Revolutionary Worker #1163, August 18, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
The following correspondence is from a revolutionary from the U.S. who is currently in Palestine, running with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The ISM activists, or Internationals, are people from around the world who have come to Palestine to oppose the Israeli occupation and stand with the Palestinian people. The correspondence gives an account of a few days in Nablus and the nearby Balata Refugee Camp. Nablus is one of the West Bank towns that have been under harsh Israeli curfew and clampdown since June.
Entering into Nablus one looks to the sky to see the resistance of the Palestinian youth as they fly their kites high. Nablus has broken curfew from Sunday to Wednesday. There were many people in the streets and the stores were open, but it's nowhere close to the bustling city that it was.
Nablus is a city of about 200,000 people, and they have been under military curfew for the past six weeks. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has tried to destroy Nablus, but the determination and pride of the people and the city show through the Israeli destruction. Underneath the demolished homes, streets torn up by tanks, stores ransacked and burned by the IDF, people beaten, humiliated, killed is the courage and resistance of the Palestinians. The city is plastered with posters of martyrs of the Intifada--in alleys, on storefronts, in Internet cafes and framed in the living rooms of families.
Just outside of Nablus is Balata Refugee Camp. Many of the people were put here in 1967 from the Haifa area. There is a lot of resistance among the shabab (youth) in this camp, which has a long history of martyrs who have given their lives to the struggle.
Wednesday, July 31, Nablus
The IDF left the last two of the houses that they had been occupying for about a month. In the evening they entered the old city of Nablus where there was minimal resistance by the Palestinians--but more than the IDF had expected, so the IDF pulled out after about an hour. One Palestinian was shot in the stomach and one soldier was wounded also.
Thursday, August 1, Balata Refugee Camp
At about 5:30 a.m. the IDF was on the perimeters of the camp, and many youth threw stones at the jeeps and tanks. The IDF responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition. A young man was shot in the leg. At about 10 a.m. the rest of International Solidarity Movement walked into Balata. We arrived and saw a group of shabab in an alley and went over by them. There was a jeep just outside of the alley, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at the youth. We went into a house to get a better vantage point from the roof and assess the situation.
During this time the jeep left, but two tanks were in a field nearby. We headed to the shabab who were in the field throwing stones and stood among them. The tanks were met with resistance from the shabab. There was a back-and-forth for a few hours between the youth and the tanks, with the youth not allowing the tanks to enter the village.
At about 1 p.m. the IDF fired at a wall above our heads, and a piece of shrapnel hit a 17-year-old youth on the right side of his head. He and the rest of the youth took off running to the clinic at the front of the camp. The tanks pulled out at this point. That night about 140 APCs and tanks headed into the old city of Nablus.
Friday, August 2, Nablus
Early in the morning the IDF went into Salem, a village outside of Nablus, and handcuffed one man, searched his home, and then shot and killed him while still handcuffed. In Nablus the IDF killed two people and injured five. The ambulances were only allowed into the city one time to get five people and then were not allowed in again. One house and a school were demolished. A 16-year-old girl was shot in the leg.
We went into the city to observe and intervene when possible. The ISM were able to assist in retrieving the body of an unarmed Palestinian man who was shot in the head by an IDF sniper for walking out onto his balcony. In an alley of the old city we witnessed the IDF using a Palestinian as a human shield to search an empty storefront. The ISM confronted the IDF, and they stopped using the Palestinian man for that search.
We went to the Palestinian Authority municipality building. A tank had shelled it from the back, and the IDF went in and destroyed the offices. We also went to a partially demolished house and talked to the family to document the damage. As we were walking around to document the damage, we came across a Fatah martyr's family. Three of the brothers in the house were wanted by the IDF, so three Internationals stayed in the house with the family.
The IDF rounded up about 50 men and one woman. Hiba Atari, the wife of Ibrahim, a wanted man, was detained and questioned by the IDF for several hours. The IDF are threatening her with six months to two years in prison unless the man came forward. The IDF also demolished their home. They have three girls ages 1 to 4.
