1) Israel Defense Force alleged killed Hundred in Jenin,
|Dead and Wounded Wither and Rot in Nablus Mosque (Palestine IMC)|
News and Analysis:
1) Israeli forces continue to commit war crimes in Jenin and Nablus (LAW)
2) Update from Ashraf in Ramallah (aplestine IMC)
3) Procession of lame leaves the dead in Nablus (TIMES, United Kingdom)
4) IDF Uses Palestinian Civilians as Human Shields (B'TSELEM, Jerusalem)
5) The Israeli Withdrawal Only Partially True (Palestine Monitor)
6) Don't Always Trust What They Tell You In The War On Terror (Independent United Kingdom)
1) Israeli forces continue to commit war crimes in Jenin
9 April 2002 - LAW
Original article is at http://jerusalem.indymedia.org/news/2002/04/8485.php
Despite Israeli claims that Israeli forces have withdrewn from Qalqiliya and Tulkarem, Israeli forces continue to besiege the two Palestinian cities. This morning, Israeli forces entered Dora, southwest Hebron, and shelled residential buildings in the village. Israeli forces shot and injured Na'ef Ahmad (35) and Aref Ahmad (32) at 6 o'clock in the morning. Israeli forces banned ambulances from evacuating the bodies. The two were left to bleed to death for five hours, until 11 o'clock in the morning. Israeli forces shot and killed Abdel Qader Doudeen (25) while he was walking in front of the Municipality of Dura.
In Nablus and surrounding refugee camps, Israeli forces continue to shell civilian homes. Twelve residents of the old city have been killed. One of them has been identified as Riziq Baker (40). In Askar refugee camp, Israeli forces killed two residents. Hafed Sabra (60) and Amjad Abda (11) were hit by an artillery shell and killed instantly.
During the Israeli raid of the Kasaba (old city of Nablus), the Israeli occupation army forced residents to leave their homes and gather at Gamal Abdel Nasser school and detained one thousand residents and took them to Hawara military base. Israeli forces besieged a field hospital which was set up al-Beik mosque, broke into the mosque and arrested wounded persons and closed the field hospital.
In Jenin, sources told LAW that dozens of Israeli tanks, personnel carriers,
and bulldozers, backed by seven Apache attack helicopters, are still shelling
the refugee camp. The bulldozers have been demolishing dozens of shelters
and homes. Israeli forces have fired more than 250 missiles and tank shells
in the past 24 hours. Medical sources fear that at least 150 residents have
been killed and the bodies are still lying in streets, alleyways and inside
shelters and homes. Sources told LAW that
the refugees are suffering from lack of food, medicines, water. The camp has ran out of all basic supplies. Medical sources fear a health epidemic in the camp. Contrary to Israeli claims that ambulances have been allowed access, medical personnel told LAW that two ambulances, trying to evacuate the wounded in Jenin, were ran over and destroyed today by Israeli tanks.
Yesterday, in Ramallah, paramedics of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society
(PRCS) discovered the bodies of Azhar al-Amriya (24) from Jenin and Ahmad
al-Masri (21) from Gaza, who were killed on March 29, when Israeli forces
entered Ramallah. Azhar al-Amriya was killed by an artillery shell, Ahmad
al-Masri was shot in the head by heavy machine gunfire. Also yesterday,
at 6 o'clock in the evening, Israeli forces entered the villages of Obwayn
and Ajoul in the district of Ramallah, killing Shahin Sohwayl (25). He was
shot in his waist and left to bleed for several hours. In Ramallah, just
before Israeli forces re-imposed the curfew, an Israeli sniper shot and
killed Kamal Badran (30). At 7 o'clock that evening, Israeli forces positioned
at Ain Ariq roadblock shot and killed Omran al-Odeh (26) from Deir Amar,
while taking one of his sick
relatives to Ramallah hospital. Later that evening, Izz al-Din Hassan (22) was pronounced dead by Ramallah hospital sources. He was shot in his head with live ammunition on March 29.
The right of the sick and wounded to receive prompt medical attention is
one of the most basic principles of humanitarian law. Regardless of political
circumstances, the Occupying Power is obligated to permit the wounded and
sick to be "collected and cared for", and should accord them "particular
protection and respect" according to Article 16, Fourth
Geneva Convention. Despite such clear regulations encoded in binding international legal agreements, to which Israel is a signatory, Israeli forces have targetted, harassed, delayed and obstructed health workers and local residents attempting to collect the wounded and transport them to hospitals.
