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Correspondent Friday, 17 November, 2000, 18:54 GMT
When Peace Died
When Peace Died is a BBC Correspondent programme and will be shown at 1855 GMT on Saturday 18th November on BBC 2.

Two images captured the hatred that has destroyed the peace process in the Middle East. Mohammed al-Durrah, the boy from Gaza, shielded by his father but still dying under a hail of bullets fired by Israeli soldiers and the lynching and brutal murder of two Israeli reservists by a Palestinian mob.

After decades of bloodshed in the Middle East, the death of a child, captured on video proved how fragile the peace process was.

The Gaza strip was the first piece of occupied territory to be handed back to the Palestinians under the Oslo accords. But the Israeli military are still there, protecting the citizens travelling to and from the isolated Israeli settlements still in Gaza.

Netzarim Junction: scene of confrontation

On September 30th, two days after the riots began in Jerusalem, the junction near the settlement of Netzarim became the scene of confrontation.

Netzarim Junction in Gaza is an unremarkable place : a barren crossroads in a territory that is easily forgotten. It is the point where the main north-south road on the Gaza Strip bisects a smaller road between two equally unremarkable destinations, Karni and Netzarim.

I told him not to worry; an ambulance will arrive soon and take you. I put my right hand up begging them to stop the shooting

Jamal Al Durrah
Twelve year-old Mohammed al-Durrah did not go to school on Saturday 30th September. Following the rioting in Jerusalem the previous day, the Israelis had closed the border with Gaza, effectively imprisoning its inhabitants.

Mohammed's father Jamal al-Durrah, like so many other Gazans, could not go to his job in Israel, and decided to take his son to the car auction, to keep him out of trouble.

Coming back from the auction, they blundered into the type of small-scale riot that is so familiar in Gaza. Kids gather to throw stones at the visible manifestation of their oppression, the Israeli Defence Force. The soldiers respond with tear gas and rubber bullets, sometimes live rounds.

Caught in the cross fire

Jamal Al Durrah
Jamal al-Durrah, father of Mohammed
When the shooting began Jamal hid with his son behind a water tank and tried to shield him. "So the first bullet got in his right knee. Then Mohammed screamed "Father I've been shot." Then I told him not to worry; an ambulance will arrive soon and take you. I put my right hand up begging them to stop the shooting."

That morning as the situation worsened, Talal Abu Tahmeh, a Palestinian cameraman working for a French television station arrived to film the scene. "The bullets - it was like rain. When the dust was cleared, I saw the boy laying down. In that minute I was sure the boy got killed. I was screaming that the boy was dead."

Mohammed's mother spent that day cleaning the house and preparing a meal for her husband and son. She watched the television while waiting for them to return, and saw a picture of her son amongst the injured and the dead. "Quarter of an hour later, I saw Mohammed's body coming."

At Netzarim junction the Israelis bulldozed everything, except their own command post, making it difficult to prove exactly where the bullets had been fired from.

At first the army claimed the boy had been caught in the cross fire. Later, they admitted it was "highly probable" that responsive fire from the Israeli position killed Mohammed.

Shrine to a Martyr

A memorial on the spot the boy was killed
The family home has become a shrine. From the life of an ordinary boy from a poor family, a legend is being made of the child who hated injustice, who wanted to be a martyr for the cause of Jerusalem. Mohammed al-Durrah's face has become a potent symbol of the struggle.

The call to arms, to claim Jerusalem as their capital, is broadcast loud and clear on Palestinian television.

Mohammed al-Durrah's death may have changed the course of history in this region. At the very least, the Middle East peace process took a severe jolt.

A community far from the front line

Far from the front line of Gaza in Or Akiva, a small town in Northern Israel, the mainly Russian immigrant community went about their daily lives. For them the struggle for jobs and a better life in their adopted country was more immediate.

For the Norzich family this was a happy time. Mikhail and his brother Vadim had immigrated to Israel from Siberia seven years ago and now Vadim was getting married.

Vadim Norzich with his bride Irena
Vadim Norzich's bride Irena was another Russian immigrant. The couple were expecting a child. They had only been married for five days when Vadim learned he was being called up for reserve duty as a driver in the army. On October 12th Vadim left Or Akiva in his car.

With another Israeli reservist, they headed for their army camp in the disputed territory of the West Bank. But they took a short cut turning off the highway towards the Arab city of Ramallah.

The Israeli army believes the men were forcibly abducted. The Palestinian police deny that they were arrested and deliberately put in danger.

I saw someone at the windows with blood on his hands, and I saw the corpse fall.

eye witness
Vadim and his colleague found themselves surrounded by an angry mob. Ominously a poster of Mohammed al-Durrah and his father was prominently displayed.

The two Israelis were hustled into the local police station. The media were warned not to take pictures as the crowds forced their way in.

Blood stained hands

An eye witness remembers, "I saw someone at the windows with blood on his hands, shouting and inciting the mob, and I saw the corpse fall."

A helicopter gunship destroys the police station
Vadim's body, beaten and burnt, was handed over to his army brigade at the nearby Israeli/Palestinian liason post. Vadim's colleague was taken there too and died from his wounds shortly afterwards. As Vadim Norzich was buried the whole nation mourned.

"The Ramallah lynching will go down as a turning point - an indelible stain on the entire peace process," was the verdict of Israel's newspapers that day. The disparing family spoke of revenge but the state, not the mob to act on their behalf.

Helicopter gunships blasted the police station shortly afterwards.

Jane Corbin who has reported on the Oslo peace process from its first beginning eight years ago, returns to the Middle East to talk to the families of those victims, and asks the negotiators on both sides whether Jews and Arabs can now ever share the same land.

Reporter: Jane Corbin

Producers: Frank Smith and John Thynne

Series Producer: Farah Durrani

Editor: Fiona Murch

Click here for transcripts

Then Mohammed screamed "Father I've been shot."
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