Monitoring The Mayhem (Pt 1)
A chronology of news events presented by independent media sources from The West Bank (March-June 2002) plus eyewitness testimonies from activists on the ground.
11th April 2002
March 30 12:15: Bethlehem:
IMC-Palestine is experiencing intermittent mortar shelling from the vicinity of Beit Jala. Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have invaded Beit Jala. Palestine prepares for all-out war with Israel.
Electricity and water are cut off. International observers confirm Red Crescent ambulances are being targeted by the IOF. Tanks surround Bethlehem. Israeli aggression at checkpoints has been growing the last few days. This afternoon, an 18-year-old woman suicide bomber from Deheishe camp struck in Jerusalem. Arafat says he is ready to be a martyr and is calling all Palestinians to take up arms.
"I'm sitting in the hot sun on the roof of the Bethlehem TV building. It's near the centre of Bethlehem, next to a major crossroads called Bab al-Zqaq and the main dual carriageway between Deheishe refugee camp and the largely Christian municipality of Beit Sahour. The flat crackle of automatic rifle fire echoes down from the old city, along with the occasional thud of tank shells. From the road below, separated from me by a low parapet, comes the occasional ear-buzzing bang of gunfire from the bored Israeli soldiers. They know we're in this building, and they don't like us, so it's just a form of sporadic harassment. "I'm here, at the moment, as a volunteer with Palestine Indymedia centre (http://jerusalem.indymedia.org). The site went live a couple of days before the biggest re-invasion by the Israelis of Palestinian towns and cities in years - the return of the tanks to Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin, Qalqiliya, Tulkarm and Hebron. And since the invasion of Bethlehem, the IMC office has been a hectic flurry of faxes, emails, website updates and phone calls from the press as far afield as Chile, Slovenia, Australia and Japan. We've slept, eaten, worked, argued and made friendships (and raised an abandoned puppy called Indy-fada) in this office. Our total time outside it in ten days has amounted to about eight hours, some during the official curfew lifts, but often exploiting our privileged position as internationals, able to leave even during curfew - at least in daylight - without as much fear of being shot as that threatening the Palestinians.
This privilege is central to why I, and many other internationals, am here. Our ability to pass through checkpoints or to face Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) soldiers with comparative impunity opens up major possibilities".
- SARAH IRVING, BETHLEHEM IMC
"Bloody hell. Just got out of Ramallah yesterday, managed to catch a ride to the checkpoint with the Associated Press in their bullet-proof vehicle, then walked across with a few bullet-proof ed journalists... me in my scrubs. I had been in Ramallah since the 23rd March. On 28th, the situation appeared to get worse, with 150 tanks surrounding Ramallah and closures put into effect. So I had been staying at the hospital since Thursday - it was safer and I was useful there" "The staff that could make it in were working back to back shifts, walking past tanks to get to and from work, or sleeping at the hospital. Everybody not anaemic donated blood. All supplies were running low, sometimes there was not enough food. The ambulances are prevented from transporting the wounded, or any other patients or staff. They were stopped and arrested, and the ambulances were then used by the Israeli's in house to house searches and executions. The patients that were able to make it to the hospital in time had gun shot wounds - mostly to abdomen, chest, or head. I saw many corpses with close range wounds - execution style. The morgue is over-full. The Israelis are lying about what is happening - i.e. they did enter Ramallah hospital on Sunday, I was there. The press is censured, unable to report what is occurring as they are also prevented, detained, threatened, injured, or escorted out. I am hearing that the news in the States is very pro-Israeli, as usual. There are many human rights issues here - the situation is unimaginable, I have no words for this except to plea; "please help stop this". Americans need to know what is happening, they need to pay attention. They need to be aware that their news is very biased.... They need to re-evaluate their definition of terrorism and who the terrorists are, to include politics that would oppress another people so hard and for so long. We all need to take responsibility for our own government's actions and inactions."
- AN UNNAMED US NURSE via E-MAIL FROM JERUSALEM April 2
April 03, 2002 Nablus:
Tanks enter Nablus. Estimates suggest 200-300 tanks deployed around the city are meeting resistance from Palestinian defenders.
"The refugee camp itself is nothing like I expected - no tents or shacks, but small stone buildings - 3m x 3m units per family. Eleven thousand people live in 1km square. There is one doctor and three nurses for all these people. In the midst of these tiny houses there are huge piles of rubble - they used to be homes until the F16s struck. But still, everywhere you go there is art work, murals and graffiti on the walls. Art lives on. Every street is covered with posters of martyrs - those killed while fighting, or just victims of the IOF. A lot of the posters are of young boys."
