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Sharon's Reply to Road Map: Tanks used to Kill Children
Reuters & AFP
GAZA, 2 May 2003 Twelve Palestinians, including a two-year-old boy, were killed yesterday when Israeli forces raided a Gaza neighborhood shortly after the release of a Middle East peace road map.

Residents of the Shijaia neighborhood outside Gaza City said Israeli forces backed by helicopter gunships laid siege to the family home of a Hamas activist and demolished the four-story building after a fierce gunbattle.

Arafat told reporters the pre-dawn Gaza incursion was a "massacre" and Israel's answer to the peace plan presented Wednesday by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia and rejected by Palestinian hard-liners. Israeli officials say they will not change the way they confront an uprising for statehood until the Palestinians show they are cracking down on fighters as required by the road map. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the raid. He said Israel acted against international humanitarian law by attacking the Gaza neighborhood. He said he was "deeply disturbed" by the Israeli raids, and that "such actions, including reported house demolitions, are contrary to international humanitarian law." US Secretary of State Colin Powell, on a visit to Madrid, sounded a note of caution to both sides at the start of a trip to Europe and the Middle East to promote Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking in the aftermath of the Iraq war. "We've got to get beyond this period of suicide bombings and retaliatory actions or other defensive actions that are taken...," Powell told a news conference. "We can't let these sorts of incidents immediately contaminate the road map." The Gaza raid targeted Youssef Abu Heen and his two brothers, all Hamas men who the Israeli Army said had been involved in organizing "terror attacks" on Israelis. Israeli Brig. Gen. Gadi Shamni said soldiers surrounding the house called on the people inside to give themselves up but the men responded with gunfire. Hospital officials said the three brothers were killed in the ensuing gunbattle. Hamas said in a statement: "We are using a legitimate weapon to confront the Zionist aggression the weapon of resistance and it will not be dropped as long as occupation exists." Ahmed Ayyad, a blacksmith, said his two-year-old son, Amir, was killed by a bullet to the head as the toddler stood near a window facing Israeli troops. "I could not help him," Ayyad said, choking back tears at the local morgue. "What road map? It is nonsense...the Israelis do not want peace you can ask my son." Witnesses said six of the dead were civilians, including a 13-year-old boy and a 17-year-old, and six were fighters. Hospital officials said at least 70 people were wounded. Shamni said gunmen had fired on troops from positions in houses near the Abu Heen home. Israeli military sources said eight soldiers were wounded. Witnesses said 20 houses on the Egyptian side of the Gaza Strip town of Rafah were damaged during the raid. Six of the homes were left without roofs, while the windows of 20 houses were destroyed. The homes are located on Saladin Street, which divides the border city. Earlier in the West Bank, two gunmen were killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers near the village of Yatta, residents said.
Thu, May. 01, 2003
Musharraf: Bin Laden May Be in Pakistan
Ready for Deal with India on Kashmir

[Source: Associated Press ]
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -Osama bin Laden may be hiding in the rocky stronghold of Pakistan's Islamic hardliners close to the Afghan border, President Pervez Musharraf said in remarks Thursday.

In an interview with a London-based television channel, Musharraf insisted Pakistani forces are doing all they can to track bin Laden down. But he said if the al-Qaida chief was part of a small al-Qaida cell "he can hide anywhere."

"They may be hiding in our tribal areas, but I cannot say with certainty," Musharraf told satellite channel ARY Gold. "Our army is operating there. We have asked tribesmen to tell us if they know anything. The tribesmen have said they will do it."

U.S. and Pakistani officials suspect that bin Laden and many of his top lieutenants survived U.S. bombing in Afghanistan and may have found refuge in Pakistan's ultraconservative tribal belt.

Islamabad insists it is determined to root out terrorists, and this week arrested a Yemeni suspected in both the Sept. 11 attacks as well as the deadly bombing in 2000 of the U.S. destroyer Cole.

Musharraf has shrugged off opposition to make Pakistan a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, detaining some 450 fugitive al-Qaida and Taliban members, including several top figures.

"We have arrested most of the al-Qaida people," he said in the interview, which was recorded Thursday in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad. "They were handed over to America because their own governments were not prepared to take them back."

The United States also has urged Pakistan also to clamp down on Pakistan-based militants fighting in Kashmir, the Himalayan region that Pakistan has contested with Hindu India for more than 50 years, and negotiate a settlement.