LAW calls for immediate intervention and mechanisms to provide protection
for civilian protected persons. LAW additionally calls on member states
to apply effective measures, including in the form of economic sanctions
and an arms embargo, to pressure Israel to accept an international protection
presence, end its gross violations, war crimes and crimes
against humanity, and genuinely commit to final peace negotiations.
LAW also calls for the establishment of an immediate, permanent, transparent and independent international mechanism for monitoring and reporting on the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories with a mandate to receive individual complaints of Human rights and humanitarian law violations, investigate alleged violations and report to the UN Security Council, General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights.
LAW condemns the attacks by the Israeli military on medical and humanitarian agencies and denial of access to key services, including humanitarian aid, food and water and calls on member states to provide urgently donations to the key humanitarian agencies providing vital services/supplies to meet the current humanitarian crisis, in particular food, water and medicine supplies; e.g. the World Food Programme, UNRWA, ICRC, World Health Organisation, and UNICEF.
LAW calls on member states, including as High Contracting Parties to the
Fourth Geneva Convention to comply with their obligations under article
146 by searching for, investigating and bringing to trial perpetrators of
war crimes and crimes against humanity, under universal jurisdiction and
through a War Crimes Tribunal and calls for an end to all acts by member
states aiding and abetting the perpetration of war crimes and crimes against
humanity, including by ending supply of all arms used to
perpetrate such crimes.
LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is affiliate to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Federation Internationale des Ligues de Droits de l'Homme (FIDH) and the World Organisation Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).
LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, PO Box 20873, Jerusalem, tel. +972-2-5833530, fax. +972-2- 5833317, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: http://www.lawsociety.org
First of all, to be honest, I didnt expect people to reply [to my first message]. But the replies are very important, especially now, because theyre not only for me - Ive been calling some friends and telling them about your support. This support is so important. We live in a prison and feel like we are so alone here so its very encouraging to have such replies.
In general, the past two days have been the same as before and worse. There are very heavy clashes in Jenin. They are calling men from 16-40 to go out. In Bethlehem there are many people dead and injured that the ambulances cannot reach. Also today the Israelis also entered Nablus. So by now theyve entered almost all the West Bank and now they say Gaza will be next.
Today is exactly one week since they entered Ramallah.
For one week people have been imprisoned in their homes. All kinds of life has stopped
Theres a serious problem with water now, especially in Ramallah. For the past 2 days there has been no water at all in some areas because [the Israeli army] hit a main water distribution system in Ramallah.
There are food shortages too. For so many people the food in their homes is finished. This is especially bad for kids. There is a serious lack of milk, people need milk urgently. These are basic needs.
The last time the Israelis lifted the curfew on Ramallah was 3 or 4 days ago, but actually no-one really trusted it because the people were so scared. And the shops were already closed. So people only went out in the last half hour because they thought it was a game and the Israelis would arrest people. So far there are more than 700 or 800 people arrested in Ramallah. We know that some of them are injured because they were arrested from the Raa hospital in Ramallah. So we dont know if theyve received the medical treatment they need.
Also, its so cold here now. And people are running out of gas for their heaters.
The electricity has been out in some areas for a week. In other areas in comes and goes. And they cant fix it because [Palestinian workers] cant go out into the streets.
I feel so frustrated and so angry. I dont want to say hopeless, but useless. We have been disconnected from the outside world.
My whole family have been in the house all week. Everyone has been with their families except the people like students who live away from the families. But its very boring. Our life totally stopped. Theres no compensation for all this.
We cant even go to the windows to look outside because there are Israeli snipers in all the buildings and if they see anything moving they just shoot so its very dangerous. We cant even be in some areas in the house. We cant go onto the front porch, for example. Yesterday, my Mom was taking the clothes off the line outside and a sniper started shouting at her to go inside or he would shoot
So Ive been doing some reading and speaking to people on the phone. Of course I can only speak to the people whose phones are still working, but we are trying to talk to each other and give support to each other.
The last two days the Israeli soldiers were in my area. About 5 hours ago they entered one of my neighbors houses and arrested all four sons. No-one knows where they went. I spoke to their parents. The mother said that when the Israelis took her sons she tried going into the street to talk to the soldiers and to give her sons their jackets because its so cold. But the soldiers wouldnt let her. Shes going crazy. She doesnt know what to do, who to speak to, who to call
I want to say something about the issue of the media.
