Bethlehem - 8th April 2002
A UK peace activist in Bethlehem called Sarah sent back this dispatch from the frontline.
11:51am, 8th April 2002
Got woken up after my first decent nights sleep here by the sound of machine gun fire and a tank shell. Still haven't verified where it came from, but things have quietened down now. Curfew has apparently been lifted until 5pm today, although as with the other day we don't know if that's Israeli 5pm or Palestinian, which effectively means losing an hour at the end in case it's Israeli 5pm and they start shooting at what you think is 4 O'clock. Georgie rang the district command this morning to get curfew details and was told that they wouldn't tell her them coz she might be a terrorist plotting attacks...
There were press reports that the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) had gone into the nativity church this morning; the truth of this seems to be that one shell was lobbed in and a fire started, with one of the people trapped inside being shot dead whilst trying to put the fire out. Still no ambulances etc allowed up there, and some of the people wounded have been there a week now. I spoke to a local activist a few days ago who cried as he told me about how he was getting phone calls from wounded friends inside, and from a little girl whose father is his friend and whom is in there. And now all their phone batteries have run down so there is not even that cold comfort.
At least 100 people were arrested in the Bethlehem area yesterday, including a large number in Beit Sahour. One family had all 8 of their sons taken. In Beit Sahour a number of houses were also destroyed, including that of the family of one of the men from the town killed in a targeted assassination last autumn. The arrested are being shipped down to a prison near Hebron, or held in the building which is Arafat's residence when he's here. A group of internationals in the street breaking curfew yesterday encountered a group of lads who'd just been released and accompanied them to comparative safety, as the IDF often release people during curfew so that they can arrest them again for breaking curfew. As we spoke to them, we also saw a troop carrier loaded with young Palestinian men driving past, a truly chilling sight, given the possible fate that could be awaiting them. I spoke to a woman in Beit Sahour this morning who also told me of how a tank sat outside her house for the whole of yesterday, stopping every ambulance heading for the clinic down the road (the one where I was treated in December) and holding them for an hour each time, ID'ed the occupants and staff, and then doing the same on the way back up. One of the soldiers there also threatened her little girl with a gun for looking out of the window one too many times.
A few of us after food yesterday were also stopped and held in the road for about 20 minutes outside Al-Husayn hospital. We'd been given a large quantity of food by the brothers at the university which the IDF had left behind! It seemed fitting that the ambulances at the hospital should get it to distribute it to camps, but apparently this made us suspicious and we were held and ID'ed. The monks had their residence at the uni invaded by IDF with grappling hooks last week, and they left some other paraphernalia as well as food - quikcuffs (apparently manufactured by R Wolf), a helmet, a metal box with egg-holes for carrying grenades, and some batteries, brand name SAFT. The monks also have a large rocket that went through their library during the last incursion a couple of months ago. Such an obvious target, a bunch of brothers who teach English and hotel management and history to teenagers...
Still appalling reports coming out of Jenin and Nablus, with terrible loss of life and fundamentally disgusting things being done to people. A group of internationals are heading over there at the moment, and convoys are being attempted in the next few days, especially for medical supplies. Can people ensure that it gets out that anyone planning to come should come through Jordan or Egypt, not through Ben Gurion, where they will be turned back by Israeli efforts to ensure that their genocidal crimes are not witnessed any more. Thanks to all of you who've been keeping in touch; you are my strength at the moment when the tears come; especially [snipped names] I love you all so much.
The phrase 'death in the sun' keeps coming to mind when I look at the beautiful and terrible landscape outside my window here, over the heartbreakingly lovely, ancient and doomed towns of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. Can someone tell me where the phrase comes from; is it a poem or book title or something?