The Reinvasion Of Jenin - Day 6
Ewa Jasiewicz sent this report back to SQUALL from a battered Jenin, 6 days into the latest Israeli invasion of the camp...
30th October 2002
I am writing this during the 4 hour curfew lift - the town has throbbed into life again. There has been a 24-hour curfew here since Sunday, enforced by live ammunition (illegal under the Geneva conventions - smoke bombs, teargas, rubber and plastic bullets only) fired from tanks, armoured personnel carriers (APC's), jeeps, snipers in occupied houses and soldiers on foot.
Approximately 40 tanks and APC's (numbers vary drastically - some say 20, others 70. I have seen about 15 myself but there is a very full depot, more cluttered with tanks and APC's than I've ever seen it before. On the way out to Jalamiya, there's got to be at least 50 there) entered the city and camp of Jenin 6 days ago in response to the suicide bombing of last Saturday, carried out by Jihad Islami activists from Jenin.
Soldiers have taken up sniper positions all around the camp and killed 2 people - a 14-year-old boy out in the street and a 23 year old man shot through the heart as he peered out of his window to see what was going on. Eight have been injured - mostly young boys, one shot through the cheek, another in the neck, and 2 just under the heart - all wounds consistent with attempted assassinations.
Electricity and water supplies were cut to the camp on the first day of entry. Yesterday soldiers detained two water tank drivers and arrested one bound for the camp. I myself tried to de-arrest him, but he (the driver) said not to worry. He was blindfolded and taken into an APC. I tried my absolute best, yanking him, pushing the soldier away, getting in-between, getting into the APC, but maybe it was just inevitable. When water was finally driven into the camp, many people cheered, women did that funny song-bird tongue waggle call of joy, children fell over themselves with plastic jugs and burly men dragged out big oil drums and filled up as much as they could.
Six homes have been demolished in the past 3 days. One was exploded in the camp damaging many near by homes - windows blown in, walls cracked, shaking from the foundations. The sound of the explosion was heard all the way in Shoohadda, some 5 km away. We saw 2 homes being destroyed by a vast creaking ugly military bulldozer. One was of a woman whose sons were activists - Aqsa I believe. One was killed by a rocket, the other 2 are in jail. She was screaming and wailing and having a breakdown basically as we picked her up in an ambulance - she couldn't walk. She was saying "I have nothing, I have nothing, they took my sons, now they took my home, I have nothing". We saw warm coloured wallpaper and pictures and clothes and tables just trashed, just absolutely mangled before our eyes.
The IOF needs to give just a 15 minute warning. Many family members are usually too distraught to move quickly and coherently in that time span. Another was the house of my friend - his brother was military leader of Jihad Islami in the West Bank. He's in jail now, the brother, facing 300 years.
Another house was bombed out - the home of the father of one of the suicide bombers. His apartment was just black smouldering rubble and debris. The family was in shock, a little girl had to go to hospital. The other kids were very very nervy and wide-eyed and over-chatty and just fucked up. All the kids here are pretty fucked up to larger or lesser degrees and very suicidal. I had to stand infront of a kid screaming 'Shoot me shoot me' and hitting his own chest with both hands as an APC and tank rumbled towards him and his mates all luzzing bricks and rocks and bottles. Kids regularly run towards tanks and APC's here yelling, in not-yet-broken voices 'ALLAH AKHBAAAAAAR!!!!!'. Full of energy and frustration, and fire, pure fire.
Soldiers have occupied over 30 houses in the camp and city, forcing families of up to 30 into one room, depriving them of food and water and holding guns to their heads when they wish to go to the toilet or another part of the house. The homes are being used as military bases for snipers to shoot from, soldiers to log and monitor all activity in the area and as temporary jails for arbitrarily arrested men. The mosque in the camp has also been occupied and has almost certainly been desecrated inside. Camp residents all chipped in money to renew and restore the mosque after it had been occupied in June and held a big festive celebration marking its re-opening. During the June occupation, the mosque had been utterly trashed. Graffiti, faeces, urine, and rubbish littered the floor and walls. The same is sure to be the case this time.
Soldiers living in occupied homes have smashed doors and windows and furniture, left faeces, ash, cigarette butts and other bits of rubbish on the floor and have repeatedly declared, when asked if food can be delivered to families held inside, that "this is Our Home'. They have also stolen money and precious items from people's homes. Tanks tore up a carefully tended garden of one home and troops there stole over $1000 dollars, the life savings of an entire family, keenly putting away money for the grandfather to complete his religious life pilgrimage dreams - to go to Mecca. He will never make it now. People sink a lot of money into making their homes beautiful and cosy and welcoming to the many many guests and family they receive there. Their homes are everything, it's all they have, built up generation after generation from the uniform green thick canvas tents of 1948 to the sturdy, well cultivated family homes they have today. And don't forget that Arab families are HUGE - average of 10 kids each so the home is central, absolutely vital to everything, personal and cultural.
Over 200 men have been arrested - arbitrarily, including 4 medics, 2 doctors and 2 volunteers, taken from their ambulance in the centre of town, leaving the patient alone, stranded, with a French volunteer. He was eventually driven to safety by the French volunteer. International activists have been working on the ambulances to minimise the racism and hostility of soldiers at checkpoints who detain and sometimes turn back ambulances responding to serious emergency calls such as heart attacks, gunshot wounds, births and scorpion bites.
People as young as 13 (2 known cases) and over the age of 50 have been arrested. (usually those snatched are aged between 16-30). Soldiers occasionally take the arrestees with them on house to house searchers to act as human shields. Despite soldiers denying this, I myself saw soldiers shielding behind them when door to homes were being exploded.
The IOF (Israeli Occupation Force) regularly use civilians for military purposes. Those arrested are taken to either Jalamy or Salem military bases. Those who have been returned say they were beaten on the way there, beaten at the bases, made to sleep outside in the dirt, cuffed and blindfolded, denied food and water and prohibited from going to the toilet - some for up to three days. Upon release, some were made to walk to Jenin (3 hour walk) cuffed and blindfolded. Some had their ID's stolen (a regular IOF practice). Palestinians moving without ID's can be arrested and jailed at any time. Due to 24 hour curfew here, enforced with live ammunition, they are in danger of being shot on sight.
Due to the curfew, relief and aid agencies have had great trouble meeting people's most basic needs such as access to food and water. Competent local services have been paralysed by the curfew. Yesterday 4 Palestinian Red Crescent Workers, 2 UN workers, a water tank driver and some of the only bakers in town still able to bake bread for people, were arrested.
There appears to be no coherent military strategy at play here. All the wanted people have left - they left days before the attack in Israel and Sheback and Mosad must know that by now. The behaviour of soldiers is erratic - some are nuts, others you can reason with - but the arrests are just arbitrary. As the days wear on, it is becoming obvious that it is yet another case of an intensification of the Israeli state's strategy of collective punishment. No water, no food, no education, no medical supplies, no movement, destroying and damaging many homes, mass arrests and beatings - social strangulation, community spirit breaking.
The soldiers said about 5 days ago that the operation was scheduled to last just 1 week. It is estimated to cost $100k per day to keep them in Jenin. We await tomorrow's events. It will be 1 week since they came here. They have been leaving occupied homes but then reoccupying others so it's hard to predict what they'll do.