Bethlehem - 5 April 2002
This dispatch sent in to SQUALL was written by a group of activists determined to help prevent a massacre in a town surrounded by the Israeli Army.
4:33am, Friday, 5th April 2002
Some international people have been evacuated from Bethlehem. A majority of us remain. We are eighteen activists with the International Solidarity Movement, staying in the Al-Azza refugee camp in Bethlehem. We are from the UK, US, Ireland and Canada. Two of us are Jewish and one Palestinian. Electricity has just been restored and we are taking the opportunity to send out this message. Bethlehem has been re-occupied by the Israeli armed forces and its people are under brutal siege. Everyone in the Al-Azza camp is unable to leave its perimeters to go engage in other activities that most people take for granted. There is one road that divides the camp, and we must dash across in fear of being shot at by Israeli snipers.
On our first night here (just prior to the current re-occupation) our members narrowly escaped being killed as Israeli bullets whizzed past us. This is the fourth time in seventeen months that the Israeli military has re-occupied Bethlehem. They have cut the power lines like they always do. This left every home in darkness and, in an information black-out, unable to find out what is happening beyond what we can see at the end of the street.
All we can do is sit and listen to the sounds around us: F-16 jets, Apache helicopters, drone aircraft, tanks and armoured personnel carriers. Indeed, the entire military might of a modern army - and we know it could be turned against this camp at any time, as it has in the past. Even in our fear we recognise that, for us, it is only a brief and temporary experience. Those who live here have endured attacks like this time and again during the four decades of Israeli military dictatorship.
Likewise, we are aware that the situation in Bethlehem may only be the beginning, if the destruction of Ramallah is any indication. At least thirty people have been executed and buried in a mass grave; Red Crescent ambulances have been fired upon and the buildings bombed. Yesterday the Israeli soldiers lifted the curfew in Ramallah, but when people left their homes to get food, seven were shot. We also have had a two hour respite from curfew, though it could not be trusted. We tried to escort an ambulance to provide food and medical attention to the many families trapped inside the Church of the Nativity. There, in the centre of Bethlehem, the Israeli military has killed one member of the clergy, injured several others, and has now surrounded the church with around two hundred people inside.
Two ambulances were crushed by a tank, and we believe the death toll in Bethlehem to be around twenty. All this has taken place within a closed military zone, with the Israeli forces having complete control over where the media are allowed to go. They have gone as far as taking shots at Arab and international press.
We see these horrors being inflicted knowing full well that our countries, especially the US, have sent the weapons and money, and provide the international backing (tacit or overt) that makes this brutality possible.
Today, with the television back on, we watch demonstrations all over the world by people urging their governments to end this illegal occupation. We desperately hope they are listening, because time is running out ...
Jake Mundy - Maia Ramnath - Liv Dillon - Phan Nguyen - Paul Stockley - Joe Gessert - Phil Boast - Jordan Flaherty - James Kirkham - Zaid Khalil - Kevin Neish - Herbert Steven Quester - John McSweeney - Kristen Schurr - Josina Manu - Martha Andrewes - Jenny McArthur - Loukas Christodoulous