Musharraf said that an announcement by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee last month that he was ready for new talks on Kashmir was a "good omen."

Pakistan's Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali this week telephoned Vajpayee to say he was ready to travel to New Delhi or welcome the Indian premier to Islamabad.

"It's a good start. We have always favored talks," he said.
By Cahal Milmo, Justin Huggler, Nigel Morris and Arifa Akbar

02 May 2003
Each morning, the rotund figure of Asif Mohammed Hanif left this ordinary house in suburban London to make his way under the scream of jets landing at Heathrow airport to attend business studies classes at a nearby college. Some 140 miles away, in the heart of Derby, Omar Khan Sharif, a quietly devout Muslim and respected father of two children, would be seen walking from his house to the Jamia Hanfia Taleem mosque to offer up his daily prayers. On the way back, he would pop in at a local corner store for a chat. They were the ordinary lives of two men in modern Britain one was planning a career in business, the other was dedicating himself to work within the small Pakistani community where had spent all but two years of life. Then they disappeared. Hanif, 21, announced three years ago that he was going to Damascus to study Arabic. Sharif, 27, was last seen in Derby just over a month ago. When they resurfaced, in Tel Aviv, Israel, it was to establish two murderous and extraordinary firsts amid the smoking ruins of Mike's Place at 1am on Wednesday. The two unremarkable men in their unremarkable houses had staged the first suicide mission launched from Gaza in the 31 months of the intifada by blowing up a packed bar, leaving three people dead and more than 60 wounded. More significantly, the first attack carried out in the name of the Palestinian cause by two people wholly foreign to it.

For the shadowy power brokers of Mossad, the Israeli secret service, it was confirmation of long-held suspicions that a nebulous Islamic terror network with connections from Syria to Pakistan had found a rich recruiting ground in the terraced streets of British towns and cities. For the Hanif and Sharif families in Britain, it brought utter bewilderment as the passport photographs of a father, brother and son was plastered over front pages and television screens across the country. Taz Hanif reflected the shared utter disbelief as, on the doorstep of the family home, he said of his brother: "He was just a big teddy bear. How did this happen?" The answer to that question lay in the complex web of radicalisation, deception and cunning which brought two "martyrs", the son of the entrepreneur who brought kebabs to Derby and a business studies student from Hounslow, to the Tuesday night jamming session at Mike's Place. It is a story that brings together a quiet student who left his comprehensive school under the flight path of Heathrow to study Arabic at Damascus University with a British Muslim whose childhood had been thoroughly Western but converted to ascetic Islam after he went to university in London. Sharif, who attended Repton Preparatory School in Milton for two years, arrived at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport in early April. He was understood to have travelled around Israel before arriving in the Gaza Strip around a week ago, almost certainly accompanied by Hanif, who left Syria a fortnight ago, in a taxi.........

It was here that they possibly met up with the militants of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, part of the Palestinian Fatah movement, and the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, who claimed responsibility for the Tel Aviv bombing. Whether the two men had met before they travelled to Israel or Gaza was unclear but it was only when they were ready to launch their attack that they appeared in public. In the maze-like network of settlements, checkpoints and security fences that divide the occupied territories from Israel, the men needed to disguise their motives well. The twin activities of peace activists and the Alternative Tourism Group provided that conceit perfectly. Just days before they are believed to have carried out the bombing, Hanif and Sharif were seen visiting the spot where Rachel Corrie, an American human shield, was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer. A witness remembered speaking to the two young men with heavy British accents. Streams of international peace activists were converging that day on the city of Rafah, where Ms Corrie was killed, to mark the end of the 40 days of mourning an Arab tradition. If the men wanted to meet Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, they could have slipped in with the activists. They left their trail across Gaza. A source connected with human rights work in Rafah, a European who asked not to be named, said he spoke with the two men at the spot where Ms Corrie died last Friday, in the dusty outskirts of Rafah, where giant cactuses grow and buildings across the border in Egypt can be seen. It is a dangerous place. The Israeli army regularly fires into the Palestinian houses here, and sends bulldozers to demolish them, claiming that they are used by Palestinian militants to shoot at soldiers on the border.

