Palestinian Reports, April 2002, Pt 2

Sarah Irving, 17th April 2002ce

Tue, 02 Apr 2002 06:30:40

there are tanks in Manger Square and the old city is being shelled.

the hotel where the majority of the internationals are is surrounded by 10 tanks and numerous soldiers. an al-jazeera TV cameraman was shot whilst trying to film from the top floor.

there are troops in all 3 of the refugee camps here, and they are being shelled.

sarah xxx

Wed, 03 Apr 2002 16:16:19

greetings again from the IMC [Independent Media Centre],

things here are shifting again slightly, but not enough. there are still large numbers of wounded in Manger Square in the centre of the old city, and many dead lying in the streets or in houses from which they cannot be removed [update this second; the family who had 2 members killed by a tank shell have managed to get them out]. the mosque, in which people were hiding, was shelled by tanks, and there are 150-200 holed up in the church of the nativity; we've just spoken to one of them and no medics have been allowed through but nuns have been attending the injured. injured in deheishe refugee camp have also been denied access to hospital, and we've just watched from our window as Israeli troops surrounded and searched a red crescent ambulance. another ambulance was crushed by a tank this morning in Beit Jala. a group of internationals attempted to accompany an ambulance to Manger Square to get humanitarian aid to those trapped, but they were fired on; apparently the Israelis had chosen (without telling anyone) that they would use their clocks and not Palestinian time to time the curfew and thus decided to shoot at people as soon as.

a number of British nationals are being evacuated at the moment, including kunle whose father died unexpectedly and who has been denied exit by the Israelis for 2 days despite strong protests from the British government and consulate.

in Ramallah, a group of 2,000 Israelis (gush shalom) and Arab Israelis attempting to deliver food and medical supplies were stopped and heavily teargassed. one truck of aid was allowed through but the soldiers then emptied it and stamped on the medical supplies, leaving the food on the ground.

there has also been shooting at the doors of the building that Arafat and the internationals etc are trapped in Arafat's compound. Arafat's personal medicine in running out and there are fears for him.

in truth,

from the indymedia centre, bab al-zqaq, besieged Bethlehem

Wed, 03 Apr 2002 19:08:12

hey all,

thanks for the many messages of support I/we have had. just another update:

1) can people try to get out to the press that the 200 people in the nativity church are NOT all gunmen; the majority are families from the locality who initially took refuge in the mosque until it was destroyed. many civilians have been killed in the locality and most houses are being denied medical access - I may have mentioned that a tank was crushed here earlier, and the IDF [Israeli Defence Force] are presently surrounding a medical team in Beit Sahour. there are people taking refuge in many of the other churches as well. THIS MISINFORMATION IS INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS AND NEEDS TO BE COUNTERACTED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

2) we are presently trying to arrange the presence of internationals in ambulances here tonight to try and protect the medical teams.

3) there is heavy gunfire close by us at the moment, and flares have been shot over Azza refugee camp; this is usually a precursor to attack, but we think at the moment that it is the tall buildings (good sniper posts) that the Israelis are after. there is fairly heavy gunfights and periodic shelling from not far off. And Bethlehem university - about 500 yds away - has been occupied, with a number of monks there being searched and assaulted and one having to intervene in order to prevent the shooting of a civilian in a nearby home.

4) there is also substantial tank movement in the direction of deheishe refugee camp. god help them, there are already a number of wounded there being denied access to medical care.

5) on a lighter note, spirits here in the IMC are up, since we had a food delivery and are aware that there is another one awaiting us from the British embassy (the dogfood was starting to look appealing, we were that low while the curfew was 24 hour. I’m also smoking like a chimney, except when we ran out...). they came to evacuate a number of foreign nationals, including kunle, who had been prevented from leaving for several days after the news of his father's death. for obvious reasons, some of the wounded internationals from the demo on Monday also wanted to leave, although the worst injured, an Australian woman with what the operating doctor believes was a direct gunshot wound to the stomach, cannot be moved at present. in the IMC we are sleeping in shifts but still have electricity and therefore heat - it's bitter here - and we also have Indymedia Intifada, the rescued Palestinian puppy, to cheer us up/pee on the floor. it's kind of surreal crawling round the kitchen floor to avoid sniper sights in order to prepare puppy food!

6) whilst my political principles militate against it, getting in touch with governments and stuff really is important at the moment, as it is really one of the few things that can save people here. demos etc are great as pressure too, but in the end we need the US government to follow the lead of the EU in demanding instant withdrawal. Belgium and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties, and we need this to happen from other regimes too.

love to you all.

sarah xxx
from the centre of Bethlehem under attack...

Thu, 04 Apr 2002 07:09:59

hey all,

2 main things;

1) Arafat's medicine is running low. medically very serious. we have a new line into the building, though, which is good because the Israelis have jammers on some of the mobiles there. They have very, very little water and very little food left in there, and the IDF are still not letting humanitarian aid through.

