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British Equipment Used in Gaza Strike?

By Alexandra Williams
The Mirror
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 F-16s.

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 it.

In Israel, Sharon said he was "sorry" for civilians struck, but added: "This operation, in my view, is one of the great successes."


By Kevin Toolis
The Mirror
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 to remove.

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 and brothers.

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 cemetery.

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" policy.

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, aged five.

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 and Dina.

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 bed.

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.


Israel's massacre of the innocents

Readers Letter
The Mirror
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 and optimism.

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