A sentence in the Jan. 3 editorial "A Brutal Routine" should have read: "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the reoccupation of Palestinian towns and territory, and the destruction of most of the security infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority, after the Authority failed to stop waves of suicide bombers from assaulting Israel." (Published 1/4/03)
THERE HAS BEEN a lull recently in Palestinian attacks against Israelis; a shooting attack that killed four in a West Bank settlement last week was the first major incident in a month. But almost every day, Palestinian civilians, including many children, are being killed by the Israeli army and police. An 18-year-old high school student named Amran Abu Hamediye was found beaten to death in the West Bank town of Hebron on Monday; family and neighbors say he had been detained by Israeli forces a few minutes before. On Sunday, an 11-year-old boy was shot and killed by troops in the town of Tulkarm. The day before, a 9-year-old girl was killed as she played outside her home in the Gaza Strip. At least four other Palestinian children under the age of 16 were killed by Israeli fire in Gaza during the past month. In one case, an 11-year-old girl was shot in the chest and killed as she leaned out her bedroom window to watch the funeral of a teenage boy who had been gunned down the previous day.
Israeli explanations of this grinding carnage long ago acquired a routine quality. Youngsters are often accused of having thrown stones at troops; in other cases, soldiers are said to have been responding to sniper fire in the vicinity. Investigations are invariably said to be underway -- but rarely are results reported. According to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, only one Israeli soldier has been convicted of brutality since the latest Palestinian uprising began 15 months ago. During that time, some 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, compared with 700 Israelis.
Israeli officials point out that their forces, unlike the Palestinian suicide bombers, do not deliberately set out to kill children and other civilians. That is mostly true; but reports of calculated brutality by soldiers have been growing ever since the army reoccupied the West Bank six months ago. In Hebron, where Palestinian terrorists ambushed and killed a dozen Israeli soldiers and security guards on Nov. 15, Israeli paramilitary forces have reportedly been operating something they call "the lottery," in which they detain Palestinians and order them to choose from pieces of paper labeled with punishments such as "broken leg" and "smashed head." The practice was reported by an Israeli newspaper on Dec. 22, more than a week before Amran Abu Hamediye was beaten to death. But Israeli authorities as yet have taken no action in response to the reports.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the reoccupation of Palestinian towns and territory, and the destruction of most of the security infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority, after Israeli forces failed to stop waves of suicide bombers from assaulting Israel. Now running for reelection, Mr. Sharon is claiming success: Suicide bombings are less frequent, and beleaguered Palestinian militants are discussing the possibility of declaring an end to attacks inside Israel. Mr. Sharon recently promised that his tactics would lead to "victory" over the Palestinians. But he and his army cannot give Israelis real security in this way, only a relative respite -- and at a high cost in Palestinian lives.