Dispatches From Ramallah

Eyewitness acccounts of the Israeli invasion are pouring in from Ramallah and Bethlehem every day. The following reports and testimonies are being circulated on listservs and indymedia sites.

April 2, 2002
From the Palestine Indymedia Center


Update from peace activists inside the presidential compound:

The presidential compound in Ramallah is currently being fired upon. We still have 34 foreign peace activists inside. There is a dire shortage of food and no water. They urgently need medical supplies.

Palestinian doctors were forced to dig a mass grave in the parking lot of the Ramallah hospital today to bury 25 of the dead bodies that have been retrieved over the past 4 days. Though it is difficult to get an accurate count of the dead due to the Israeli military preventing medical workers from operating, doctors were forced to make room in the hospital morgue. We have been unable to bury the dead properly due to the Israeli siege and their open shoot policy.

A 55-year old woman by the name of Widad Majed Nimr Safwan was shot dead by Israeli snipers as she left the Ramallah hospital this morning where she came for treatment of her broken leg. Widad left the Shiekh Khaled bin Zayed hospital at approximately 11 am this morning, to have her dead body carried back by an Italian peace worker at 11:15 am. Snipers shot Widad in the cheek and back of the neck.

PLEASE keep up the pressure on your respective governments. We really need help here...

***

Send Help Now

As members of the international civilian peace force on the ground in the besieged Palestinian towns of Ramallah and Bethlehem, we are sending out an urgent call for help.

First of all we'd like to confirm that there are 34 foreign civilians still inside the Presidential compound, under siege by Israeli forces. They are 27 French, 2 Germans, 1 British, 1 Belgian, 1 Brazilian, 1 Israeli/Canadian and 1 Irish. They have been in there since Sunday, March 31, 2002. They are reporting to us a severe shortage of food, no water and a desperate need for medical supplies. We have repeatedly attempted to deliver food, water and medicine via a Red Crescent ambulance but the Israeli military is not allowing the aid through.

The foreign peace activists inside the compound are calling for immediate international intervention. They have issued an urgent call to their respective ambassadors. In addition to the ambassadors, we are calling upon UN Secretary General Kofi Anan, EU Foreign Minister Javier Solana, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, General Anthony Zinni, and EU Special Envoy Miguel Moratinos to come immediately to Ramallah and intervene to stop the Israeli assault on all Palestinian cities and people.

Up until now unarmed foreign civilians have been doing the work that our governments and the international community should be doing and MUST START DOING NOW. We have now also become purposeful targets of the Israeli military. Yesterday Israeli soldiers opened fire on a large group foreign peace activists in Beit Jala, wounding six (2 Americans, 3 British and 1 Australian). Now international peace activists are in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, the Dhaishe refugee camp, Aida refugee camp, and Azza refugee camp, serving as human shields to protect the Palestinian people. The Israeli government has declared martial law in Ramallah and Bethlehem and has ordered all of us out. We refuse to leave. Some of us have already been arrested and deported for our solidarity work with the Palestinian people.

We need help NOW. The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross are being prevented from working inside the besieged Palestinian towns. The Palestinian Red Crescent society and aid workers are being detained by Israeli forces and their ambulances are denied passage to deliver humanitarian aid and to pick up wounded and the dead. Ambulances are also being shot at and medics and doctors forced to sit on their knees at gunpoint in the streets.

We appeal to the world not to remain silent and to come to the Occupied Palestinian Territories to help protect the Palestinian people. WE are witnessing war crimes and must work to stop this! We will continue our attempts to help the Palestinian people, despite the danger on our lives. The United Nations and our respective governments must intervene now, decisively and unconditionally.

WE NEED HELP! SEND HELP NOW! PLEASE.

***

Update from LAW, The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment.

Israeli forces continue assault on Palestinian civilians, medical personnel and journalists

For the fifth consecutive day Israeli war against all Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues. The situation on the ground is deteriorating by the minute. Despite repeated calls for international intervention, the international community continues to give Israeli forces a green light to commit further grave breaches of international humanitarian law, war crimes, and other violations of human rights. Paramedics, journalists and human rights defenders face difficulty in performing their jobs due to Israeli assaults on any moving object and various restrictions. Israeli forces continue assaults on residents in Ramallah, El-Bireh, Beit Jala, Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Qalqiliya. Israeli forces are reinforced to enter Nablus, Jenin and Hebron. At this moment, Ramallah is facing a humanitarian crisis, lacking water, food, and medicines.

