British solidarity activist, Ewa Jasiewicz sent this bullet battered report back from the towns and refugee camps of the Gaza Strip, as they suffer a maelstrom of attacks and beatings by Israeli forces.
24th May 2003
At approximately 4pm Wednesday May 14, two tanks, three Armoured Personnel Carrier's (APC), about six jeeps, two hummers and two Apache helicopter gunships descended upon Jenin camp. I made for the camp, running up a neighbours-in-doorways and stone-bearing-shebab alley thronged with people telling me to come back and 'Where!?', up into the heart of the devastated neighbourhood. An APC and a tank were occupying the street, the tank lifting up its huge barrel to survey, slowly, spanning, scaling, raising and lowering its home-hemorrhaging sights. The APC spat out a few rounds of its 50 calibre load onto the asphalt infront us (me and some rocks-aloft yoot). We fanned back behind a house, out of its range. I asked them where it was that they were arresting people and was pointed in the direction of the hospital.
Behind the hospital, soldiers were holding a woman hostage infront of her fiance - Khalil's - house. There were three jeeps that I could see taking a street each flanking the house. Soldiers had taken up sniper positions behind short metal shields on both sides of the front entrance to Khalil's house. A yellow minibus with two unflinching elderly women inside was being used as a shield between them. A blue check-shirted, M16 slung, civilian-clothed commander wearing a green helmet, blue balaclava, green flak waistcoat bearing grenades, bullets, water, a walkie-talkie and a map, was calling the shots. As I got closer, one of the soldiers emerged from behind his shield to take aim at some toilet paper (yup, anything at hand) throwing kids. I yelled at him to stop and obstructed him. He lowered his sights and smiled, told me to shut-the-fuck-up or he'd fucking shoot me. The tank and the APC could be seen in the distance, still humming inside the grey-area of the camp. I then saw that the second throng of soldiers had blindfolded shebab blindfolded infront of them - again, using them as human shields. They beat them sporadically. I saw blow after blow and taut words barked through gritted teeth hit them.
When they were finally dragged up from their shield positions and slung into the back of a waiting, older, fatter, more ideological soldier-crammed jeep (anyone staying in the force long enough into their thirties is in it from their depths). One had blood trickling from his nose, he was covered in just-eaten dust. One of his legs appeared to be dislocated; another had his flies undone, skin and hair showing out, and another was marked with boot/fist dents. Sousan, they were holding Sousan as go-between/hostage - calling her by her name, beckoning her, letting her stand up and watch what was going on, telling her to shut-up, come-go. The soldiers told me to fuck off, but I told them I wasn't going anywhere, khalas (enough). They then brought out three young girls - aged 4, 9, 12, plus a large highly distressed, dehydrated, woman, groaning and stumbling, white congealed spittle settled in the corners of her mouth. "Hospital, take me to la hospital" she was saying, in English.
They were ordered to sit beside the soldiers, backs up against the wall, Uskoot (Shut it/Quiet). The girls were wide-eyed with shock. Bullets were flying overhead. A sound grenade was exploding behind us, the jeeps were growling sporadically. The fighters were stuttering out their AK47 bullet bursts, bouncing off the tops of the jeeps before us, the kids were fighting the newly appeared tank and APC heading for the hospital. I sat down with the girls. The girls, the beside-herself woman - now throwing dust all over herself, invecting insults at the soldiers with her last, dehydrated breaths - and Sousan, were crying and wailing freely. At one point, one of the soldiers fired two shots and in a sing-song voice told me "oh well, two children died today". Later, when the bullets really started flying and a jeep was taken out of action, he began to weep, then laugh, then he told me to sit down sit down, sit DOWN, SIT DOWN, before getting up and grabbing me and wrenching me to the ground and pushing me against the wall right beside him. This spurned a wildfire rumour in Jenin that I had been 'beaten' by the soldiers. Mate, two words, British Cops, I've had more beats from those unmentionables than any Israeli soldiers, but I digress.
