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Palestinian sniper recalls operation which left 10 Israelis dead six years ago

April 2, 2008 4:26 P.M. (Updated: April 2, 2008 4:26 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Six years ago, a single Palestinian sniper named Tha'r Hammad from the central West Bank town of Silwad killed 10 Israelis and injured several others.

Hammad, who was seized by the Israeli authorities afterwards, is now serving a life sentence in an Israeli jail. Six years after the operation Hammad was interviewed by the press:

Q- What do you remember about the operation which you carried out six years ago?

A- On the 2nd of March 2002, I left home after the dawn prayer and prepared myself for the operation. I had been watching the Israeli watchtower for four days and I learned the details of when the soldiers rotated shifts. I took my M1 rifle, three ammunition clips and 40 separate bullets. Each clip contained eight bullets. I left the village on foot at about 6am heading towards the mountain opposite the Israeli military watchtower and checkpoint. I chose to sit under an olive tree about 60 to 70 meters away where I set up my rifle. I began to shoot one bullet at a time. The first bullet hit a soldier coming from the direction of Nablus in a military jeep, killing him. Then I shot dead two soldiers at the checkpoint. Then three other soldiers came out of a small room at the checkpoint, and I shot them. Then a settler car stopped at the checkpoint, and I began shooting at them as well. Nobody at the checkpoint had any idea of where the fire was coming from. Then an Israeli military patrol arrived at the scene and they began shooting in my direction. I remember that I did not fire more than 24 shots, all of which hit their targets. At the end, the rifle blew up in my hands and I could not mend it, so I decided to withdraw. Several Israeli military vehicles began to gather in the area. However, nobody dared to approach the wounded soldiers. Neither did any of them dare to chase me as they were stunned. I escaped by climbing up the mountain towards the town of Jaljulia in the west before crossing the road and returning to my village. Around 7:30 in the morning I took a shower and slept until noon in order to watch international media outlets and listen to the people in the village talking about the shooting. I did not mention anything to anybody.

Q- Did you expect to kill and injure that large a number of soldiers alone?

A- Actually, I chose to act alone so as to guarantee secrecy. I prepared to die as a martyr and I was astonished that I returned home as safely as I did. I did not feel any fear or hesitation, and my shots hit their targets 100%.

Q- Where did you obtain such professional experience?

A- I learned sniping on my own as I used to go hunting with my grandfather whose rifle I have kept for more than ten years. Rarely did I go hunting and come back without prey. I don't remember one single time when I returned home without any prey.

Q- When were you born?

A- The 25th of July, 1980 in Silwad in the Ramallah district

Q- When did you join the Fatah movement?

A- Many of my family members were affiliated to Fatah and other PLO factions. I was affected by the martyrdom of my Uncle Ribhi who was killed during the first Intifada. He used to be very good to me and we were very close when I was growing up. When the Israeli soldiers killed him, I became very upset and I took part in demonstrations and threw stones at Israeli military vehicles. I was also influenced by the Israeli soldiers' oppression of the Palestinian people at checkpoints. I decided to target a military checkpoint after being motivated by a previous and renowned shooting at an Israeli checkpoint in 'Ein 'Arik village near Ramallah.

Q- How do you view the current state of division amongst the Palestinians?

A- Prisoners played a major role in the reconciliation efforts through The Prisoners Document which led to the establishment of the Mecca Agreement and to the formation of the Palestinian National Unity government. We felt very bad after the military takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas, and we were embarrassed and frustrated when we saw Palestinians fighting and killing one other. The takeover was an error which harmed the Palestinian people as well as the Palestinian question. I hope that Hamas will work towards fixing the current division between the Palestinian people.

Q- In your opinion, who is to blame for the collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Gaza?

A- The PA collapsed as a result of Hamas' military takeover. However, the leadership of Fatah and the Palestinian security services in Gaza are the ones to blame for the collapse. It is unfortunate that none of the leaders were held responsible for the collapse nor have they had to pay for their mistakes. We still watch these same leaders on media outlets, and I call upon Fatah to put those responsible on trial.

Q- What do you think about the proposal to disband the Al-Aqsa Brigades?

A- Nobody can disband the Al-Aqsa Brigades except those who established them. Fatah should sponsor and protect the Brigades as long as there is Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories. The sole task of the Al-Aqsa Brigades is to resist Israeli occupation without intervention in any internal conflict, and that is what the founder of the Brigades, Marwan Barghouthi, has always preached.

Q- How do you see the results of negotiations by the Palestinian leadership regarding prisoners?

A- I do not oppose negotiations, yet they should be enhanced by resistance. We should work in two directions together, which is Fatah's approach originally. So far, negotiations have not achieved any progress as checkpoints are still spread across the Palestinian territories and atrocities are being committed on a daily basis. I am not against a peace agreement based on ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands occupied in 1967 and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

On 3rd March 2002, at an Israeli roadblock north of Ofra, Tha'r Hammad killed seven soldiers and three settlers, four other people were hurt.

Those killed in the attack were Lieutenant Ariel Hovav, 25; reservist Kfir Weiss from Beit Shemesh; Lieutenant David Damlin, 29, from Kibbutz Meitzar; Sergeant, Avraham Ezra, 38, from Kiryat Bialik; Sergeant Yohai Porat, 26, from Kfar Sava; Sergeant Rafael Levy, 42, from Rishon Lezion; Eran Gad, 24, from Rishon Lezion; Yitzhak Didi of Eli; Sergei Beauturo from Ariel; and Vadim Balbula from Ariel.

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