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Report from the West Bank PDF Print E-mail
Feb 25, 2003 at 12:00 AM

International Women's Peace Service - Palestine

Report from Pat Katagiri
currently in the West Bank with the IWPS
February 25, 2003

Some of the people who were part of the demonstration in Nablus

The weather here is very bad. It's rained almost every day since I've been here. There's been snow in many places today and cities such as Ramallah have shut down because of it. I've had a cold for the past two weeks and think I'll shake it when the sun comes out – if it ever does.

Last week was a bad week. There was the siege of Nablus – one of our members was there for part of the time. Some photos are attached to this report.

During the siege things heated up in the villages and towns in this area. Two internationals from ISM were arrested at Huwarra Checkpoint just out of Nablus – and one of them is still in prison facing deportation. There were 3 home demolitions in our area. A volunteer and myself witnessed one. Nothing in the report we made can really describe what it was like. We got to the family's home at 1:30 a.m. Soldiers were inside and outside the home. We asked to see the family, but the soldiers wouldn't allow us. So we watched with neighbours – saw the silhouettes of the soldier's bodies in the windows of the home as they worked quietly and methodically to place dynamite everywhere. For two hours they worked.

The home demolition we witnessed in Jama'in

We stood on the rooftop of the neighbour who took us in and watched in disbelief as the home exploded before our eyes in the early morning. A loud cry went up from many in the neighbourhood – Allahu Akbar – God is great. The people with us were moaning or crying. There aren't many places on earth where it's okay to blow up a person's home whether or not they commit a crime. Forget about due process. It's non-existent for Palestinians here. When we talked to the family they said that soldiers had told them a year ago their home would be blown up. Two months after that a son, Muhammed, was killed by the military. There is another son, Riziq, who is in prison. He was due to have been released on March 1. Besides torture and many other means of coercion, the Occupation Forces often blow up the home of a family in order to get a family member who is in prison to co-operate with them.

We didn't get back to the IWPS apartment until about 8:30 in the morning and a few hours later were called out to a home in Salfit that was being occupied by the military. They it over at about 8:00 a.m.; there was shooting inside for about 10 minutes, and then the family of 9 was put in a room upstairs. The soldiers occupying the home then proceeded to arrest many men who were in the street below. When we arrived we saw a group of about 20 men, their hands held over their heads, being led toward the home. We found out that they were Palestinian security forces. We tried to get into the home to see the family, and were turned away. Even the daughter of the owner was turned away. She asked why she wasn't allowed to be in her family's home and one of the soldiers said "It's our home." While we were there, some men were released, but many were left inside and we were told they were probably being interrogated.

We felt helpless. We often feel helpless. Palestinians often tell us that no one cares. There aren't words adequate enough to describe the outrages we witness here. We can send out our reports, let others know – but what ever happens? Another member of IWPS and myself visited Hebron. The situation there is very hard, especially for the people living in H2 – the area occupied by the military which covers most of the old city. What did we witness? Children afraid to walk in the street to school, so they walk through connecting courtyards of neighbours' homes and finally get out to the road by crawling down a ladder left out by the Ladder Lady whose home is closest to the school. She began to put the ladder out to help the kids because she witnessed the harassment children were experiencing every day from soldiers and settlers as they tried to get to school. We visited her home on the day that the Red Cross delivered food rations to families. Many adults also use the ladder for getting supplies as well, lugging up heavy sacks of rice or flour or beans in order to avoid getting stopped in the street as they carry food home. It's hard to witness this, hard to know that families are going hungry. And there were children, with the obvious signs of malnutrition on their faces, with carts, begging for one or two shekels for carrying our bags from the main checkpoint out of Hebron.

Nablus - some of the damage in the old city

We get angry a lot. I'm angry this morning because we got a call from the family we interviewed regarding their 17 year old son who was arrested two weeks ago. The family hasn't been allowed to visit him, they want to bring their son warm clothes because conditions in prisons are so bad and it's so cold. I phoned around and was told by the police at Qedumim that he had been taken to Be'er Sheva in the Negev. Defence of Children International told me that the probable reason for being there is so that he can be interrogated by the Shabak – the military internal intelligence service. He's only 17. The family were devastated when they heard this news and fear he may be dead. But it's also true that he may not have been moved at all. I learned later that the police or military often lie, and in this case may have given me the wrong information just to torment the family further.

But there are some things to feel good about. Though the IOF tried to break the people of Nablus they did not – their resistance, according to Maren, the IWPS member who was there was inspiring. The soldiers will come back, they will attack again but there are important victories to savour.

Pat Katagiri is a BC Lower Mainland resident currently in the West Bank for three months with IWPS. She is a Canpalnet member. To reach her email: pkatagiri@hotmail.com. For other reports from IWPS go to http://members.freespeech.org/womenspeacepalestine/IWPSreports.htm

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