- MARTHA -SCOTTISH CND ACTIVIST - from BETHLEHEM via e-mail April 1
April 03: Jenin:
Israeli tanks withdraw from their position surrounding Jenin refugee camp, after several failed attempts to invade are prevented by fierce resistance. Four more dead, including a nurse and a four year old boy.
April 04, 15:30: Nablus:
Israeli forces take over the An-Najah University. They are also in Balata and Askar refugee camps. Five confirmed dead.
"Experience has shown that an international observer presence is effective in limiting Israeli brutality against civilians. We feel that Britain has a particular responsibility towards the Palestinian people due to the Balfour declaration of 1917 and the British withdrawal from Palestine in 1948. There has been no significant comment from the British Foreign Office in response to the latest offensive - another example of British Government foreign policy being determined by that of the US."
- STATEMENT BY MARTHA ANDERSON, PHILIP BOAST, LOUKAS CHRISTODOULOU, JENNY, JAMES, PAUL STOCKLEY - from the AL AZZEH REFUGEE CAMP IN BETHLEHEM.
"I don't know where to start anymore - except to say that the situation is worse. There are hundreds of calls to the ambulances at Ramallah every day, pleading for help for the critically sick and injured - but they still are not allowed to transport anyone. I spoke with a Finnish researcher who was allowed out of Ramallah yesterday who says that there are medical persons detained, along with hundreds of Palestinians. She said that there are hundreds of injured in the bombed areas of Ramallah that are unable to get help. They have expanded the militarized zones, and are not allowing journalists, or anyone in. They do not want anyone seeing what they are doing. Peaceful demonstrations at the checkpoints are targeted with tear gas. International convoys of supplies are not allowed in. The situation at the hospitals remains critical - their supplies, medicines, and oxygen are running out. Supplies are not allowed in. There is no water or electricity - I cannot imagine how the medical staff are coping. The nurses in the neonatal unit must be taking turns ventilating the babies by hand with whatever oxygen they have left. How long can the rest of the world watch this, doing nothing?.........Some of the babies in the NICU will die without oxygen - of all the indisputable innocents."
- AN UNNAMED US NURSE via e-mail FROM JERUSALEM APRIL 4
April 04, 17.00: Nablus:
Eyewitnesses say Palestinians civilians are being forced to walk in front of tanks as the IOF sweeps the area.
April 05, 0917: Nablus:
The old city has been under helicopter attack since the early hours. Eleven casualties reported in Nablus since last night.
"The general theme is the tribal theme. The only voice (allowed in Israel) keeps shouting that we are in a war between two tribes: a tribe of human beings, of pure good - the Israelis - and a tribe of sub-human beings, of pure evil - the Palestinians. The same voice says this is a war of life and death. Only one tribe will survive, so, even if we are not purely good, we must lay morality and conscience to sleep and fight to kill - or else the Palestinians will throw us into the sea... Even the withdrawal from Lebanon and the realisation that even the Lebanese had rights could not be applied to the Palestinians. The Palestinians are too close, like a rival sibling (and because they have always been so weak), we have singled them out for special treatment, trampled them like dogs. We've been doing it to our own Palestinian citizens for years, but we've perfected our treatment in this strange no man's land created in 1967 known as the Occupied Territories. There, we've created a hallucinatory reality, in which the true humans, members of the Nation of Masters, could move and settle freely and safely, while the sub-humans, the Nation of Slaves, were shoved into the corners, kept invisible and controlled under our IDF (Israel Defence Force) boots. I know. I've been there. I was taught how to do this. Fortunately for me, I did not have to do anything truly "pornographic"..." "When you treat millions of people like sub-humans for so long, some of them will find inhuman strategies to fight back. I don't buy the 'they want to throw us into the sea' crap. It's a collective self-delusion of ours. More importantly, I don't see tribes."
"I refuse to be a terrorist in my tribe's name. This is not a 'war against terror'. This is a war OF terror, a war in which, in return for Palestinian guerrilla terror, we employ the IDF in two types of terror; the more visible one - the killing and destruction which some try to explain away as 'surgical acts of defence'; and, the worse type, of silent terror - the terror of Occupation, of humiliation on a personal and collective basis, of deprivation and legalized robbery, of alternating exploitation and starvation. This is the mass of the iceberg, the terror that is a greenhouse for counter-terror."
"Does Israel have a monopoly on labelling its rivals as Nazis, and everyone else has to shut up? Supporters of the essentially Nazi idea of deporting all Palestinians, have been part of our Knesset and "legitimate" political map since 1984. Recent opinion polls show 35per cent of the Jewish public supports this 'solution'."