Israeli forces continue to prevent paramedics from evacuating the injured and in many cases the injured are left in the streets. Israeli soldiers have confiscated ambulances belonging to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees as well as public medical institutions and used them in house-to-house raids and assaults on Palestinian civilians.

Hours ago, Israeli tanks shelled St. Mary Church in Bethlehem, killing Father Jack (54) and injuring five sisters.

Last night, Israeli forces started shelling the headquarters of the Palestinian Preventive Security Forces in Betunia, southwest of Ramallah. Eyewitnesses stated to LAW that Israeli forces use Palestinian civilians as human shields in the raid. The headquarter, currently, has approximately four hundred persons inside, including staff, detainees and families. Dozens have been killed and injured, however, Israeli forces prevent ambulances from reaching the injured and evacuate bodies.

The total number of Palestinians killed is yet unknown. Sources at Ramallah hospital have reported that twenty five dead bodies have so far been brought to the hospital, awaiting burial. The sources also warned of a humanitarian, health and environmental disaster due to Israeli forces preventing the burial of killed persons. The mortuary of the hospital does not have more capacity.

Today, when Widad Hamad Safran (45) from Kadoura refugee camp went to Ramallah hospital to have a cask removed from her previously broken leg, she was shot and killed twenty meters from the hospital by Israeli snipers who have been positioned in al-Ramouni building. A bullet hit her shoulder and entered her heart. Israeli soldiers prevented Italian observers from providing aid. Israeli soldiers have occupied the building since yesterday. The building hosts the Union of Medical Relief Committees, the Mandela Institute, and some residential apartments. Yesterday, Israeli forces entered the office of the human rights organization al-Haq and the Health Development Information and Policy Institute.

An eye-witness, Marleen Anqous, who lives in the Ramouni building, saw the Israeli soldiers evacuating women and children from the building to Undsam restaurant, which is located opposite the building and the men were brought to al-Odeh Hotel. The eye-witness told LAW that she saw an explosion on the second floor of the building. Another eye-witness, Amin Anabi, saw Israeli soldiers arresting Dr. Muhammad Iskafi, from the Medical Relief Committees, who was previously arrested on Saturday, March 30, and have used the doctor as a human shield to enter another building.

Leila Hussain Aruri, from Ramallah, who suffers from diabetes, yesterday, received insulin from a paramedic. However, since there has been no electricity in her home, she could not take the medication. She lost her conscience and if she doesn't receive medication in time, she will die.

This morning, at 11.00, Andre Durand, a journalist who works for Agence France Press, together with 'Ata Awisat who is a reporter for Gama News, were stopped by Israeli soldiers in Beitunia. After two hours they released the French journalist. 'Ata Awisat is still being held. Yesterday, Abas al-Moumani, a photojournalist, who works for Agence France Presse, was driving his car, which has been clearly marked with "TV", at Manari, the main square in the center of Ramallah. Israeli soldiers opened fire at his car and a live bullet hit the mirror inside the car. The driver was not hurt. The car was stopped and Israeli soldiers confiscated Moumani's camera. They forced him to put his hands behind his head and left him standing for three hours, after which they returned his camera and ordered him to leave the area.

LAW -- The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment -- has repeatedly called for international protection and intervention. If states fail to take immediate actions, these states facilitate, if not encourage, Israel's ongoing violations of international law, including war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The international community, in particular, the European Union, must now take effective and concrete action, in accordance with its legal obligations under international humanitarian law, to ensure that Israel's military offensive against Palestinian civilians is halted immediately and that those responsible for the perpetration of war crimes, and other gross violations of international law, are sought and prosecuted in accordance with international law. Clearly, sporadic condemnations by various states of individual violations of international law are wholly insufficient, and clearly increasingly ineffective. As Israel continues to ignore the criticisms and calls of the international community, including the European Union, clearly effective pressure must be applied, and actions must be taken and taken immediately.

LAW -- The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is affiliate to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Federation Internationale des Ligues de Droits de l'Homme (FIDH) and the World Organisation Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

***

From the Palestinian Counselling Center (PCC) Hotline

The PCC, located in Jerusalem, issued hotline numbers in an effort to provide counselling to individuals and families under attack in various Palestinian cities. 22 staff and 30 volunteers are set up in 3 shifts working around the clock. They are having a difficult time dealing with the load of calls and the catastrophic conditions being reported in by Palestinians across the West Bank.

