview.
. The fact that protests can unroll on the streets of Tehran without anyone getting shot shows that "our society is not so closed that it requires regime change," he said. Still, both he and other government officials urged the students not to resort to violence.
. The protests did not start over any prominent reform issue. After the government revived the issue of privatizing the universities on Monday, several hundred students left their dormitories and marched out onto the main thoroughfare outside their campus.
. A few cell phone calls by protesters to a Los Angeles TV station prompted the broadcaster to call on all Iranians to pour into the streets. Hundreds got into their cars and went down to see the demonstration, joining the students in chanting anti-regime statements.
. They chanted rhyming lines in Persian. "There can be no freedom of thought with turbans and beards," a reference to clerical rule. They also sang the pre-revolution national anthem.
. Many of the onlookers honked their horns or got out of their cars to dance, giving the entire event the air of a block party. A line of about 25 riot police blocked the students and other protesters from moving away from the university, and around 1 a.m. a police truck moved forward, asking the students to disperse.
. "Our enemies are taking advantage of this, please leave," the officer said, the truck retreating after some protesters threw rocks at it. Aside from a few broken windows, the protest ended peacefully a few hours later.
. Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said, however, that 80 people were arrested over two days , describing them as "hooligans" who were helping American infiltrators.
. The second protest in the early hours of Thursday was more violent, after demonstrators threw stones at vigilantes and the police attacked them with clubs and chains. One student eyewitness said there were many injuries.
. An account by the usually reliable Iranian Student News Agency said about 700 students moved onto the street around midnight and were again joined by others. They said the vigilantes, often hard-core loyalists of the supreme leader, arrived on about 40 motorbikes.
. On Thursday, Khamenei urged them not to intercede in demonstrations.
. The protesters detained three of the vigilantes, who ISNA said were carrying tear gas and walkie-talkies, but they were later released.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks to a crowd of thousands in Varamin, a town he visited outside Tehran, Iran, Thursday, June 12, 2003. Khamenei urged hard-line vigilantes not to intervene in riots after two nights of protests against the clerical regime. 'I call on the pious and Hizbollahi guards (hard-line vigilantes) throughout the country not to intervene wherever they see riots,' said Khamenei.
Iranians chant slogans during a student protest against privatizing some of Iran's universities that turned into a larger demonstration against the hard-line clerics that rule the country, Tuesday, June 10, 2003. About 300 male students had gathered outside dormitories at Tehran University, along with 200 women who were demonstrating from inside its gates. The men then started marching up and down a main street nearby and were joined by about 300 people. 'The clerical regime is nearing its end,' the protesters chanted.
Iranian police take their positions to quell disturbances at the Tehran University dormitory complex June 12, 2003. Thousands of Iranians protested against their Muslim clerical rulers for a second night as the biggest anti-establishment demonstrations for months appeared to gather momentum. Voicing anger at moderate President Mohammad Khatami as well as the hard-line clerics who have blocked his attempts at reform, some 3,000 people gathered early on Thursday chanting 'Death to dictators.'
TOKYO, June 12 -- Japanese police today arrested five officials of a Tokyo company and charged them with illegally selling Iran machinery that can help manufacture solid rocket fuel, a key element in making long-range ballistic missiles.
The firm, Seishin Enterprise Co., allegedly sold the same machinery to North Korea in 1994, but the statute of limitations for that transaction has expired.
The arrests come as Japan tries to clamp down on the flow of technology and equipment to weapons programs in North Korea and other countries.
Tokyo police have arrested five people on suspicion of illegally exporting machinery to Iran that could be used for missile development. The police are also looking into the suspected illegal export of similar machinery to North Korea aboard the North Korean ferry Mangyongbong. Among those arrested are Haruhiko Ueda, the president of a Tokyo machinery maker, Seishin Enterprise Company. Police say that Mr Ueda and the others are suspected of exporting two grinding machines, called "jet mills," to Iran between 1999 and 2000. This would violate the foreign exchange control law and other regulations. Jet mills can be used to grind materials to produce solid fuel for missiles. The police believe senior management authorised the exports. Seishin reportedly received an order for a jet mill in 1994 from a company related to the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. It is alleged that the jet mill was later exported to North Korea via the port of Niigata on the Japan Sea coast, aboard the Mangyongbong.
Supporters throw stones at police behind garbage containers during riots near the home of war crimes suspect Veselin Sljivancanin, early Friday, June 13, 2003. Serbia's elite police arrested Veselin Sljivancanin, a former army officer and war crimes suspect who has been indicted by the Netherlands-based U.N. war crimes tribunal for the killing of more than 200 people in eastern Croatia in 1991.
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbian police commandos stormed a Belgrade apartment early on Friday and arrested a top war crimes suspect amid fierce clashes with his hardline nationalist supporters in the street below.
A senior Interior Ministry source confirmed that former Yugoslav National Army Colonel Veselin Sljivancanin had been taken into custody, answering a U.S. request to seize him so that Washington could approve further aid to Serbia.
The arrest of Sljivancanin, who had been a fugitive since former president Slobodan Milosevic was toppled in October 2000, climaxed a tense 10-hour standoff outside the flat where he had apparently returned to celebrate his 50th birthday.
Sljivancanin was indicted in 1995 by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague for alleged complicity in the massacre of 200 Croat and other non-Serb civilians, after Yugoslav troops captured the Danube port of Vukovar in 1991.
Sljivancanin had threatened to blow himself up rather than hand himself over to international justice. His wife told local reporters he had in the end "surrendered voluntarily."
Several hundred diehard nationalists filled the street on Thursday afternoon when police entered the apartment block, throwing stones, setting fires and provoking clashes not seen even when Milosevic was himself arrested in an April 2001 drama.
Well over 100 riot police and camouflage-uniformed gendarmes fired tear gas and stun grenades at the hostile crowd before a commando squad began battering down the armored door of Sljivancanin's flat shortly before midnight.
Several police and demonstrators, who included football hooligans, were injured in the clashes which flared again briefly after he was driven off to a Belgrade jail.
Sljivancanin's two co-accused in the Vukovar massacre -- one of the most notorious war crimes of Croatia's 1991-95 independence war -- are already in detention at The Hague awaiting trial.
His arrest came two days before the United States government was to certify to Congress that Belgrade is cooperating with the tribunal on rounding up war crimes suspects, a step essential for the release of further economic aid worth a total of 110 millions dollars this year.
A senior U.S. official warned last week that without Sljivancanin in custody, certification would be "a difficult decision," and urged Serbian authorities to find him.
Three Serbian men indicted by The Hague have been transferred to the tribunal in the past month.
The latest arrest leaves former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic and army commander Ratko Mladic as the two remaining top fugitives indicted for war crimes committed during the violent breakup of Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1999.
Gendarmerie officers watch burning garbage containers during riots near the home of war crimes suspect Veselin Sljivancanin, early Friday, June 13, 2003. Serbia's elite police arrested Veselin Sljivancanin, a former army officer and war crimes suspect who has been indicted by the Netherlands-based U.N. war crimes tribunal for the killing of more than 200 people in eastern Croatia in 1991.
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