Palestinian Reports, April 2002, Pt 4

Sarah Irving, 17th April 2002ce

Wed, 10 Apr 2002 08:14:31

dear all,

still bleary from sleep smeared with strange dreams and punctuated with loud explosions of as yet unknown sources, and huge amounts of IDF machinery trundling by since the early hours. in my fantasies they are leaving...

broke curfew yesterday to get heather clean clothes, and ended up trapped at the hotel whilst the IDF shot at journalists to keep them out of the street whilst they looted shops. then we snuck round a back way, with about 15 pitiful journos following us from a distance of about 20 yards, cameras trained, obviously hoping they'd get some good pictures of international chicks with no flak jackets (unlike them) getting blasted. as usual, they were all ludicrously kitted up and utterly cowardly; there are a couple of really cool press out here,. like Bob Fisk and Khaled from Bethlehem TV and the crew from al-jazeera, who are very brave and capable. but the rest are lily-livered machistas who pose with their bulletproof jackets and big cameras and seem to spend most of their time cowering round corners whilst Palestinians look bemused.

things are comparatively quiet in Bethlehem now; continuous IDF proximity and the oppressive presence of the gilo and har homa settlements means that Bethlehem is permanently under a state of semi-occupation anyway, so crushing it is less difficult than the more distant cities of Nablus and Jenin, which have fought so desperately and bravely for the last week. it is quite stunning that jenein camp, a refugee camp of 15,000 people crammed into a square kilometre, has managed to keep out the IDF, one of the most heavily armed forces in the world, with just a few kalashnikovs and handarms, pitted against tanks, helicopters, missiles and the utter racist brutality of the Israeli army. and despite a large portion of the camp having been bulldozed, often with the inhabitants of the houses trapped inside. and the old city in Nablus - a beautiful, ancient kasbah of the most gorgeous buildings and narrow, winding streets, which has been devastated, the sides of buildings blasted away from their occupants, whilst again a few sparsely-armed young men attempt to mount a last stand against the Israeli war machine. a brutal machine which will, of course, break all the rules of human rights by ensuring that if wounded they will rot in the dark instead of being taken to hospital; a report from a Nablus ambulance driver yesterday described how the old city streets are littered with bodies, and one has been lying there since last week, being eaten by dogs.

but awareness seems to be growing, and action is grinding slowly to life. there are internationals in Nablus now, and hopefully more will be able to get in soon if the local population deem them necessary and useful. Jenin, however, is still cut off, bar a few press; a driver reputed to be able to get 'anywhere' had his cab fired on by a tank missile 2km outside it. again, the IDF will do whatever they can to limit the witnessing of their crimes.

anyway, rant over. I’ll try to get to people in the next few days, but I may be heading up north. we'll see.

s xxx

Wed, 10 Apr 2002 21:25:09

hey all,

a 60 year old man walking down the Hebron road this evening was shot dead in the street. the ambulance trying to collect him was delayed whilst the IDF confiscated his id card. I can't help wondering whether he was the old guy I saw walking down the street earlier in the afternoon, given that there were very, very few people outside today. curfew was lifted in Beit Jala only, so now opportunities for the rest of the city to acquire food and other supplies.

possibly this was because the IDF are cooking something up round by the still-besieged church of the nativity, where they cleverly managed to shoot a monk this morning. a big fat white IDF blimp was hovering over it most of the afternoon, or rather two, as the first got shot down after an hour or so. ha. but there is a general worry that the Israelis will seriously fuck over the muqada and the church of the nativity because they need to break these two stalemates before Colin Powell turns up to play hero on Friday, once he's finished sunning himself in Morocco. according to neta, the tanks are lining up on the front of the muqada at the moment and there has been shelling at it since the afternoon.

some of the internationals got into Nablus, and the reports we've had from them include people being buried in the rubble of their homes, men being held for four days and then released into the curfew and shot at, soldiers laughing as a woman miscarried after being denied medical care for some time. the internationals have been riding red crescent ambulances despite being warned that they would be shot at. reports from Ramallah also describe the trauma of children seeing their houses covered in shit after being taken over by soldiers and trashed.

and a member of the Israeli government has declared that the people trapped in the nativity church should be gassed and the refugee camps should just be aerial bombed...

good night and sweet dreams.


Thu, 11 Apr 2002 17:06:47

hey all,

a tense day in Bethlehem today. the IDF have been carting off truckloads of young Palestinian men towards Jerusalem, which is worrying; previously they were being detained in Beit Jala but apparently a jail in the Negev Desert has been re-opened so we are concerned that they are being taken there.

the IDF were also doing house-to-house searches around Manger Square today. they used a young man as a human shield as they went round houses breaking down doors. they had previously hit him in the stomach with a rifle butt until he puked and beat him when he then sat insufficiently still. the IDF were being guided round by a man in a black hood, believed to be a Palestinian collaborator. the director of a peace centre whose house was searched was threatened with shooting if guns were found on the premises. his American wife has been told by the Israelis that she will never be allowed to return if she goes back home to the states with her first 2 children, both US-born.

there was also another surveillance balloon over the church of the nativity again, and again it was shot down.

