Profile: Bureij Refugee Camp Recovering From Most Recent Israeli Incursion in the Gaza Strip

All Things Considered: March 3, 2003

Israeli Incursion Puts Down Hamas



MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Eight Palestinians were killed today and dozens of others wounded in a large-scale Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip. Before dawn, dozens of Israeli tanks backed by helicopter gunships stormed into a refugee camp. Hours after the raid, Palestinian militants responded by firing several homemade rockets from Gaza into southern Israel. NPR's Linda Gradstein reports from Gaza.

LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

Sixteen-year-old Mugdi al-Machudoh(ph) was asleep at his home in the Bureij camp when Israeli tanks and dozens of soldiers surrounded the home of one of his neighbors. The house belonged to a man whose son was killed trying to attack an Israeli checkpoint in Gaza last month. Mugdi says the soldiers used loudspeakers to tell residents to stay inside. He sat next to his mother, who was about to give birth to her 12th child. At 1:30 AM, Mugdi says, there was a huge explosion, then his house crumbled.

MUGDI AL-MACHUDOH: (Through Translator) Then I hear the voice of my mother. She was asking for help and calling my father, `Help me! Help me! Hurry, help me!' But we couldn't find her.

GRADSTEIN: By the time the tanks withdrew and Mugdi's mother was pulled from the rubble, she and her unborn baby were dead. Several of Mugdi's siblings as well as his father were wounded.

SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN PICKING THROUGH RUBBLE

GRADSTEIN: Near Mugdi's home, several children pick through the rubble looking for their school books. Small pairs of black shoes covered in dust peek out from mounds of cinder blocks.

The apparent target of the Israeli raid was 67-year-old Mohammed Taha, one of the founders of the Islamist Hamas movement. Israeli military spokesmen charge that Taha directed many attacks against Israelis. He was wounded by Israeli fire today before he and five of his sons were arrested. The Taha home was also demolished.

The Israeli raid on the Bureij camp was the latest in a series of incursions in Gaza, long a major stronghold of Hamas. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said yesterday that Israel will step up its offensive against Hamas, which has claimed responsibility for many of the bloodiest attacks against Israelis. Army spokeswoman Sharon Feingold says Israel is prepared for a long fight.

Ms. SHARON FEINGOLD (Israeli Army Spokeswoman): This is an ongoing, continuous effort. And the more pressure we put on the terrorist infrastructure, the less likely they are to regain their capabilities and to continue to launch terrorist activity, terrorist attacks against our civilians, our towns and our soldiers.

SOUNDBITE OF FUNERAL; GUNSHOTS

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

GRADSTEIN: At the mass funeral for the victims of today's raid, masked Palestinian gunmen shot in the air and called for revenge. Israeli officials say the house demolitions, like those carried out today in the Bureij camp, are the most effective deterrent to more Palestinian attacks. But Kamal Osha(ph), a father of 10 whose house was damaged in today's raid, disagrees.

Mr. KAMAL OSHA (Palestinian): (Through Translator) This would increase the hatred that I feel towards them. If they would demolish my home, if they will destroy my home, then I will do anything if I can against them.

GRADSTEIN: Also today in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian who tried to bypass a checkpoint on the road between Nablus and Ramallah. The Israeli army said it was investigating the incident. Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Bureij refugee camp, in Gaza.

Copyright 2003 National Public Radio®. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information, please contact NPR's Permissions Coordinator at (202) 513-2000.

This transcript was created by a contractor for NPR, and NPR has not verified its accuracy. For all NPR programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version.