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'I thought I would die'.

Byline: By Marc Baker Wales on Sunday

A welsh gran last night told how she survived a bloodbath after being caught up in the assassination of one of Israel's most wanted rebels.

Anne Gwynne spoke for the first time about the terrifying moment 100 soldiers stormed her home after killing Palestinian militant Muhammad Al-Assi.

The 66-year-old freelance journalist was interviewing Al-Assi at her house in the West Bank town of Nablus for an American journal when they were surrounded by military men who set off stun grenades.

After troops shot dead the 28-year-old suspected member of terror extremists Islamic Jihad, they began firing at the former bank manager from Aberystwyth.

Back in Wales, the roving reporter - who has featured in two ITV Wales documentaries about her life in Israel - told of the horrifying moment she came under fire.

'After Muhammad was shot dead there was intensified shooting from all sides coupled with the explosions of grenades and sound-bombs all around the house as well as hundreds of rounds of M16 machine fire,' she said. 'It was terrifying. I thought I was going to die.'

Anne moved to Nablus in 2002 when she became interested in the Middle East Peace Process.

Commissioned by ITV Wales to make a further two half-hour programmes, Anne was filming an interview with Al-Assi and interpreter Mutassim Adel Ayl in July when she came under fire. Al-Assi tried to flee her home but was shot dead by the Israeli military. Frightened by the heavy gunfire, Anne and her interpreter feared for their lives.

'My house was under siege for an hour after Muhammad was shot. Mutassim and I huddled together in a corner of the front bedroom which we hoped was out of the line of fire, our arms around each other for comfort,' said Anne, a member of the International Federation of Journalists.

'All the time we felt that we would die - I could hear Mutassim's rapid, heavy heart beat on my ribs and I'm sure he could feel mine.

'By megaphone we were told, 'Come out or we will bomb the house'. I knew that the moment Mutassim emerged they would kill him on sight, but felt that they might not be so ready to murder a foreign woman journalist, so I went out first, calling out, 'Don't shoot, don't shoot - I'm a journalist'.

'I asked them again not to shoot, holding up my hands and also pulling my blouse up to my bra, as they seem to believe that everyone here sleeps in a commando belt. I had committed no crime, neither had Mutassim - but there we were, two innocent human beings pleading for our lives with 100 gunmen with their assault rifles all pointed our way.

'An Israeli then grunted something from the other end of his M16 rifle. He asked if I was English but I said, 'No, I am Welsh'.

'No-one asked me my name. No-one asked Mutassim his name. No one warned Muhammad or asked who he was. Mutassim was then blindfolded and had plastic electrical cable tied around his wrists before being taken to the dreaded Petakh Tikfah torture centre.

'Most of the soldiers with their dogs then went into my garden and surrounded my house - and after a while they all went in and ransacked my simple possessions. Muhammad could easily have been arrested as he ran out of the door but I believe they wanted him dead.'

Troops did not arrest Anne during the operation.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said she did not know if any further action would be taken.

'The incident is under Shin Bet investigation,' she said, referring to Israel's internal security service. Anne's eye-witness account of the murder is expected to form part of the security service's investigation.
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 4, 2005
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