At the time when the two Britons were spotted in Gaza, ATG had its tour group, including four UK passport holders, in the area. The company's managing director, Rami Qasis, has denied that Hanif or Sharif had been part of the group, pointing out that the four Britons on the tour had left Israel by the time of the bombing. Indeed, it is much more likely that the two men used the name of ATG among a number of "excuses" to be at the heart of Palestinian extremism. The cities and refugee camps of Gaza are the militants' most fertile recruiting grounds: one of the most crowded places on earth, packed with young Palestinians with no jobs, living far below the poverty line, and with nowhere else to go. Unless, that is, you hold a British passport. On Tuesday afternoon, a week after they had entered Gaza, the men passed through the checkpoints. Around an hour later they would have been in Tel Aviv, making final preparations for the attack which killed Yanai Weiss, 46, a musician, 24-year-old Ran Baron, and Dominique Hess, 29, a Frenchwoman who emigrated to Israel. Tel Aviv police said yesterday that Hanif's suitcase had contained a medium-sized device packed with nails and shrapnel designed to inflict the worst possible wounds. As ambulances poured into the broad beach-front avenue outside the bar, Sharif managed to pull free of the people trying to detain him amid the screaming and carnage in the bar. The tall Briton ran towards the nearby American Embassy, leaving his coat and the explosive vest he had been wearing in a pile on a street corner. Witnesses said it seemed that there had been a malfunction with the device which caused Sharif to abort his role in the attack....

But it was the similarities between the two men that were perhaps the most telling.

After gaining a distinction in his business studies GNVQ, Hanif surprised friends with the news that he had decided to study Arabic at the University of Damascus, Syria, for five years. He told one of his friends that he intended to become a full-time Islamic scholar and informed his brother Taz that he was planning to return to London as a teacher. In the meantime, he travelled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to "discover his culture". There is a suggestion that he studied Islamic jurisprudence in Morocco before reaching Syria. His parents, who left Britain last year to travel to Mecca, were last night thought to be still unaware of their son's death after they returned to their native Pakistan.
For Omar Khan Sharif, the transformation from a Westernised existence was equally abrupt. He is the son of a wealthy businessman, Sardar Mohammed Sharif, who arrived from Pakistani Kashmir to set up a string of businesses in the Normanton area of Derby, including a launderette and, reputedly, the first kebab shop in the city. The ambitions of his parents for him were reflected in their choice of school. Dating back to 1557, Repton Prep School can count Roald Dahl, Christopher Isherwood and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Ramsey among its famous former pupils. No one at the school could remember yesterday why Sharif was eventually expelled from this distinguished establishment at the age of 13. He went on to attend the local comprehensive, Bemrose Community College, which takes 720 of Derby's most difficult inner-city children. Despite the change in station, and an attitude, according to his teachers, of wilful under-achievement, Sharif was an academic success, and went on to university in London, where he met his Middle Eastern wife. On his return to Derby four years ago, things had changed. Married with two young children, the couple were clearly immersed in Islam. Mrs Sharif wore a burqa and covered her head, while her husband had grown a beard and wore traditional Arab clothes. In October, around the same time that the al-Muhajiroun group of Islamists led 200 people through the city urging support for "their brothers in Palestine", he moved out of his family's 125,000 Victorian home into a shabby terraced house on nearby Northumberland Street, where his older sister Nasreen was also believed to live. While his elder siblings, Mahmooda, Zahid, Parvez, Parveen and Nasreen, saw an Islamic tradition in a moderate sense, he seemed to become more deeply involved. He regularly attended a small mosque on Weston Road just minutes away from his home, called the Jamia Hanfia Taleem mosque. It was rumoured that he had become involved with the hardline al-Muhajiroun. He was last seen in Derby only a month ago. Friends, family and neighbours remained mystified over what had transformed Hanif from a withdrawn, serious-minded man with an interest in politics and religion to a multiple murderer. Most believed that his developing concern for the Palestinian cause turned into raging anger during his time in the Syrian capital. But a friend of Hanif insisted: "He was a very gentle person. He just wanted to improve himself as a human being. He was quiet, not an extremist or anything like that. He didn't have a political agenda, he was more into the spiritual side of Islam." Back behind the doors of the house in Hounslow where Hanif had lived, his brother spoke for many. Taz Hanif said: "We used to watch the news and our parents said the suicide stuff is not good. What do you achieve by killing yourself and killing other people?"

2003-05-03 Sat 15:17ct