Events around date of publication of this item.
Activists face deportation after suicide bombing
: Activists face deportation after suicide bombingBy
: Justin Huggler Nigel Morris Published in
: The IndependentDate of issue
3 May 2003Topic(s) addressed
: People/entities mentioned in this item:
Commentary (by JB) Abstract
With "friends" like Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, the Palestinians don't need enemies. Just like bin Laden provided Bush and Sharon with excuses for their excesses, Hanif and Sharif have now provided the Israelis with one for expelling foreign observers from the occupied territories.
The Israeli authorities said yesterday that they intended to step up deportations of foreign activists in the occupied territories. They said the alleged British suicide bomber, Asif Mohammed Hanif, and his accomplice, had posed as human shields to travel freely between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli security forces were still hunting Omar Khan Sharif. He isbelieved to have escaped after his explosives failed to go off in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night at a bar called Mike's Place. Three people died and 35 were injured.
A man believed to have been Hanif detonated explosives at the entrance to the bar and was also killed in the blast.
Peace campaigners denied last night the two had posed as "human shields" for Palestinians. But the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) confirmed that Hanif and Sharif had attended a memorial service for a group member.
The ISM is the largest group of foreign activists in the occupied territories.
The attempt by the Israeli authorities to link their crackdown on foreign activists to the suicide bombing appeared purely cosmetic. An Israeli army order to step up deportations of the activists was issued two weeks ago, long before the attack at the bar.
Israeli security sources told journalists yesterday that the crackdown on the foreign activists was a reaction to the bombing. "These foreigners, for all their good intentions, end up being used as cover for terrorism," a source said.
There is no sign of any links between Sharif and Hanif and the ISM – it appears that the men used the activists as cover. "The army issued the order to kick us out over two weeks ago," said Tom Wallace, a spokesman for the ISM.
"It's hardly surprising. The Israelis have been preventing international observers from entering Israel and Palestine for years. They don't want witnesses to see the atrocities they commit on a daily basis ... and tell people about them."
The crackdown comes after a harrowing two months for the activists. Rachel Corrie, an American, was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while Tom Hurndall, a British activist, is in a coma after being shot in the head by an Israeli army sniper last month.
Another American activist was seriously wounded when he was shot in the face by an Israeli soldier.
Just days before the attack, the two men were among people who paid their respects to Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist who was killed in March by an Israeli bulldozer. But Tom Wallace, an ISM spokesman, said they had not acted suspiciously during the ceremony and were "just part of the group".
He added: "They never tried to infiltrate ISM. They never contacted the ISM. We know our activists, and none have engaged in or have been accused of engaging in, any aggressive, confrontational, or illegal activity."