"One top IOF commander said that in order to prepare for potential battles in dense urban neighbourhoods, the IOF must learn how the German army 'operated' in the Warsaw Ghetto. The IOF is prepared to invade refugee camps - an indefensible war crime - and through leaks to the press is starting to prepare public opinion for the invasion."
- ASSAF ORON, A JEWISH ISRAELI ARMY "REFUSENIK", PASSOVER EVE, MARCH 29, 2002
April 05, 0340: Nablus:
A woman dies when the IOF shelled her home. She is Zaha Sartech (30). In the old city, resistance is strong and, having disabled eight tanks, is keeping the Israeli military at bay around the perimeter of the old city. The occupation forces destroy many homes with explosives. Many people believed injured and killed.
April 06 1630: Rafah:
Clashes begin in Rafah. IOF amassing around Rafah, Khan Younis, Karni and Erez. The Gaza Strip is under complete closure and has been internally divided into four sections.
"Got woken up by machine gun fire and tank shells. Things have quietened down now. Curfew has apparently been lifted until 5pm, although we don't know if that's Israeli 5pm or Palestinian. A group of internationals in the street breaking curfew yesterday encountered a group of Palestinian lads who'd just been released [from Israeli cells] and accompanied them to comparative safety - as the IOF often release people during curfew so they can arrest them again for breaking it."
- SARAH IRVING, from BETHLEHEM via e-mail 11:51am APRIL 8
"Curfew was reinforced an hour and twenty minutes earlier than announced on television, with no obvious warning to civilians other than the sudden resumption of gunfire. The sporadic fire at the IMC office where we are living, has increased considerably since Israeli Indymedia [JUSTIFY] told the IOF our exact location, and the IOF put it out on their radio station..."
- SARAH IRVING, from BETHLEHEM via e-mial 09:12am APRIL 9
"Broke curfew yesterday to get [name snipped] clean clothes, and ended up trapped in the hotel whilst the IOF shot at journalists to keep them out of the street whilst they looted shops. We snuck round a back way, with about 15 pitiful journos following us from about 20 yards, camera's trained, hoping they'd get some pictures of international chicks with no flak jackets getting blasted. 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 seem to spend most of their time cowering round corners whilst Palestinians look bemused."
- SARAH IRVING, from BETHLEHEM via e-mail 08.14am APRIL 10
April 06, 2030: Nablus:
Medical Relief sets up six field hospitals. One, a mosque in the old city, reports 50 people injured, three of those critically, 15 seriously. There are five corpses in the room in which they operate. Israeli snipers on the roofs of the surrounding buildings shoot at any one trying to enter or leave the mosque. The situation is the same at the field hospital in the Askar refugee camp. Israeli helicopters shoot missiles leaving seven people injured. An ambulance given permission from the Israeli military to collect them has its tyres shot out.
"We could not get thru the checkpoint so travelled over the mountains by foot to get here. There were helicopters and drone planes flying overhead and I had my first encounter with the dreaded settlers, from a distance thankfully. They are armed and very angry. We got to a village and an Arab family took us in. The grandfather of the family had been arrested. He told us of the brutal treatment he received from the IOF, stripped naked, kept on his knees, no food or water for 2 days. His son is still being held. Next day, we walked for 2 hours into a deserted Nablus (city of 180,000) bullet holes in everything, this is the Holey land we joked! We got thru to Rafidia Hospital where we had made contact with a doctor from the Red Crescent. The Hospital staff have been here on standby since the invasion 10 days ago - the same day Bethlehem was hit.
One of our group managed to talk to an Israeli soldier today who believes Arafat wants to throw them all into the sea. They are so jumpy and shoot at anything. They are scared and pumped with propaganda. I went out today to collect a young boy of 11 who had been shot. He was so brave, wounded in his arm. Today the morgue in the hospital is full of bodies, and they had to get a dairy lorry with a huge fridge to put more of the bodies in; many have not been identified. I visited the wounded with a translator. One young guy had his leg amputated. All the rest had bullet wounds. They all said to me: 'Why does the world stand by and let this happen to us? Why does no one care? Why do leaders talk and never do anything? Why is Ireland and all the other countries so afraid of America?' I said I was ashamed of my country's silence... I slept in the blood laboratory last night. The Doctor there was so admiring of Ireland and films he has seen about great Irish revolutionaries, whom he said are one of the toughest in the world. Many of the hospital staff have said this to me. But where is their voice now?"
- MARY KELLY - IRISH NURSE AND ISM ACTIVIST via e-mail APRIL 11