Four telephone lines and fax line ring non-stop: we have no bread; I need milk for my two month old baby; I need medicine because I have diabetes; I need medicine for my high blood pressure; I'm scared -- I'm alone trapped in a restaurant in Ramallah and the Israeli snipers are on the rooftop of the building I'm in; I don't know what to do -- my children are scared; I'm a doctor -- there are 38 apartments in the building I work in and the families here need bread, water, milk -- I also need medicine to treat some of the people here -- I need antibiotics, velum, I need aspirin for children and adults -- I also have a pregnant woman here -- if I don't get her to a hospital -- I will have to deliver the baby here. And the calls go on and on -- mainly the need for basic food necessities, medicine and guidance -- counseling. The staff have been working for 72 hours -- non-stop -- shifts -- to answer phone calls and provide assistance also through the radio and television stations that are still under Palestinian control.

The telephone lines ring -- again -- the nineteen year old who is stuck in the restaurant where Israeli snipers are on the rooftop of the building in Ramallah. He says he has access to food and even to television -- but he's scared -- he is isolated -- what should he do. We give him advice -- stay inside, take long and deep breaths, keep the volume for the television low so you stay safe. The phone rings again -- his name is Malek. He is still scared -- he can't breath -- he hears the soldiers outside -- he is originally from Jericho -- but can't get home. I'm isolated. I'm scared. I have contacted my family in Jericho and I'm still scared. Try to contact your neighbors in the same building and talk to them -- it may comfort you. Take deep breaths, move around and turn off the TV, think happy things -- about your family in Jericho. Think happy things you will go home to your family soon in Jericho. Malek was still sacred and decided to go upstairs to his neighbors apartment. He never made it. Think happy thoughts you will see your family soon. They will meet you at the entrance of the city -- in your casket. Think happy things Malek. We know that you were scared but we did not expect you to be shot in cold blood as you were leaving to your neighbors house because you were scared -- your words were supported by the fear in your voice. We still have the notes we took from your calls. I'm alone in a restaurant -- I'm 19 and I'm alone -- I don't need food -- but I'm scared. I'm scared, I feel isolated. I contacted my family. I'm scared.

Malek never made it to his neighbors house. He did not know them but he needed support as he told our psychologists who talked to him several times over two days. He was scared and isolated. He needed to hear people's voices and to see movement around him. Malek was scared as he left the restaurant -- taking a courageous step to go by his neighbors -- and when an Israeli soldier maybe also 19 years old decided to take the fear away from Malek by taking away his life. Malek did not call today and the psychologists who spoke to him are feeling down -- did we give him the right advice -- he was really scared? Why did he leave. He must have begun to get really terrified of being alone. Malek's body lay for a few hours in the streets of Ramallah while paramedics were prevented from providing him with medical assistance.

Many Maleks called us today. There are three of us trapped in an apartment building. We are alone. We have not eaten in three days. We fear for our lives -- the Israeli soldiers have surrounded the building we are in. I have 38 families in the building -- they are scared but they also have no bread, milk or water. Many families have small children. We don't need to eat. Just some food for the children.

April 1, 2002
From the Palestine Indymedia Center


Like all other Palestinians in Ramallah, Ashraf, 25, is imprisoned in his home. Ramallah has been declared a "closed military area" and there is an Israeli tank outside his door. Israeli soldiers have been ordered to shoot-to-kill anyone on the streets. Here's what he had to say on the phone from Ramallah today.

It has been 4 days since [the Israelis] invaded Ramallah. They started entering on Friday morning around 4 am and it was really like a war. All that you could hear was shaking from the sound of the tanks and helicopters. You thought at the beginning that it was the start of the war. Clashes started. What do you expect? They were entering with tanks, so there was some resistance, but with kalashnikovs, light weapons.

There was so much bombing.

Of course, we have had so many sleepless nights but this was the worst, actually, worse than the ones before. The people were really surprised this time because they started entering all the homes and shooting at anything -- even cats on the streets. The sound of tank bombing was unbelievable. And they demolished something to do with the electricity so there was no electricity and we couldn't follow the news so we didn't know what was going on.

They started by destroying the Muqataa' [Arafat's Presidential Compound] where Arafat is. So many were injured and killed.

The next morning they started their mission: "fighting terrorism."

We woke up again with the sounds of the tanks.

The Israelis entered neighborhood by neighborhood, calling men from 15-40 to go outside.