While this was all taking place, 15-year-old Deeyah Rrowadre was shot through the throat with a 50 callibre bullet, fired from an APC. He had been standing in the entrance of Jenin National Hospital. He died in there later. Three more children were shot beside him - two in the legs and a bullet grazed the face of another. Before the soldiers drove away, taking the orange van of hostages with them as a mobile human shield, a bullet battered jeep towed in their tank-apc-jeep entourage, they threw a hand grenade into Khalil's house and one at his family's car, just to really fuck them up. The aftermath was a tentative footing into the house to see where one of the unexploded grenades might be, a view of trashed furniture, smashed TV, windows, mirror, kitchen, singed clothes, and then a surge of shebab, kids, family, crying, his brother rolling on the ground, the spent dehydrated beaten woman expiring on the ground and then a gun-salute, black demonstration with Jenin's new shaheed, into a new cradle to a gun-point walked fresh grave, with Koran words uttered over it and another family shattered, throwing Palestinian earth over it. Since then I visited many families. All still grieving and remembering their dead. A new baby was born in the Gaza hospital yesterday, my friend Mervat's, her second, a boy named Mustafa; a woman-with-child by her side, about to bear her tenth, joked to me that she needed all her kids cos one would die fighting the tanks, another to prison, another would be shot walking to school, like this.
Approximately five days ago a plucky young Jeninite stopped a bulldozer in its traction-belt tracks by Kademm settlement. How? Blasting it with one of the three tank-guns stolen a few weeks ago from Kadeem. Two days ago, 14-year-old Kamal Nawahrba was shot in the head by a tank as he sat studying in his class room in Yamoun village. He is clinically dead now. Two nights ago the home of 19-year-old English Literature student, Hiba Azzam Darajme, in Tubas and that of her neighbour, were demolished by the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) as part of its policy of collective punishment for families of anyone involved in the armed Palestinian resistance. Hiba exploded herself in an Afula shopping centre on Monday killing three and injuring 50. The same night of her home demolition, two Apaches, three APC's, two tanks, two Hummers and five jeeps invaded Jenin town centre. Ten people from the Old City, Seabaht and Wade Zideen area were arrested, none of them 'Wanted', including 23-year-old mentally ill Moffeah Abu Hammad, neighbour of local Reuters' journalist Ali Samudi, whose home was searched and trashed at gunpoint. Last night the IOF arrested five Jihad Islami activists - none of them on the 'Wanted' list. Two from Aja, two from Tamoun and one from Tubas.
Update on the situation with Mahmoud Sulleiman Al Saadi - arrested last June in the Jenin Camp round-up and held in Ofer Prison without charge since then. Mahmoud is now in Gaza City after his transfer there two days ago. He must remain there under duress for the next two years. The reason for this is because his brother - Haj Ali - was one of the military heads of Jihad Islami in the West Bank. Ali will never see the light of day again, and his family will not see his dead body until it is released, if ever, by Israel in 200 years. His wife and three children will leave their Jenin Camp community tomorrow and join him there. They will live in Palestinian Authority financed accommodation.
Two more people from Jenin, also incarcerated in Ofer right now are also to be transferred to Gaza in the next few days. More info on their cases soon.
I spent four days in Balata and Askar Jadeed (New Askar) refugee camps this week, staying with the Abu Ayash family in Balata and the Bushkar family in Askar Jadeed. 19-year-old Amjad Abu Salim and 18-year-old Amr Abu Ayash took themselves and their M16's to Shaarei Tikva settlement near Qalkilya and opened fire before being gunned down by Settler Security. They managed to injure two residents. They were with Hamas. The Abu Aiyash family were wasted with grief; sorrow, and much regret (Hamdullilahs were uttered by force). The men of the family, all staying in neighbouring homes out of fear of being arrested arbitrarily, flung themselves into the work of clearing the house - actually three apartments in one - of all the furniture and freshly installed glass doors - on the second day after the attack. Amr's brother had just had a new bathroom put in.