The Western media, especially in the USA, is very biased and doesnt tell the truth at all. It doesnt say whats happening in reality and on the ground. We have to change this attitude the media.
Also, its clear that without the green light from the US government, Sharon wouldnt be able to do what hes doing. Especially now, because the whole world is asking him to withdraw and it doesnt matter because the US government has given him a green light to do what he wants.
Palestinians are paying the price for 10 years of useless negotiations which did not get the minimum rights for the Palestinian people.
The world must understand that this is not Afghanistan. Sharon keeps comparing himself to Bush and saying that Bush is fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. Sharon wants to show that hes fighting terrorism in the same way. This is ridiculous. This is a war against civilians, against innocent people.
People have to distinguish between resistance and terrorism. We never agreed with Bin Laden and El Qaeda. We are against the terrorism.
We are the indigenous people in this land and we are fighting for our land. We are fighting for our freedom.
April 5, 2002
[Note: Ashraf's first report can be found at http://jerusalem.indymedia.org/news/2002/04/2472.php
3) Procession of lame leaves the dead in Nablus
April 09, 2002 TIMES United Kingdom
from Stephen farrell in the nablus kasbah
THE doors of the mosque creak open and a foetid stream of damp air escapes from the building that for five days has served as charnel house and field hospital.
Inside is death and blood. Ten bodies are lain in a row in the courtyard, while 30 wounded Palestinians walk and crawl, moaning, across the blue linoleum that has been torn up to serve as stretcher, blanket and shroud.
In the deepest corner of the war zone that is Nablus kasbah, Palestinian doctors and ambulance workers have been trapped for five days in the al-Baiq Mosque, treating fighters and civilians injured since the Israeli attack on the West Banks most famous kasbah began.
Leaning over drips nearly empty of fluid, Zahra al-Wawe worked without electricity, blood banks or ambulances, pleading for help over her mobile telephone until the battery ran dry, shouting: We are losing them, we are losing them.
Three more died yesterday, she said, and finally, as dusk fell over the old city that has seen some of the fiercest clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, something snapped. Suddenly, waving white rags above their heads, Palestinian Red Crescent workers emerged from the mosque, walking, stumbling, climbing and falling through the wreckage of what remains of the kasbah, carrying stretchers to ambulances that they hoped, but did not know, would be waiting at the city entrance.
As they struggled through the 6ft hole gouged out of Nablus city centre by Israeli armour that has blasted its way into all but a small corner of the kasbah, they were followed by the injured, half-walking, half-carrying each other over the carpets of spent cartridges, unexploded pipe bombs and corrugated iron barricades erected to alert the Palestinian population inside to the approach of Israeli soldiers.
Above waves of hysteria inside, Dr al-Wawe and her colleague, Muhaned, explained that even though no formal ceasefire had been declared, they had no choice but to go. Thus the procession of the lame took advantage of the quietest day yet to emerge into streets that only 24 hours ago had been alive with tank shells, Apache helicopter rockets and cannonfire from Israeli forces intent on flushing out the hundreds of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah activists hiding in the dark alleyways beneath ground.
We are going to take the critical cases to the hospital. We dont have any blood, we dont have any antibiotics, we couldnt do anything for them, just watched them die, Muhaned said.
Yesterday we had 15 bodies. We could have saved half of them. We had to bury them, without their families.
In the streets around, the change over 24 hours was astonishing. At dusk the day before, fighters lurked confidently behind walls, firing blindy into the air above, behind elaborate defences manufactured from tripwires, soft-drink bottles and metal piping. But they had no answer to the power of artillery that punched 4ft holes in roofs, ripping the sides off entire buildings.
At 1pm Israeli loudspeaker announcements echoed in Arabic through the camp warning the young men inside: You have to surrender now, right now. Those who do not surrender will pay the price.
Shortly afterwards 100 young men emerged in clumps of 15-20, hands on heads and walking two by two up the steps that a day earlier had been a no-go zone for Israeli forces intent on flushing out what they claim are the terrorist nests inside the inaccessible kasbah of an ancient city built on the ruins of ane old Roman town, Flavia Neapolis, dating back to 72AD.
Once the injured had been evacuated, to a flotilla of red flashing lights granted access by Israeli forces, the medics went back for the dead and to stay inside the city to treat those yet to be injured and die.
