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Monday, October 15, 2007

Four years since Americans murdered in Gaza

Rick Richman notes that today is the fourth anniversary of the murder of three American diplomatic personnel in the Gaza Strip where they had gone to interview candidates for Fulbright scholarships. The murders are 'unresolved.' I'll have some comments about that after introducing Rick's post.

Hat Tip: Boker Tov Boulder

Today is the fourth anniversary of an unresolved event in Gaza that is emblematic of U.S. policy with respect to the Palestinians.

On October 15, 2003, a U.S. embassy convoy was on a visit to Gaza to interview Palestinian candidates for Fulbright scholarship programs in the United States. The convoy consisted of three fully armored but unmarked Suburbans. The first vehicle was occupied by the diplomats on the interview mission. The second vehicle was occupied by American contract protective security specialists: John Branchizio (36), John Linde (30), and Mark Parson (31). The third vehicle had agents of the Diplomatic Security Service on a “route and area familiarization” trip.

Just after the convoy entered the Gaza Strip from the Erez checkpoint, an explosion totally destroyed the second vehicle in the motorcade, killing the three specialists. A U.S. embassy document states that the device appeared to have been “placed under the road and remotely detonated as the vehicles passed.”

On January 9, 2004, Deputy Chief of Mission Richard LeBaron went to Gaza to meet with Palestinian Authority officials. He told them that “we are not satisfied that enough is being done to solve this crime” and emphasized that “we know that there is not a huge number of people who have the proven capability to carry out an attack like that executed against our motorcade.” He told them the U.S. would soon offer a $5 million reward for information regarding the murders, and that without the arrest and conviction of those responsible the U.S. could not continue its full range of assistance to the Palestinian people.

Here is what happened next, as reported by Matthew Levitt on October 18, 2004 in the Baltimore Sun:

A hastily arranged military trial for three PRC members – convened less than 48 hours after Washington offered up to a $5 million reward for information on the attack – charged the three not with murder or attempted murder but with manslaughter in connection with possessing explosive devices. The trial was convened on only a few hours’ notice; the defendants had no attorneys, and neither their families nor the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv were informed in advance.

Palestinian judges delayed the trial a month so defense attorneys could be present and the case moved to a civilian court. When the trial convened, the court announced that the defendants would be releases since “no evidence was offered against” them. They remained in jail despite the judge’s order, however, pending the approval of their release by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. That approval never came, leading fellow PRC members to storm the jail the next month and free the suspects.

Following her visit to Israel and the West Bank on February 7, 2005, Secretary of State Rice announced that she had been “assured by President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority’s intention to bring to justice those who murdered three American personnel in the Gaza in 2003.”

As of today -- nearly three years after Abbas made that personal assurance to Rice -- the Palestinian terrorists who killed John Branchizio, Mark Parson, and John Linde have still not been brought to justice. Not a single Palestinian terrorist group has been dismantled by Abbas. No terrorist infrastructure has been dismantled.

Today, Secretary Rice will meet with Abbas in Ramallah, part of her ongoing efforts to lay a foundation for (in the words of the State Department announcement of her trip) “serious negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state as soon as possible.” The Palestinians have been given a pass on their Phase I and II obligations that were supposed to precede such negotiations, as well as their commitment to identify and dismantle the people and group that attacked an American convoy with an IED four years ago.

It is doubtful that the case of John Branchizio, Mark Parson, and John Linde is even on Rice’s agenda.

Read the whole thing.

Of course, Rick is right that this is emblematic of US policy - and of the policy of the 'international community' towards the 'Palestinians.' It is a policy in which Israel is called on to make concession after concession, placing the lives of its population in danger, while the 'Palestinians' do not fulfill a single one of their commitments.

In May, I wrote a post in which I discussed the introduction of HR 2293 in the US House of Representatives. That provision would require Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to report to Congress on what is being done to bring the murderers of Branchizio, Parson and Linde to justice. On July 16, 2007, that bill passed the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the following day it was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It would be fitting if the Senate could vote on that bill no later than the Annapolis conference mugging, so that the 'Palestinian' representatives at Annapolis could be asked about the murders. You see, as I wrote in May, they know who did it.

Who murdered John Branchizio, Mark Parson, and John Marin Linde? This was written two months after the murders:
Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner has written to United States Attorney General John Ashcroft alerting him to the fact the Palestinian Security Service commander assigned to investigate the October bombing attack on American personnel in Gaza was very likely the terrorist who planned it.

Gaza Commander Col. Rashid Abu Shabak's has been entrusted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation with hunting down the terrorist cell responsible for the October 15, 2003 bombing which left three Americans dead.

The three Americans, John Branchizio, 37, of Texas, John Linde Jr., 30, of Missouri, and Mark Parsons, 31, of New Jersey, were security personnel guarding a convoy of diplomatic vehicles which was attacked by Palestinian Arab terrorists who detonated a powerful roadside bomb at the Beit Hanoun junction in Gaza. The Americans were visiting Gaza to interview candidates for Fulbright scholarships.

Darshan-Leitner's letter accuses the Palestinian commander of being the mastermind behind numerous terror attacks perpetrated by Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization in Gaza. Shurat HaDin urges the Department of Justice to investigate Abu Shabak's involvement in prior roadside bombings.

Not surprisingly, there have been no arrests made by the Palestinians in the current investigation.

According to the Shurat HaDin letter, Abu Shabak, a protege of Palestinian leader Mohammed Dahlan, has an extensive terrorist past. Abu Shabak, along with Dahlan are the leading suspects in several other Gaza terror attacks.


In her letter, Darshan-Leitner writes: "It is a disgraceful that the individual assigned by the Palestinian Authority to investigate the murders of Branchizio, Linde and Parsons is himself a leading terrorist suspected of numerous other roadside bombings in Gaza. If the United States is sincere about making arrests then it must not tolerate Rashid Abu Shabak heading up this crucial inquiry. The similarities between the October 15th roadside bombing and the roadside bombing of the Kfar Darom school bus in November 2000 cannot be ignored. We urge the Department of Justice to initiate its own investigation of Abu Shabak and his role in prior Gaza terror attacks, some of which have seriously injured American citizens."
Why is the State Department covering for Dahlan and Abu Shbak? First, because the US and the EU have decided that they will talk to 'non-Hamas' members of the current 'Palestinian unity' government. One of those non-Hamas members is Muhammed Dahlan.

Second, because while the US is financing the Force 17 terror organization, it is also financing Muhammed Dahlan's office.


Fourth, because if the State Department admits that Fatah is behind the murders of John Branchizio, Mark Parson, and John Marin Linde, it couldn't very well continue holding 'political horizon' talks with Fatah, could it?

State Department employees beware: If you are murdered in the line of duty and it's too inconvenient politically to bring your murderers to justice, they may be ignored. Pleasant thought, no?
Food for thought on this, the fourth anniversary of the murders of John Branchizio, Mark Parson, and John Marin Linde.


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