May 2002

The hands scratching frantically at the grey dust were searching for a body under the rubble. A skull found moments earlier at the same spot brought hope to the crowd of onlookers that another victim of Israel’s 10-day invasion of Jenin refugee camp in early April was about to be identified. Watching intently were the brothers of Jamal Fayid, a mentally and physically handicapped man of 37 who died on 9 April when Israeli army bulldozers demolished the family house before Jamal could be evacuated. His body has been missing for seven weeks.
But the handful of bones pulled from the lunar landscape of destruction at the centre of Jenin refugee camp last Saturday were unlikely to be Jamal’s. The site was several hundred metres from where he is known to have died.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat plunged himself deeper into his promised institutional reforms by agreeing, under pressure from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), to a six-month deadline for parliamentary and presidential ballots. His pledge, though, has failed to silence critics, domestic and foreign, largely because of the conditions attached. Elections, it was announced, will be held only if Israel withdraws to its September 2000 lines. Dissatisfaction with Arafat’s handling of the 20- month uprising has been increasingly voiced by Palestinians since he emerged from his besieged Ramallah compound.

The large arched sign over the village entrance reads “Welcome to Ghajar” in Arabic and Hebrew, but the approach road and soldiers dug into a nearby fortified army post belie the greeting. Ghajar, which along with the rest of the Syrian Golan Heights was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, can only be reached by a four-mile road marked with frequent yellow signs warning “Danger: Mines” and a humming electrified fence reinforced with barbed wire. On the other side is Lebanon. Our car’s way into the village is blocked by concrete barriers. To the right, just visible in a raised concrete pillbox, a soldier studies the horizon through a pair of high-powered binoculars. An armoured vehicle with a machine-gun mounting peeks out from behind a high grass embankment, where more troops are hidden from view.

An arched sign at the village entrance reads “Welcome to Ghajar” in Arabic and Hebrew, but the approach road and soldiers dug into an army post belie the greeting. Ghajar, which along with the rest of the Syrian Golan Heights was captured by Israel in the Six Day war of 1967, is reached by a four-mile road marked with yellow signs warning “Danger: Mines” and a humming electrified fence. On the other side is Lebanon. My car’s way into the village is blocked by concrete barriers. Just visible in a raised concrete pillbox is a soldier studying the horizon through binoculars. An armoured vehicle mounted with a machine gun peeks out from behind a high grass embankment.