Al-Aqsa splinter group vows response
Published Saturday 26/12/2009 (updated) 28/12/2009 10:16
Nablus residents tend to the dead [MaanImages]
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Nablus – Ma’an – The same faction that claimed responsibility for shooting an Israeli settler on Thursday vowed on Saturday to retaliate for Israel's assassination of three Palestinians in Nablus the same morning.
"The Imad Mughniya Group," proclaiming affiliation to Fatah's military wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, said late Saturday evening that "retribution for the Israeli massacres in Gaza and Nablus will be equal in size to the crime."
"This massacre exposes the true face of the occupation," the group said in a new statement received by Ma'an. "There is no option but resistance."
Israeli forces stormed the Old City of Nablus in the early hours of Saturday morning, raiding several homes and killing three men affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Three youths were also killed in Gaza overnight.
"By this killing in Nablus and Gaza, the Israeli occupation has thrown open the doors of its own inferno," an Al-Aqsa spokesman calling himself Abu Mahmoud said in a prior statement following the escalation.
Sources said two of the men were "killed in cold blood" by soldiers in their homes in the Old City. The two were identified as Raed Sakarji, 38, and Ghassan Abu Sharkh, whose brother Nayif was a former Al-Aqsa leader in Nablus and killed by the Israeli army years ago.
Nablus Deputy Governor Anan Al-Atira confirmed that Anan Subih, 33, was also killed. She said Subih was a former Al-Aqsa fighter who received full amnesty from Israel after he turned in his weapons, signed a form renouncing violence and spending months in Palestinian police protective custody while Israel okayed the deal.
Sakarji and Abu Sarkh were evacuated to the Rafidia Hospital with several bullet wounds each in the chest. Sakarji’s wife was also taken to hospital to be treated for shrapnel injuries to her legs.
The Al-Aqsa spokesman said Israel's actions would see their soldiers "only face fire and blood as bombers operate in Israel day and night. The Israelis will regret what they did because our retaliation will come very soon."
A second statement from another branch of the group, the "Martyr Tamir Al-Khateib Brigades," said, "Our attitude toward Jihad and resistance will not change, and the Israeli crime will not go unpunished."
A statement from the Israeli military said soldiers "entered Nablus in an attempt to locate and arrest the men suspected of involvement in the murder of Meir Avshalom Hai this past Thursday." A spokeswoman also said the three slain "were responsible."
"The Israel Defense Forces will act firmly against those who aspire to harm citizens of the State of Israel and Israeli security forces, and will not rest until those involved in the murderous act are brought to justice," Israeli Major General Avi Mizrachi said in a statement.
In what was being billed as a response to the Thursday incident, Israeli forces imposed a curfew on the Ras Al-Ain neighborhood before dawn, closed off all the exits from the Old City and laid siege to the home of the Sakarji home.
Ghassan Hamdan, director of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committees in Nablus, told Ma’an that three Palestinian homes were besieged in the raid. He confirmed that Sakarji was shot in the head and chest "before the very eyes of his wife." A second man, Abu Sharkh, was removed from his home and shot outside, Hamdan said.
Sakarji's niece, 20-year-old Hind, said "Israeli forces ransacked Raed Sakarji's home and shot him in front of his pregnant wife and two children. When his wife Tahani, 30, tried to defend him, she was hit in the feet with shrapnel." She also noted that her uncle had been released from Israeli jail in January 2009, and that he was on the waiting list for enrollment in the Palestinian Authority security services.
The home of Anan Subih in Ras El'ein was the third targeted location, where troops reportedly opened fire randomly on the building before entering.
According to the Israeli military, "When he was killed, Annan Tzubach [Subih] was armed with a handgun and hiding two M16 assault rifles, an additional handgun, and ammunition." The same statement, however, said that "During an attempt to arrest him tonight [Saturday], Annan was killed after an exchange of fire with the IDF while he was found in a hiding place along with weapons and ammunition."
Eyewitnesses described to Ma'an the siege launched on Ksheikiyya street in the Ras El'ein neighborhood where Anan Subih lived. Subih was an officer in the PA preventive security services in Nablus.
“Dozens of Israeli soldiers ransacked Anan's home at 3am firing gunshots and grenades, causing a fire to break out in the next door warehouse for plastic chairs. The soldiers [entered the building] demanding Anan, and when we told them he was at work with the security forces the soldiers evacuated all nine families who live in the building. We were gathered at the nearby home of the Al-‘Amoudi family," Anan's brother Nidal told Ma'an.
Jibreel Al-Bakri, governor of Nablus, described what happened in Nablus as a "crime in cold blood." He accused the Israeli government of escalating the violence in Palestine in order to avoid its commitment to the peace process.
A spokesperson from the office of the Palestinian president echoed the statement, saying Israel had decided to drag the Palestinian people to violence in order to avoid international pressure for peace.
Witnesses added that Israeli forces did not allow Palestinian fire fighters to access the area and put out the blaze.