there has been a fair amount of shooting and shelling around the city today, and the whiff of tear gas this evening from an as yet unidentified source. a group of internationals were not allowed into deheishe camp today, which is the direction from which the young men were being taken in confinement. when they are shipped like that they are put in standing trucks like cattle and can be kept that way for hours. so that's worrying. a couple of journos were pretty obviously shot directly at when trying to head in the direction of the nativity church this afternoon. there are also reports, which we have been trying to confirm, that the souk (market) in the old city of Bethlehem has been mined. this is of particular concern to us at the moment because a group of internationals are planning to try and get humanitarian aid up there tomorrow. we'll probably just get fired at again, but there you go...once the old city ceases to be under permanent curfew, there is also of course the probability that mines would cause considerable loss of life.

a group of internationals have also been prevented from entering Jenin. it has also emerged that the BBC crew that got into Jenin were actually escorted in by the IDF and had a military presence with them at all times. Israeli groups like tayush are trying to organise a demonstration there tomorrow; they won't get in, and they'll get beaten and tear-gassed, but it's good to see really militant activity from Israeli groups. it has also been reported that the IDF have been digging large pits - mass graves? - in the area of the refugee camp and around the city.

in Nablus, ambulance crews have been stripped and detained and then made to carry the wounded into the hospital by hand instead of taking them in by ambulance. the wounded have also been made to wait in ambulances while this happens, or themselves stripped and searched.

and to get the AR folk on side - the IDF use local cats for target practice.

take care, all.

sarah xxx

Fri, 12 Apr 2002 07:54:31

hey all,

just a brief one; I’ve only been up half an hour so don't have too much to say. only that Khaled, the Bethlehem TV cameraman who has been such a friend to us over the last few weeks, got arrested at deheishe last night. Palestinian journalists are routinely beaten in custody, and Khaled had a very special line in winding up IDF (whilst western journos cowered behind an ambulance last week as we were held in the middle of the Beit Jala road outside al-husayn hospital, Khaled had his camera right up the arse of the armoured personnel carrier full of troops, one of whom had a rifle pointed at him the whole time). so, we are worried about him both as a Palestinian subjected to detainment by the occupying forces, and as a friend.

the IDF are doing house-to-house searches in Beit Sahour this morning, similar to those I described round Manger Square yesterday. again, they seem to have the aid of a collaborator who has informed them of exactly which houses to search and harass. most of these collaborators - of which there are said to be many thousands in the west bank - are trapped by the Israelis, eg by being photographed with prostitutes after being arrested, or are offered large sums of money. the incentives have to be large, as the potential fates they face are gruesome.

off to Manger Square again for another no-doubt-futile attempt to appeal to the consciences of the IDF to let us take food to families up there, who have been under continual curfew for 10 days now and have had none of the access to shops that other residents of Bethlehem and surrounding towns have at least had once or twice.

take care,


Fri, 12 Apr 2002 14:30:45

hey all,

a strange day. we tried to get up to Manger Square to get food to the families who have been under curfew for nearly a fortnight. a radical Christian group who managed to get up earlier than us got two consignments up to within about 60 yards of the square and distributed it to families (this, by the way, is a large stack of UN aid food - rice, flour, milk powder, sugar etc). we had just managed to get a third consignment about half way there, with a certain amount of IDF compliance and a negotiated deal about where we could take stuff, when that well-known bunch of arselicking collaborators the red cross (not to be confused with those heroes the red crescent) showed up. they butted into our negotiations with the IDF officer and sorted a new deal out, which excluded us - suddenly it had become 'too dangerous' for anyone but red cross staff - and only got the food in half as far, with a third of the number of people to actually dole it out. and then they took the stuff we had already lugged up the hill. of course, just the fact that the stuff gets anywhere is good, but it's pretty fucking annoying when the multinational aid industry, especially in the shape of the almost, it appears, universally unpopular Veronique, sticks its nose in.

other goings-on in Bethlehem today include the IDF dynamiting a house not far from the IMC. the explosion shook the building here. the IDF claim it was a factory for bombs; the neighbours insist it was residential. later in the day it was curfew lift, and the whole place went completely insane. people were fighting to get into the shops, many of which were enforcing one-out/one-in policies to prevent chaos. quite a bit of random shooting and stuff as well, but that's pretty much par for the course now.

it's hard to know what to do. things in Bethlehem are bad, but things are so bad elsewhere. do we cancel food drops here to go to demonstrations against that bastard Powell in Ramallah, leaving Bethlehem without internationals? god we need more people here; we kind of thought that Powell's presence might at least inspire a brief pullback and give people a little respite, even if they came back. but not even that seems to be happening. the entire international community has sold out the Palestinian people. where else is it possible to turn?


Fri, 12 Apr 2002 14:41:26

just another message if anyone is planning to come out here, or knows people who are (and god knows they are needed). 153 PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TURNED BACK FROM BEN GURION AIRPORT SINCE APRIL 3RD. the Israelis do not want internationals to see what they are doing. if you must come through ben gurion, come alone or in twos, and make sure you have a bloody convincing cover story. but try instead to come through amman. less money to the Israeli government, too! details at