The Bushkar family were mourning their son Osama who blew himself up on May 20 last year in Netanya. It was the PFLP's first claimed suicide attack. He was 17-year-old. He killed three people and injured over 50. All the neighbours and family came round, sat on the floor, wept and listened to Ya Ooladi Rah - My Son Went Out - by Voice of Freedom - a fighter music group comprising deep bass-tone traditional male voices and a clear, sharp, teenage girl heroine of a singer who all pay tribute to the young dead of the Palestinian resistance. Me and the girls gave out dates, bitter cardamom coffee; listened to the stories of grief and imprisoned sons from the women around me; went to visit the neighbours - the family of a recently assassinated (one week ago) Hamas fighter who was incinerated by a letter bomb in a nearby village. He was in his thirties. He had been a part of the backbone of the Nablus armed resistance, he was a local hero, and believe me, Askar Jadeed needs them. The same scene but fresher, fallen sooner, greeted me in their house; women sat backs up against the wall in muted loss. They gave me a gift - a fake diamante crescent on black cord; Amr's sisters gave me clothes that same evening - a pink ruffle t-shirt and black trousers. In the morning they groomed my hair, blow-dried it with swift strokes. That same morning the Khilffe house in the northern mountain area of Nablus was demolished and that of Jameela Abu Ahmad in the Old City. She'd been on her way to blow herself up following the April invasion last year. Now she's in prison. Mohammad Rifae, aged 15-years-old, from Askar Jadeed (his uncle is a Preventative Security local mafioso in New Askar) was sentenced to seven years in prison for attempting to blow himself up inside Israel in September last year. I can't remember the date of the day we heard there was a 15-year-old with a bomb-belt out on the loose in the West Bank. Askar Jadeed was surrounded, APC's and tanks growling around encircling it. A bulldozer clanking away, working on destroying another part of routinely, painstakingly put back together Palestinian infrastructure in the distance, and the dooming hourly phonecalls from General Namroud, taken by Amjad Rifae, rasping back to him, pure mafia style, don-to-don, that they were after Mohammad too, that it was Haaraam for a 15-year-old to be going out to do such a thing, and Namroud telling him back that Jihad were split, that half wanted him to do it and half wanted him to come back, and that they were Coming for His Family; Next Call in two hours, Better Have Some More Information; the entire family sat in chairs silent like a grieving room, slammed-down phones, 4am calls, the-waiting-for-Them-to-come-and-smash-the door-down-and-snatch-the-sons. The IOF found him in the end - two days later. And came for one of his brothers some months after too. That chapter is closed now. The word out on the streets is that the IOF will be storming back, taking blanket Manat Ejawals (24-hour-Curfews) and teenage corpses in its stride under the banner of its latest operation codenamed 'Searching The Grave'. 'Operation Defensive Shield' - the April massacre machine, spun its propaganda round the pivot of Israel's Security and the need to keep it 'By Any Means Necessary'. This time round its an apt slap in the face for the resistance, almost all, literally, in their graves, the Intifada, its spirit ever restless, will never lie still, but it's almost in it's grave, the last blows against the corpse machine echoing out over Afula, Qdes, Qalqilya, Gaza, in a virtual community-resistance-continuum vacuum.
Rumour has it that it'll be 15-days-long. Local old-timer journo's tell me its a bullshit scare tactic and that Jenin is full to capacity with spies; if they want someone, all they have to do is bring in the Apaches, APC's and jeeps, kill a few stone-luzzing kids, and take who they want. They don't need the expense of curfew. But Israel did just get 10 Billion dollars aid from the US (much of it to restore its Strike - a week long two weeks ago!! - and two years of Intifada-ravaged economy) and Zionism needs to assert and reassert its domination, exclusivism and murderous supremacy, whilst performing its over a century-old plan of mass-transfer - slowly by demolishing homes, families and hope - or quickly and systematically by demolishing whole neighbourhoods, confiscating vital Palestinian water sources, building a eight metre high Apartheid Wall and drafting in new Aaliyah-buying Jewish families into ever-expanding West Bank colonies. Like always here, you just never know. And like always, with hindsight, vision is 20/20, it always made perfect sense.
Brian al Ba'tal (Hero!) Avery is still in Rambam Military Hospital after being shot in the face with a 50 Calibre bullet in Jenin town centre last month. He had a general facial restructuring operation on Saturday which also focused on his jaw. He is still unable to eat properly and is being fed milky protein liquid from a hanging drip-bag :( He has lost a lot of weight and has had his head shaven. He is reading and surfing the net a lot and is getting regular visits and newspapers and treats from lovely Israeli Ta'ayush people and international solidarity activists. His spirits are still strong. Rambam doctors have estimated the total cost of his facial reconstruction at $1 million dollars. Brian would like to return to the States for his treatment but it is unclear still as to whether Israel would pay for his treatment off its stolen Palestinian territory unless forced to by a lawsuit