The starkest of contrasts yesterday was between the filthy, bloodstained camp beds of the the mosque and the gleaming, well-equipped and glaringly empty hospitals of Nablus that have been waiting for patients for five days but have none, because ambulances cannot move around.
Terrified that his 100-year-old father, Assad, would die from shock after a week of fighting, Jamad Safadi defied the curfew to appear on the streets of Nablus yesterday waving a white flag and asking to be taken to hospital. Lucky enough to be picked up by The Times, he was taken to Nablus Specialty Hospital, where he became the only casualty patient in a pristine unit where seven surgeons have been sleeping for days waiting to treat patients who never come.
We have X-rays, CT scans, laboratories, blood banks, but we have no one to treat, Dr Barabara Afir said. We are in depression. We have people ringing to say they have been injured but the ambulances are not allowed to move. They are killing them and we cant do anything.
Visibly more relaxed than in previous days, Israeli soldiers stood in doorways, watching the procession of medics and injured go past.
We have scarcely fired all day, one Israeli shrugged.
So is it over? No. Within half an hour, the bombardment
of a nearby refugee camp began.
4) Torture and Total Communication Ban in Ofer Detention
Camp. A Human 'Defensive Shield': IDF Uses Palestinian Civilians as Human
B'TSELEM - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
8 HaTa'asiya St. (4th Floor)
Jerusalem 93420, Israel.
- Tuesday, 9 April 2002 -
TORTURE AND TOTAL COMMUNICATION BAN IN OFER DETENTION CAMP
Since the beginning of operation "Defensive Wall", the IDF has
hundreds of Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories. In the
Ramallah area alone, over 1,600 Palestinians were detained and taken to
Ofer military camp near Beituniya. Following the release of some of the
detainees, Israeli human rights organizations began to receive information
about the difficult conditions in the detention camp and about the violent
treatment of detainees on the way to the camp and during detention.
Among other things, detainees reported overcrowding in the tents where
were held. They reported that they were denied food for many hours and that
some of them were forced to sleep outdoors. On April 5, 2002, B'Tselem
received information from an Israeli source about torture during
interrogations in the camp. According to the information, investigators
broke detainees' toes.
In light of this information, Attorney Yossi Wolfson of HaMoked - Center
for the Defence of the Individual petitioned Lieutenant Colonel Yair
Lotstein, Deputy Legal Advisor for the West Bank, demanding that lawyers be
allowed into the detention camp immediately to meet with the detainees and
examine holding and interrogation conditions. In response, Attorney Wolfson
was told that there was an order forbidding all detainees to meet with
lawyers. The order, issued by the OC Central Commander on April 5, 2002,
determines that anyone detained on or after March 29, 2002, can be held for
18 days before being brought before a judge. After eight days, detainees
will allowed to plead their case. The order also determines that during the
eighteen days of detention, the detainee does not have a right to see a
B'Tselem along with HaMoked, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
Physicians for Human Rights Israel, have filed an urgent petition to the
High Court of Justice, through Attorney Wolfson on the same day. The
organizations demanded that detainees be allowed to meet with lawyers and
that the court forbid the use of physical force against the detainees
In the court hearing, held on April 7, 2002, the State claimed that in
wave of detentions currently carried out in the Occupied Territories, the
IDF detains Palestinians involved in combat against the IDF or in attacks
on Israeli civilians, as well as innocent Palestinians who are not involved
in such actions. Processing the detainees takes a number of days. Until the
decision whether to release a certain detainee or hold him is reached, it
is impossible to allow them to see lawyers. The State claimed that the
order is justified in view of the combat nature of the situation and the
high number of detainees.
With regards to the claims about torture during interrogation, the State
claimed that it is not aware of such a phenomenon and that it cannot
investigate general claims, such as the ones presented in the petition.
Needless to say, as long as lawyers or human rights organizations are
denied access to the detainees, the names of those harmed and the details
of their cases cannot be produced.
Following a short hearing, Justices Levin, Engelrad and Gronis decided
reject the petition and accept the arguments of the State. The judges claim
that in light of the combat in the Occupied Territories, the OC Central
Commander's order was legal and they were not inclined to interfere with
his judgement. In addition, the judges accepted the State's argument with
regards to the broadness of the claims with respect to torture and refused
to discuss the matter.
