Equipment Used in Gaza Strike?
By Alexandra Williams
24 July 2002
DEAD baby Dina Matar is held aloft - a victim of the Israeli F-16
raid which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday hailed as "one
of the great successes".
SLAUGHTER: Baby Dina Matar's
tiny body is taken from the rubble
The terror leader targeted died but so did 14 innocents. President
Bush led world condemnation of the attack.
And a political storm was triggered in London over the possible
use of British parts in the US F-16 fighter jet which blasted a
crowded apartment block in Gaza City late into Monday night.
The infant held aloft, two-month-old Dina Matar, was one of nine
child victims. Four were her siblings.
The family lived on an upper floor of the building, next to the
apartment occupied by 48-year-old Salah Shahada, military leader
of the Hamas group behind many suicide bombings.
VICTIM: Body of a boy lies in ambulance
after the F-16 strike killed nine children
Dina's aunt Maha said: "The blast was tremendous. We all scrambled
to find the children, some of them were covered with blood.''
In Britain, a row was already rumbling over Government approval
for the export of cockpit technology used in the Lockheed Martin
Yesterday MPs from all sides and peace campaigners reiterated calls
for an end to the "unethical" foreign policy of selling
arms to war zones.
Labour MP Alice Mahon said: "This attack was a slaughter of
the innocents. It was a deliberate act of murder. How can we justify
exporting any weapons to Israel when it is turning on civilians?"
The Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "Middle Eastern leaders,
among others, are likely to think that ministers have the blood
of Palestinian children on their hands."
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the Commons the Gaza strike was
"unjustified and disproportionate" - and conceded British
equipment may have been used.
TRAGIC: Body of Muhammed Hwaiti -
his mother and brother also died as missile struck
He said: "We are still getting further information about which
F-16 was used, but the contract between British Aerospace and Lockheed
Martin is one of very long-standing.
"It is perfectly possible that such equipment licensed by
previous administrations, or indeed by this administration in the
past, was incorporated into that equipment." Labour now judges
arms licences on a case by case basis, which it says is in line
with European rules.
America called the raid "heavy-handed" and a deliberate
attack knowing innocents would be lost. All 15 EU governments condemned
In Israel, Sharon said he was "sorry" for civilians struck,
but added: "This operation, in my view, is one of the great
BLAST DAD'S TERRIBLE DESPAIR
By Kevin Toolis
25 July 2002
YOU can hear the wail down the corridor in Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital.
From a distance it sounds like the cry of thrashing animal.
But in a bare side ward, the pain is all too human.
DINA: Yesterday's front page
Two-month-old Dina Matar - whose limp, lifeless body featured on
our front page yesterday - did not survive Ariel Sharon's F-16 missile
strike on her home.
Her father, 22-year-old Rami Matar, did. But at a terrible cost.
He lost his only child and suffered horrible injuries.
His face is a bloody mass as if he had been punched 50 times.
His left eye is a wound that oozes dust and debris from the blast
of the explosive.
His body is bruised and flecked from shards of metal.
And hidden behind the bandage around his head, are the tiny pieces
of shrapnel deep within his skull which doctors were too afraid
Without warning he sits up and screams out: "My head, my head
it's bursting inside."
As is common with Gaza families, he shared the house with his father
RAMI did not know that Hamas leader Sheikh Salah Shehadeh had moved
in next door until four days before the air attack.
Rami was never involved in politics. On the night of the bombing,
he was sitting at home.
"I was just finishing my prayers and going to bed with my
wife when there was a huge explosion," he said.
"I saw a huge light and then the roof came in. I woke up the
next day in the hospital.
"I asked about my wife Hanna and Dina. At first my cousin
Akran said they had gone on vacation. I laughed. 'Gone on vacation?'
and me here in this state in hospital.
What happened to us is inhumane... it's totally unjust. I was just
with my wife and child. We're an innocent family.
"I hope God takes revenge on the people who did this.
"But I don't know what kind of revenge that could be."
And then he rises from the bed and begins to scream again. Anxious
relatives rush to the bedside but no drug can cure Rami's sickness.
In a single moment, from thousands of feet above, an Israeli F-16
plane has brought death to his family.
Dina was pulled out dead from the wreckage of her home within minutes
and now lies in a dry grave across the city in the Sheik Radwan
Hanna, 22, has gone mad with grief and is hiding in the city.
And the gruesome task of digging out all the other dead children
of the Matar family was still going on. I was there on a shattered
stairwell when the body of Rami's nephew, 18-month-old Ayam, was
finally pulled from the rubble 36 hours after the bomb hit.
He was dressed in blue shorts and a green t-shirt.
His childish hands were raised in the air as if to push back the
tonnes of masonry that crushed his life to extinction.
The cloying stench of death filled the corridor and it was hard
not to be sick. Perhaps the salesman and the foreign ministers who
so glibly talk about exports and foreign revenues would like to
see the end result in a place like Gaza City.
The Matar's crime was to live unknowingly next door to a man which
the Israeli Government and Ariel Sharon wanted to kill.
SHEHADEH was a leader of Hamas, the Islamic movement which sends
suicide bombers into Israeli cities.
The F-16 bomb was part of Israel's "selective assassination"
The Matar family were not the real targets of the Israeli secret
service agents who ordered the air strike after they were sure Shehada
was inside the drab apartment block on Al-Mashahra Street.
The Matar children just got in the way. Their lives were unimportant.
They were just "collateral damage".
After Ayam, they dug out four-year-old Mohammed and then Dalia,
The grave diggers, because that is what they were, only stopped
when there were no more dead Matar children to find.
The Matars lost six family members - Rami's sister-in law Eman,
27, and nephews and nieces Allaa, 11, Dalia, Mohammed, Ayman and
They were all on the Israeli score sheet: two dead terrorists plus
13 innocents equals success.
RAMI and Hanna got married 18 months ago after they attended a
local college. Rami studied history and Hanna studied English.
But because of high unemployment in Gaza, Rami could not find a
job as a teacher. He made a living selling clothes.
He rises from the bed and begins to scream again. A low wail that
transfixes the gathered relatives before he collapses back on the
There is no rest, no recovery. No means to quieten this broken
man who totters from grief on the brink of madness.
Everything that he ever possessed from his beloved daughter, his
wife, the scraps of his possessions, even love itself, is destroyed.
The Matars have become the latest innocent victims in the Middle
East's bloody conflict - and they won't be the last.
massacre of the innocents
26 July 2002
THE tragic picture on your front page of the baby who died in the
Israeli F-16 raid (Daily Mirror, July 24) tore my heart.
Last week I was in Gaza City with a small delegation of trade unionists
to show solidarity with the Palestinians and their struggle.
I was shocked by what I saw. To be a Palestinian today is what
it was like to be black under South Africans apartheid.
I saw terrible hardship and suffering, yet despite everything,
we were delighted by the children of Gaza who were full of life
They were the future and filled me with hope, but now it chills
me to the bone to think some of those children who kicked a ball
around could now be dead. The operation wasn't a "great success"
as Ariel Sharon called it. It was murder.
S Simic Hackney, E London