|News and opinions on situation in the Middle East|
|24/12/03||Where is the world? Kelly B.|
Two weeks ago the Israeli Army and news sources claimed the invasion of Nablus ended. Daily operations continue, showing that the army has not, and does not plan to leave. Last week soldiers surrounded the house of curtain-maker, Abdul al-Qassa. They arrested al-Aqsa activist Ibrahim Attari who was sleeping in the house. After taking both Attari and al-Qassa out of the house, soldiers demanded that al-Qassa tell them who Attari was and why he was sleeping in his house.
He replied that he did not know. Soldiers responded by shooting him in the knees, stomach, and mouth. He died bleeding in front of his house. They then took Attari to another location and assassinated him. On Thursday, January 22 a large battalion of jeeps, hummers, tanks and bulldozers drove into Nablus between 3:00-4:00 a.m. From 4:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. the people of Nablus were again under seige.
The center of the operation was focused around Obuaydeh Street, near the university. The people living in more than 100 houses were imprisoned inside their homes, without access to food, medical care or allowed to go to work or school the entire day. In addition, tanks, jeeps and APCs patrolling the city center prevented people from moving through the city. No curfew was announced in Nablus, but the heavy soldier presence and continual shooting imposed a de-facto curfew.
In the morning we received information that children were trapped in 3 schools near the Obuaydeh area. Heavy indiscriminate Israeli military shooting surrounded the schools. With medical volunteers, we helped escort hundreds of terrified girls from their schools. Soldiers attempted to stop us, first by forbidding us to enter the area by the school; then, as we were escorting girls out they began shooting into the area.
On Obuaydeh Street over 20 people had been trapped inside a mosque since 4:00 a.m. These people were attending early morning prayers when the army invaded. Medical volunteers received word that one of the people inside the mosque needed medical care, so we attempted to reach the mosque. We
were immediately stopped by soldiers who insisted that there were no people in any of the buildings on the street, including the mosque. Seeing women and men beckoning me from the windows of the mosque, we attempted to walk past the soldiers. We were blocked by an APC and an M-16.
As of 1:00 p.m., seven children had been shot in various areas around Nablus, three of them next to their school. At least three of those shot were hit with live ammunition, one 10-year old boy sustained a critical wound to his stomach. I don’t know exactly how many were injured the rest of the day – but many were taken away in ambulances.
The soldiers were searching the area for a resistance fighter that they believed was in one building. They arrested his brother early in the morning. Soldiers abducted the elderly mother of the man and forced her to stand outside of the house and call for him on a megaphone. Not wanting her son to be killed, she told her son that if he was in the house, he should stay in the house and have god watch over him.
The operation ended with a large explosion heard as far as 15 miles away. We were a road down from the home being demolished and were hit with pieces of glass and rubble – we saw a door frame and scraps of metal flying past. The person they were looking for was not in the house they were searching. Immediately after the soldiers pulled out, the man they were looking for emerged from a building across the street, shaken and ash-white from all of the dust from the explosion. Some people immediately encircled him and took him away from the scene.
Three buildings were demolished, many more were damaged. Over one hundred people were left homeless. Women and men began pouring out into the streets – screaming and crying, asking, “where is god? where is the world? where is the hope?” Many women fainted and had to be taken to the hospital. The families in the homes were not allowed to remove any of their belongings before the explosion – all of the money, clothes, family picture, etc. were destroyed in the explosion. Cars were upturned, doors lifted off the frames, and windows in the houses within a mile radius were destroyed. The windows in the mosque where people were being imprisoned were all broken, scattering shards of glass upon the people inside.
On the way back to the old city I met an old woman hunched over, being carried by two men on either side of her. She is the owner of the home that was completely demolished. She and her husband built the house forty years ago, serving as a home for their sons and their sons families since then. All of her life’s belongings, her memories were inside the house. I had no words adequate enough to comfort her.
This operation took over 12 hours – imprisoning hundreds of people in their homes, injuring many innocent children and leaving over 100 families homeless.
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