Israeli law acknowledges the right of a detainee to see a lawyer as a basic
right. It is entrenched in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and in
military legislation as well. The denial of this right is permitted only in
extreme cases, when it is absolutely necessary for the purposes of the
investigation or for security reasons. This right may be denied only in
such cases, and on an individual basis and not out of considerations of
convenience or utility.
The order issued by the OC Central Commander contradicts Israeli law. It
sweeping and pertains to anyone detained since March 29, 2002. This
contravention of the law is particularly alarming in light of the fact that
the State admits that in the current wave of detentions, Palestinians were
detained according to broad criteria of age and gender, and that many were
detained simply because they were present where detentions were being
carried out and not because they were under suspicion. Under these
circumstances it is impossible to accept claims that denying detainees the
basic right to meet with lawyers complies with the exceptions outlined in
the law. Clearly, such meetings do not put the area at a security risk or
hamper the investigation. It is also clear that the ban on such meetings is
not made on an individual basis, and that the State has turned the narrow
exceptions the law reserves for extreme cases, into a norm.
When harsh claims about torture are made, a ban on meetings with lawyers
particularly intolerable, since detainees are thus denied any kind of
protection. It appears that the military is seeking to prevent lawyers from
entering Ofer camp, not due the necessities of the interrogation or
security needs, but because it wants to conceal what goes on inside the
camp form the public eye.
B'Tselem demands that the IDF allow lawyers to meet with detainees and
examine holding and interrogation conditions at Ofer camp, as in other
Mass detentions of people whose only sin was being at the wrong place at
the wrong time, holding them in appalling, inhuman conditions; a complete
ban on communication with the outside world for over two weeks; and above
all, torture during interrogation -- all this is currently being carried
out by the IDF throughout the Occupied Territories, with the seal of the
High Court of Justice.
A HUMAN 'DEFENSIVE SHIELD'
IDF uses Palestinian Civilians as Human Shields
- Monday, 8 April 2002 -
Today, at approximately 1:00 PM, six IDF soldiers entered the al-Baq Mosque
in the old city of Nablus, where an emergency clinic has been established.
At the time, present in the clinic were 45 wounded persons, four doctors,
several volunteers, and ten corpses that it had not yet been possible to
According to the information provided to B'Tselem by Dr. Zahara el-Wawi,
doctor at the clinic, the soldiers entered the mosque with their guns
resting on the shoulders of Palestinian civilians who were forced to march
in front of the soldiers as "human shields."
According to Dr. Wawi, who spoke with a B'Tselem fieldworker while the
soldiers were in the mosque, the soldiers separated the medical staff from
the patients, searched the dead bodies, and checked the identities of the
The emergency clinic in the mosque was opened last Wednesday, immediately
following the IDF incursion into Nablus. According to Dr. Wawi, the
clinic's supply of medicines has been exhausted, and as a result the clinic
is unable to take in any additional patients. The supply of water in the
clinic has also been exhausted, as has the gas that runs the generator that
provides electricity to the clinic.
B'Tselem has asked the IDF to allow for the evacuation of the wounded,
corpses and the medical staff from the clinic.
Over the past several days, B'Tselem has received additional reports
regarding the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields by IDF
soldiers, as well as the prevention of evacuation of wounded persons, and
the lack of electricity and medical supplies at medical centers.
Endangering the lives of innocent civilians constitutes a flagrant
violation of the most basic principles of international humanitarian law.
Such acts cannot be justified based on "military necessity" as the IDF has
frequently claimed in regard to many other violations.
B'Tselem calls on IDF commanders to clarify to their soldiers that such
acts are absolutely forbidden. B'Tselem also calls for a thorough
investigation into these incidents and that those found responsible for
these human rights violations be held accountable.
Israeli military forces and media have announced that the Israeli troops
have withdrawn from the Palestinian towns of Tulkaram and Qalqiliya. This is
only partially true they have withdrawn from the town centers, but remain
in complete control of the towns with a ring of tanks and other armed
vehicles around them. People in Qalqiliya and Tulkaram remain isolated from
the surrounding villages and towns, and no one is able to leave the cities.
As the governor of Qalqiliya, Mustafa Malki said, this whole Israeli
is an empty political manoeuvre in response to the statement of President
Bush, and because Colin Powell will come to visit the area next week.