Saturday, August 3, Nablus
We headed back into Nablus, and some of us walked around again to witness, document, and prevent the atrocities committed by the IDF. Others delivered food and milk to families and helped to get medical attention to people who needed it.
We saw the IDF using hammers, chain saws, explosives, and guns to break into stores and houses. They would also go through the walls by breaking holes between the houses rather than using the doors. The IDF would often invade a house for 3 to 4 hours to take a nap. Many families were held outside for 3 to 4 hours as the IDF trashed their houses.
We saw a lot of Palestinian men cuffed and sometimes blindfolded. The IDF was loading a group of about 10 cuffed and blindfolded Palestinian men into a truck. Again we saw the IDF using Palestinian men as human shields. Often when confronted about this, the IDF says that the Palestinians are translators or guides for them.
As we were walking around many families wanted us to see the damage done to their houses by the IDF. In one house the IDF had set the basement on fire--it was still smoking. In many houses the IDF had broken doors and other items as they turned the house upside down. We could constantly hear houses being broken into and explosions.
As we gathered for a minute by a mosque, the IDF threw a sound grenade at us. We moved around the corner, and when three Palestinian men approached to talk to us, the IDF shot towards us.
A family asked us to help escort five kids from different houses around the city to a house at the west end of the old city. As we escorted them, one angry soldier was very hostile towards us and threatened to shoot us if he saw us again. As the evening progressed the IDF were noticeably more agitated towards us.
In the evening in Balata, the IDF was on the perimeter for a few hours firing towards the shabab in the city.
Journal Entry, August 3
Staying in martyr families' homes, locked in for days during curfew, three floors up. How many cigarettes can you go through, how many times can you reread passages of Germinal, how many times can you look out of the window after the house shakes from Israeli tank shells? Pacing back and forth, refilling water bottles and emptying ashtrays.
A Palestinian youth staring out of the window at Israeli snipers laying on rooftops a stone's throw away. 11 a.m....2 p.m....4 p.m.... Peering through windows, thinking of a day when he can take on one of these oppressors and drink water without Israeli sewage bursting through pipes.
The door gets knocked on by Israeli rifle butts. And the first question they ask is if there are any Americans in the house. All the people of the house are rounded into one room and are asked to take out their IDs. The troops are a little bewildered to see four Internationals in this Palestinian house and scour around the house as the women try to calm the babies. The soldiers ask about the portraits of martyrs on the wall and radio in to other patrols. A confrontation arises when a soldier dectects a Japanese ISM volunteer has been filming their break-in the entire time. There is a scuffle over the footage. Eventually the soldiers suceed in taking the video footage and camera film from the Internationals. The soldiers say goodbye as the family cleans up the spilt tea and the cigarette butts that were thrown around.
H and I listen to the radio for updates on demolished houses and the count of Palestinian men rounded up in the invasion. The news cuts back to the possibility of the U.S. invading Iraq. H explains what it really means for a Palestinian to be arrested: "The Israeli army can't arrest you. They can detain you--then they transport you to the Israeli police who put you under arrest. The Israelis will go about torturing you for days, but they do not leave any marks for later on. They first put you in a room blindfolded and make you stand for 24, 30 hours. They sit many of us in very uncomfortable positions for many days so that you will carry the pains for 15, 20 years. They put me in a box, smaller than a coffin, and you wonder whether they forgot about you or not. Many Palestinian men have gone through this just for being Palestinian in the occupied territories."
Over these four days about 150 Palestinians were arrested, 8 injured, and 2 killed. About 11 homes were demolished.
On our way to the Internet cafe in the Balata Refugee Camp, the men of the camp were gathered to wait for the arrival of the ambulance with the body of Murad Marshood, who was one of the men killed outside of Jenin at about 2 a.m. this morning, Aug. 6. He is about 20 years old and is from Balata. He and another man were shot by the IDF from an Apache helicopter. In Balata the men gathered around the ambulance and then carried the body above them as they marched around the camp, chanting and firing guns.
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