Report From The Siege Of Bethlehem
Report from Kristen Schurr, international observer, Bethlehem, Palestine, April 2, 2002. 6:00am.
At 1am the siege of Bethlehem began, with tanks entering the Al Azza / Beit Jibrir refugee camps from four different direction (the four entrances to the camps). At 2am these same tanks began shelling the camp. U.S. made F-16s occasionally fly overhead, dropping shells into the camps as well. U.S. made and donated Apache helicopters have continued to make repeated flybys, about every 10 minutes. Israeli tanks have fully occupied Manger Square, legendary birth place of Jesus Christ. From this location the tanks fire rounds into Bethlehem University, which is incidentally adjacent to the Beit Jala hospital.
Equally as frightening is the Israeli sniper fire coming from the Paradise Hotel, targeted strait into the camp. Beit Jara (??) and Beit Jibri are occupied and the shelling continues in the Aida refugee camp as well, as the siege of the Deheisha refugee camp continues.
19 Internationals are currently in Al Azza refugee camp, spread throughout in different houses. Of the US citizens, 7 are from New York City, one from Philadelphia.
I stayed up all night with the Akka family. Sat and waited. The 21 year old son and I sat out on the patio, against a wall for protection from the bullets, and watched as the Apaches circled and passed overhead, and listened to the shelling. We waited in fear of the inevitable roundup of Palestinian men.
The father of this family we are staying with was asked what we, as the international observers, should do if called outside by the Israelis. He advised us to stay inside. If Palestinian men were called out (as they usually are when the Israelis come), he said that we should go outside with them, acting as human shields, a presence that would add an element of protection, if only in the eyes of the Israeli soldiers. At least we would be witnesses to the takings.
As the dark night sky peels away to a deep shade of blue, the US made Apaches pass over, continuing the threat of death. And we wait.