Qalqiliya has been destroyed with sustained attacks on the infrastructure
and buildings; electricity poles have been torn down, houses have come under
heavy fire from tanks and helicopters, and the water pipes and sewerage
networks have been destroyed. Mr. Malki estimates that about 100 people have
been detained or arrested from among the numerous men rounded up and held
during the invasion. The lack of water poses a serious problem; food
shortage is not yet an issue as the people were able to stock up prior to
the invasion however if the siege is not lifted and access to other towns
and villages permitted soon, shortages will become a problem.
The same situation has been revealed in Tulkaram with the moving back of
troops to positions surrounding the city. Izz Ad-Din Al Sharief pointed out
that the tanks and Israeli troops are still surrounding the city hardly a
withdrawal. In his view the whole so-called withdrawal from Qalqiliya and
Tulkaram is merely a charade the Israeli government and army are using
this to cover up the most terrible crimes that they are carrying out in
Jenin and Nablus as we speak. These attacks are barbaric and have to stop
This is a reoccurring sentiment in Palestinian society the false
withdrawal is being pointed to whenever the attacks on Jenin and Nablus are
Furthermore, according to Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, this also provides the
Israeli army with an opportunity to expand further their operations and
invasions; numerous villages have been invaded, such as Doura near Hebron,
and Aboun and Arruara, both near Ramallah.
The attack on Doura came at 3AM today, when approximately 50 Israeli tanks
attacked and entered the village, killing three Palestinians. Two of the
three killed, Aaref Muhammaed Saed Ahmad and his cousin Nair Saed Ahmad
were both shot and wounded, but medical staff were prevented access to them
until 11:30AM by which time they had both bled to death. Houses were
entered and searched, doors blown up, people detained without reason the
same things that have occurred for the past 11 days as Israel has
systematically assaulted the towns and cities of the West Bank.
The situation in the Jenin refugee camp and the city of Nablus are currently
indescribable. A doctor from Nablus tells how he has received numerous phone
calls from residents who are trying to prevent dogs from eating the corpse
of Muhammad Abu Khatib, a 40 year old man whose body has lain in the streets
since the 3rd of April; medical teams are prevented to reach him and many
In Hawwara, near Nablus, Israeli soldiers shot dead Samir Wakat after he
released from Israeli detention. This is the second instance of a detainee
being shot after release.
More than ever before it is becoming obvious that the cause of all violence
and the problems in the Middle East is the continuing illegal Israeli
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The only way to achieve peace is
through the full Israeli withdrawal from all the areas occupied by Israel in
1967 and not just the most recently re-occupied towns and cities.
For more information The Palestine Monitor +972 (0)2 5834021 or +972 (0)25833510
6) Don't Always Trust What They
Tell You In The War On Terror
3-31-2 Independent, United Kingdom
Downing Street said al-Qa'ida was using chemical weapons: it was wrong. ThePentagon said Saddam Hussein was to blame for the anthrax attacks on the US: it was wrong.
Raymond Whitaker and James Palmer...unravel the West's war of lies and propaganda...
Truth is already a casualty in the war against terror, but as the campaign against Iraq hots up, distinguishing facts from propaganda may become even harder. According to a flurry of reports on both sides of the Atlantic, Tony Blair and George Bush will be drawing up a dossier of evidence on Iraqi efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction when the two get together on the President's Texan ranch next weekend. But the attempt to build a case against Saddam Hussein went seriously wrong a week ago.
Downing Street claimed that American troops had found a biological warfare
laboratory in Afghanistan, and that Baghdad was supplying al-Qa'ida with
weapons of mass destruction, only for the Pentagon and British military
sources to rubbish both suggestions. The Prime Minister's spokesman, Alastair
Campbell, is said to be working closely with the White House on
information policy, but there was little sign of co-ordination here.
As the following case studies show, however, the Pentagon has also been responsible for stories appearing in the media which have later been retracted, disputed or disproved.
Case 1 Claim: On 22 March Downing Street briefs news organisations that
forces have found an al-Qa'ida biological warfare laboratory in eastern
Afghanistan, just as Britain deploys 1,700 Royal Marines to fight in the
country. In another briefing, Iraq is said to be supplying al-Qa'ida with
chemical and biological weapons.
Fallout: The Pentagon vehemently denies the laboratory story the following
day - but too late for British papers, which carry headlines such as
"Marines called in after discovery of germ war plant". The alleged link
between Iraq and al-Qa'ida not only contradicts No 10's previous position,
but is denied by a senior military source, who tells The Independent: "We
are not aware of evidence, intelligence or otherwise, that the Iraqi
government or its agencies are passing on weapons of mass destruction to
al-Qa'ida. Nor have we seen any credible evidence linking the Iraqi
government to the 11 September attacks."
