Israeli troops killed seven “most wanted men” during a raid in the old city of Nablus on Saturday, in one of the deadliest operations of the so-called Operation Full Court Press, thus affording themselves the dubious accomplishment of crossing off from their deadly “list” more than half of the 38 names initially on it. The Palestinians killed, all allegedly militants who, according to Israeli officials, had been “masterminds of suicide bombings,” were caught unaware during the latest raid, which has claimed eleven lives and injured an additional twenty in less than 24 hours.
Among those killed on Saturday was Nayef Abu Sharekh, the senior commander in the West Bank of Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a man who, according to a senior Fatah official, had been a vocal proponent of democratization and elections in Palestine, and who had even threatened, at times, to carry out elections “in defiance of the old guard.” He had been known to be at odds with President Arafat, the personification of “the old guard,” on account of his views.
Also among those killed were Fadi al-Bahti, a local leader of Islamic Jihad, Jaffer al-Masri, a commander of the armed wing of Hamas, three other senior leaders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (according to Palestinian hospital sources, their names are Samir Aquba, Arif Tabenja and Wajd Kadumi) and a seventh, as yet unidentified, man. Another senior member of the Brigades, Nidal Wawi, was killed earlier in the day by Israeli soldiers who happened upon him during their patrols.
The news of the latest extrajudicial killings elicited from Mr. Sharon the usual warm words of praise, while from Palestinian leaders and public alike, who defied the curfew to gather in the thousands yesterday in Nablus to mourn their collective loss, there was an outpouring of condemnation, anger, revenge and, most palpable of all, a raw, seething grief. As thousands of tear-streaked mourners thronged the streets of the old city, making martyrs of men, the Palestinian Prime Minister Mr. Qurei denounced the killings as a “savage and ugly crime” which “gave a clear message to the whole world that Israel can remain above the law.” Israeli defense minister Zeev Boim, for his part, claimed that the operation had dealt a major blow to the terrorist infrastructure of the “northern West Bank.” Major blow or not, Israeli defense forces announced yesterday that they had no intention of stopping the raids in the old city of Nablus, and, as if to prove their point, added to the list of murdered yesterday 18 year old Ihab Salim and 15 year old Mohammad Fuqaha.
The ancient city of Nablus remains, despite this weekend’s “successful” carnage, a city under siege. A curfew, imposed at will by the Israeli military upon the terrified civilian population, ensures a tense calm, while the house-to-house searches continue, while the roadblocks remain in place, while the mosques continue to blare vengeance, and while the list of the murdered continues to grow, in grim competition with the list of the bereaved.