2) the family of a volunteer here were stopped in an ambulance last night. a wounded man in the ambulance was arrested and the family interrogated, including violence to one of the men, for 2 hours; the actual patient was 3 years old. the most disturbing thing, though, was that the commanding officer of the troops doing this told the family that they would not be allowed anywhere until "everyone in the nativity church is dead." there are about 200 people in there, including some freedom fighters but mainly families who fled there and to the mosque when homes in the area were shelled, and then the mosque was also shelled beyond being useful as a refuge. the IDF are claiming publically that it is all gunmen there, and we are terrified that this is IDF preparation to massacre everyone in there. they have denied medical care to the many wounded in there for 2 days now, and we have reports that a number of people have bled to death in that time. an ambulance was crushed by a tank yesterday morning trying to reach them, but some bodies and a few wounded have been removed, but some of the wounded have been arrested on the way out.

there have been gunbattles and heavy tank movement all night here, but we have no reports yet of what this signifies; ayda camp have reported that the night was ok, but we are worried about deheishe camp, since we saw large earthmover type vehicles and many tanks heading up there midnightish. we also had a false alarm that someone was trying to batter our downstairs door down...but just a false alarm. we're quite surprised that they haven't taken us out yet, since we seem to be being so successful in getting info out - we've been doing interviews with press everywhere from the us, UK, Germany, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Australia etc etc etc...we had an unconfirmed report last night that the director of Bethlehem TV, in our building, was arrested last night, and we've not been able to contact him since. we are probably going to try and leave for a little later to try to get some ambulances up to Manger Square; internationals tried yesterday but got shot at when the IDF decided to stop the curfew lift on their time not ours. and Azza camp, which was shelled during the night, including the building some of the internationals were in, have reported seeing an ambulance heading for the old city about 2 hours ago. a couple of minutes later there was heavy gunfire and the ambulance has not been seen returning. and news just in...there's about 40 journos waiting to come up to Manger Square with us...I wanna be exploited...

if there is any fundraising anyone can do running the press ops here is costing a bomb; there are details of how to donate on

take care all.


from the centre of besieged Bethlehem

Thu, 04 Apr 2002 08:55:17


we're trying to sort ambulances to get up to Manger Square to deal with the humanitarian disaster there at the moment, but the organisations won't co-ordinate with us and the medical organisations won't let ambulances out while that is the case, as one was crushed yesterday by a tank and several crews have been arrested. we will probably form a group of internationals to carry water, food and if possible medical supplies up there instead. there are a number of press prepared to come with us. we are very concerned about the medical conditions of people who have been trapped up there bleeding for 2 days and have no food and water. we are also concerned about the IDF's refusal to let anyone witness whatever it is they are perpetrating up there, which we know has already included widespread killing and the shelling of homes.

in peace, inshallah,

as the tanks roll by...

Fri, 05 Apr 2002 04:34:28

hello all,

greetings from the cold quiet of the Bethlehem morning. well, quiet if it wasn't for the tanks trundling past. I hate the noise of them; so heavy and destructive and intrusive. the damage they've done up in the old city is horrendous, destroying much of the renovation that was done for the millennium, smashing road surfaces, water pipes and sewage conduits and generally wreaking infrastructural havoc as well as the damage to life and limb.

yesterday was pretty draining - the feeling of our own impotence as we spoke to people inside the church of the nativity. we now have confirmation that there are about 260 people in there, largely families from the surrounding streets who fled when their homes were shelled, or fled again from the mosque when it was destroyed. at least 30 are wounded, some seriously, and they have been denied proper medical care for 3 days now. the Israelis have let some ambulances up there, but not with deliveries of medical supplies, and they have arrested some people from the backs of ambulances once they were moved. the IDF started shooting at the church yesterday morning, and then shelled it around lunchtime on the milk grotto street wall, to the right of the church. luckily those great fat medieval walls are still holding strong, but all the windows are gone and they were still shooting at the building last night. this despite ongoing denials on IDF radio that the church was under attack at all, although these were apparently made to look pretty foolish by an announcement from Ariel Sharon that the (none-existent) attack would stop...

we also got quite a lot of calls from rightist Israelis hoping that the IDF's aim would improve and we'd die...

we also got some rather sinister messages yesterday, if laughable. the Americans in ayda camp were warned by their consulate that the Israeli border guards had threatened to dump them in the nativity church to get shelled. the Americans here, meanwhile, were given a similar warning but that it would be Palestinians who would drag them in as hostages. us brits, meanwhile, got a message last night that because of 'rising sentiment' against foreigners here amongst Palestinians (which is in itself a rubbish claim) we were 'strongly advised' to leave. we are taking this with a massive pinch of salt, having met nothing but kindness, respect and appreciation of our presence from every Palestinian we've met. but it is disturbing in that we are reading these as veiled threats from the Israeli army and government, or at least attempts from them to get themselves off the hook should they 'accidentally' harm us. on a personal level, if anything bad does happen to me here, I want all my loved ones to utterly assume Israeli responsibility. they are the only forces from whom we have met aggression and harm, despite the workings of their propaganda machine. A full formal statement from the internationals will be released by the internationals here later today.

we have also had news from ayda refugee camp here that food is running low, and we are trying to set up the conditions for an aid convoy, possibly similar (if more successful, hopefully) than the one which attempted to reach Ramallah on Wednesday but was trashed by the IDF. please pass this plea on to Christian aid, war on want etc, and we'll be on to them, as well as to gush shalom, rabbis for human rights etc from this end.

terrible news from Nablus, where there are 4-500 tanks. the refugee camps and university have been occupied, with systematic demolition of houses, leaving families homeless in the bitter cold, wet weather we have here at the moment (so much for my tan ambitions...). a house was also destroyed by a helicopter gunship, leaving 2 women in the rubble, status unknown. the IDF also busted into an old people's home - obviously a haven for terrorists...

we got news from deheishe refugee camp yesterday that another woman had lost her baby after being denied access to specialist medical care after labour complications. and the UN managed to set up a brief clinic and treated 3 boys under 15 for gunshot wounds.

in Ramallah, the family of a 21 year old Palestinian woman with a US passport have described how she was shot dead as she sat with her 9-month old baby on her lap in a car, fleeing to safety after she heard gunshots. she was one of the 30-odd who had to be buried in a mass grave in the carpark of Ramallah hospital. the IDF have put out a thoroughly sick press release claiming that the digging of this mass grave was simply propaganda by the Palestinians, who had ample time to bury their dead properly in the one or two-hour curfew lifts granted them.

drained, angry and sad, but staying here...



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