Verdict: A cock-up, at the very least.
Claim: In mid-March, Pentagon officials say a satellite positioning device
found in a cave in Afghanistan belonged to a US commando killed in the
"Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia in 1993. This is considered a
"smoking gun" linking al-Qa'ida to the Somalia fighting, in which 18 US troops lost
Fallout: The manufacturer of the device points out that that model was not
made before 1997, and the serial number shows it was sold to the US
military in 1998. Officials were misled by the name G Gordon, which matched that of
a master sergeant killed in Somalia - but it was also the nickname of the real
owner, a helicopter pilot operating in Afghanistan.
Verdict: Pentagon was far too quick on the trigger.
Claim: On 11 March, when Vice President Dick Cheney is visiting Downing
Street, the Washington Times reports that British intelligence has provided
evidence that a US pilot, Navy Lieutenant Commander Michael Speicher, who
was shot down in the Gulf War, is still alive and in captivity in Iraq.
Speicher, declared killed in action in 1991, was reclassified as "missing
in action" by the Pentagon last year, after information from an Iraqi
Fallout: Iraq - which says Speicher is dead - invites a US delegation,
including American journalists, to investigate the case. Defence Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld retorts: "I don't believe very much what the regime of
Saddam Hussein puts out. They're masters at propaganda."
Verdict: Not proven.
Claim: The week before Christmas, the Special Boat Service intercepts the
sugar freighter Nisha off Beachy Head in East Sussex, after a tip-off from
a foreign intelligence agency that it could be concealing materials for a
bomb or anthrax attack. Press speculation runs riot, with headlines such as "Bin
Laden plot to put anthrax into our sugar" (People), and "Armada of terror"
Fallout: The vessel is searched for a week and found to be carrying nothing
more than sugar from Mauritius to an east London refinery. Weeks later,
however, it was still being alleged that the seizure of the ship by
security services had "foiled a plot".
Verdict: Too good a story to admit to a huge mistake.
Claim: During last October's anthrax attacks in the US, Mr Rumsfeld
threatened direct action against Baghdad if there was any evidence of Iraqi
involvement. A spate of reports sourced to US intelligence officials said
the airborne form of anthrax used was difficult and expensive to produce,
requiring state sponsorship. Even though there was no "credible evidence"
to tie the anthrax attacks to al-Qa'ida, said the director of homeland
security, Tom Ridge, "we ought to operate under the presumption that it
Fallout: Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector, said accusations
Iraq was the source of the anthrax were unsubstantiated and irresponsible.
It emerged that the spores had been treated with an additive designed to
allow them to stay in the air longer, suggesting it was unlikely they
originated from Iraq or the former Soviet Union. They appear to have been
launched by a scientist from within US biological warfare laboratories,
making use of a strain from the US Army's medical research institute.
Verdict: It is easy to blame Iraq or al-Qa'ida for any incident of terror,
but hard to establish proof.
Claim: A US special forces raid at Hazar Qadam in central Afghanistan on 23
January, in which 16 men were killed and 27 taken prisoner, was first
described by the Pentagon as a successful strike on two al-Qa'ida
compounds.Later it was suggested the men were Taliban fighters.
Fallout: Last month the prisoners were released. Far from fighting for
Taliban, they were local men who had fought against the regime. The freed
men said they had been punched, kicked and clubbed by US special forces
while in detention. Two of the dead men were found with their hands bound
behind their backs, fuelling suspicions that they were executed. One man
told the Los Angeles Times he had seen his cousin being bound with white
plastic handcuffs by American soldiers. He later found his cousin dead,
still handcuffed, with bullet holes in the neck, chest and stomach.
Relatives of the dead said they had been handed up to $2,000 per family,
which some called "hush money". American officials conceded that CIA
officers distributed money, but said it was compensation. Mr Rumsfeld
ordered an inquiry into the raid, but on Friday General Tommy Franks,
commander of US forces in Afghanistan, released a report that said there
was no evidence the detainees had been mistreated by US forces. Their injuries
"were not serious or life-threatening" and were consistent with the
reasonable use of force to secure them, the report found. The other claims
were not addressed.
Verdict: One of several incidents in the war where Pentagon responses have
left unanswered questions.