Khan Younis

Sun, 07 Oct 2001 02:21:13 -0400

Chris Hedges, who was the Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times=20
in the mid-'90s, has a piece in the October issue of Harper's that is well=
worth a read for a glimpse into life in the Palestinian camps. Here's a=20
short excerpt that I scanned, written while Hedges was visiting the Khan=20
Younis refugee camp, which is surrounded by Israeli military positions on=20
sand dunes overlooking the sprawling, fenced-in camp:

Sunday afternoon, June 17, the dunes

I sit in the shade of a palm-roofed hut on the edge of the dunes,
momentarily defeated by the heat, the grit, the jostling crowds, the
stench of the open sewers and rotting garbage. A friend of Azmi's brings
me, on a tray, a cold glass of tart, red carcade juice.

Barefoot boys, clutching kites made out of scraps of paper and ragged
soccer balls, squat a few feet away under scrub trees. Men in flowing
white or gray galabias=97homespun robes=97smoke cigarettes in the shade of
slim eaves. Two emaciated donkeys, their ribs protruding, are tethered
to wooden carts with rubber wheels.

It is still. The camp waits, as if holding its breath. And then, out of
the dry furnace air, a disembodied (Israeli) voice crackles over a=

"Come on, dogs," the voice booms in Arabic. "Where are all the dogs of
Khan Younis? Come! Come!"

I stand up. I walk outside the hut. The invective continues to spew:
"Son of a bitch!" "Son of a whore!" "Your mother's a cunt!"

The boys dart in small packs up the sloping dunes to the electric fence
that separates the camp from the Jewish settlement. They lob rocks
toward two armored jeeps parked on top of the dune and mounted with
loudspeakers. Three ambulances line the road below the dunes in
anticipation of what is to come.

A percussion grenade explodes. The boys, most no more than ten or eleven
years old, scatter, running clumsily across the heavy sand. They descend
out of sight behind a sandbank in front of me. There are no sounds of
gunfire. The soldiers shoot with silencers. The bullets from the M-16
rifles tumble end over end through the children's slight bodies. Later,
in the hospital, I will see the destruction: the stomachs ripped out,
the gaping holes in limbs and torsos.

Yesterday at this spot the Israelis shot eight young men, six of whom
were under the age of eighteen. One was twelve. This afternoon they kill
an eleven-year-old boy, Ali Murad, and seriously wound four more, three
of whom are under eighteen. Children have been shot in other conflicts I
have covered=97death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala,
mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb
snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the
pavement in Sarajevo but I have never before watched soldiers entice
children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.

We approach a Palestinian police post behind a sand hill. The police, in
green uniforms, are making tea. They say that they have given up on
trying to hold the children back.

"When we tell the boys not to go to the dunes they taunt us as
collaborators," Lt. Ayman Ghanm says. "When we approach the fence with
our weapons to try and clear the area the Israelis fire on us. We just
sit here now and wait for the war."



/  dave  /=20