No bangs, no smoking guns: victims just fell and bledSAM KILEY IN RAMALLAH, TUESDAY OCTOBER 17 2000
ISRAELI snipers using specialised rifles fitted with silencers yesterday picked off high-profile Palestinian rioters in Ramallah in an apparent bid to "take out" ringleaders of the 19-day uprising. Stone-throwing youths watched, stunned, as men and boys at the barricades collapsed with small bullet holes in their chests, testicles, arms and hips. Those wounded included the nephew of Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the West Bank intifada who has been using the uprising to position himself as a potential successor to Yassir Arafat.
Coming soon after an Israeli armoured vehicle charge at rioters, no one knew quite what to do about the new approach to riot control. The Israelis hurled stun grenades, and fired the occasional rubber bullet. The Palestinians were used to that, ducking and diving and chucking stones back. But the use of rounds which apparently came from nowhere terrified the crowds. There were no bangs, no smoking guns. The victims just flopped down and bled, sometimes unnoticed.
Tahir Afaneh, 18, was unmoved by the sight of two men who fell close to him and were whisked away by ambulance. He already had an arm and a knee bandaged from rubber bullet wounds sustained earlier in the "al-Aqsa intifada".
Easily visible in a white T-shirt, Mr Afaneh stepped from behind a car to whirr his slingshot and take aim at Israeli soldiers 100 yards away. There was no sound of a shot, but he spun around, falling on his back. "I didn't hear a thing. I didn't feel much, I just fell over," he said in Ramallah's central hospital where he was treated for a wound to his pelvis, where the bullet lodged.
Hosni Atari, the doctor who treated him, said he had never seen the results of the new Israeli weapon before. Hollow-nosed bullets opened like an umbrella on impact, spun about, chewing up internal organs, and seldom left an exit wound.
The long-barrel 22mm rifle was deadly even at long range - and had the advantage of never revealing the sniper's nest. "These are intended to cause the maximum amount of damage to a person," Dr Atari said. He treated seven such patients yesterday.
As the Israeli and Palestinian leadership talked peace in Sharm el-Sheik, another patient was rushed in. This time, it was Tamir Barghouti, whose uncle had declared at the funeral of a Palestinian gunman yesterday: "Our intifada is greater than Sharm el Sheik".
Tamir Barghouti, 23, had been shot through the abdomen and the bullet lodged in his hip. "He might make it," Dr Atari told Marwan Barghouti, who took the opportunity to announce to journalists outside the operating theatre: "The talks in Egypt will fail. We support Mr Arafat, but we wish he had not bothered to go. There is only one solution, and that is to put an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine."
By sunset, the toll across the West Bank was two dead - a boy of 13
and a policeman - a 14-year old boy described as clinically dead, and