There were 6 tanks in my neighborhood. They crashed through 6 cars, they didn't have to, there was space for their tanks to go past, but they destroyed the cars anyway. They entered my neighbor's house with their dogs.

In many places they arrested people. They have been entering buildings where there are students, young people. Many Birzeit [University] students living in Ramallah were arrested. They are still arresting people; 500 people have been detained so far.

It's never silent for more than half an hour at a time. Today was the worst. Near our home a shopping center was almost demolished. They stopped a few meters away from the building and started shelling it from their tanks. They fired more than 12 missiles from a few meters away. Really, it was terrible.

The worst thing is that so many people are living without electricity or water. And the food is finishing. It will be really serious if this continues. Some people are injured, and some are just ill and they need to get to hospital and get treatment. But the Israelis don't let any ambulances get though to help people.

Yesterday, 5 policemen were just sitting in their place and the Israelis shot them. It was so clear there was no resistance. All the blood was on the floor, not high on the walls. It was clear they were sitting on the floor when they were killed. They showed it on TV. All of them were shot in the head when they were sitting on the floor.

The Israelis entered all the big buildings here with their tanks. But there are so many normal shops in the buildings; normal shops selling cell phones, clothes, computers and other things. They stole things from the shops, computers ... so many things. They also stole computers from students and turned their homes upside down.

There are a couple things more I would like to say.

The world is seeing what is happening. History is repeating itself. It's a fascist world. This is fascism, how they [the Israeli soldiers] are dealing with people, detaining them in big schools and interrogating each one, writing numbers on them.

And the shocking thing is this silence about what they are doing.

These Israeli operations are targeting innocent civilians. People are terrified. The Israeli soldiers are shooting everything. Life here has totally stopped; it's dead.

This is terrorism against civilians. It is organized terrorism by the state and this is even more dangerous than a bunch of people who do things on their own. This is an organized war against a whole people who have no weapons to resist tanks, and helicopters and F16s.

The West always asks about [Palestinian] attacks against civilians. But they must ask what is the cause of these attacks: the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, which creates so much anger amongst people. Like at the checkpoints, for example. Every day we have to walk 20 minutes and more across the Israeli checkpoint to reach the University. It takes more than a hour to get through and they sometimes arrest people. Even to get to Al Ram -- not even Jerusalem -- we have to go through the checkpoints.

This is all about civilians. It's all about humiliation, about punishing a whole people. This is terrorism.

The second thing I think is very important is the official reaction of the Arab regimes which is very disappointing -- this is not new, but it's especially disappointing now when the whole situation has reached a point where everything has been demolished. There were thousands of people in Jordan and Egypt and in other places and they were faced with the Central Security dealing with them as if they are terrorists. They started shooting gas at the students in Amman -- not letting them demonstrate.

This might not be important for the West, but ...

Also, the Western media is totally biased. There is so much rage and anger here, especially at the last speech by Bush. The Israelis are fighting the Palestinian people, not terrorism. The whole Palestinian nation is imprisoned. What do they expect? This [Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians] will happen, whether we are with it or against it. What do they expect for people living in poverty, in a hopeless situation and with this daily humiliation that everyone feels. Everyone feels so angry about it every day.

And now they are talking about civilians. Until when do the Palestinians have to face all this? I don't understand it when they talk of the two sides having to stop the violence. When they say that they don't distinguish between the criminal and the victim.

One of the top 10 armies in the world is invading a civilian city. People here are helpless, they feel like this situation will never end. They are seeing soldiers with all kinds of weapons entering their homes, doing what ever they like. A few days more and people will have nothing to eat. And people are talking about violence between two sides!

I want to add something else.

We don't have a problem with Jewish people. We don't claim that the solution is to throw them into the sea. No. The solution is to live together. We are for a solution to the problem of anti-semitism. But this, what is happening to us here, is not a solution. This is a solution that kicks Palestinians from their houses. They will never find a solution this way because this is not just. We are human beings too.

It has been 53 years since the Nakba [Palestinian Catastrophe]. And now the Israelis elected Sharon, they thought he could bring them security. But if the Israelis thought that by using violence they could shut up the Palestinians they are wrong.

When Israeli society reaches a point when it wants to live with the Palestinians, not as slaves but as equals, then we can live together.

At the end what are they going to do? Are they going to kill the whole Palestinian nation? There are so many examples like Sharon in history and they have always been defeated.

These circumstances now, where people are living under extremely difficult circumstances, it will never lead to anything ...
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