Immediate Action Alert: 8 Internationals Detained
GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 - http://www.gush-shalom.org/
Eight of the voluntary international observers arrested by soldiers.
Elana's message, which we forward, has it all.
Ariel police station +972(0)3-9065444
The following are mobile phones of arrested internationals: Makoto - +972(0)53-681276 Liham - +972(0)56-403365
NB: phone to whoever YOU think could do something (we do the same).
Adam Keller & Beate Zilversmidt Gush Shalom Infoteam
------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent: Sun, +972(0)02 Jun 2002 11:09:55 +0200
From: Elana Wesley firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: URGENT! IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED! 8 INTERNATIONALS BEING DETAINED AND THREATENED WITH DEPORTATION
Darlene Wallach (Jewish) US; William (Liam) Barry, Australia; Valery Bourreges, French citizen living in US; Mashhour Mab-Eid, Jordan; Josie Sandercock, UK; Makoto Hibino, Japan; Hrafknell Brynjarsson, Iceland; Mikael Nielsen, Denmark
have been detained and threatened with deportation despite having done nothing illegal. The group were here as individuals part of a humanitarian mission to observe and, as necessary, act as a human shield to protect Palestinian civilians who were in danger from Israeli forces. They were part of a larger group in the Balata Refugee Camp, some working two or three together in different places escorting injured persons walking on foot to a clinic and to ambulances and others observing soldiers and trying to moderate their behavior, reassuring Palestinian families, and assessing damage. For example, as the Israeli forces made their way from house to house, knocking down joint walls between families, the internationals tried to be inside with families and explain to soldiers that the doors were open to adjoining rooms and apartments and there was no need to make holes in walls to gain access. At times there were soldiers who listened, while others were very aggressive. When not able to enter the buildings, the internationals tried to get as close as they could and to tell the soldiers why they were there. They held their hands up and waved their passports in the air to show they were internationals. The internationals offered to walk in front of the soldiers so they could enter through doors rather than destroying walls. Some soldiers were gentle and friendly and allowed them to remain in place, while others were very aggressive, yelling at them, forcing them to move away, shooting warning shots from M-16s etc. The internationals tried to be near the more aggressive soldiers to try to reason with them and to act as human shields. My sources say that EVERY HOME in the Balata camp has been seriously damaged by holes in walls and sometimes collapsed roofs or totally destroyed.
At the same time another group of internationals were at the Rafadiah Hospital checkpoint, just outside the hospital, trying to convince the soldiers there to allow ambulances to leave and reenter. Soldiers were taking about 30 minutes to search each ambulance in each direction. This sometimes included removing the tires of the ambulance. Other ambulances were not allowed to move at all.
On Saturday morning - yesterday - the hospital group went to the Red Crescent clinic where an International Committee of the Red Cross was present at the time and raised the issue. It took several hours of discussion including contacting the commanding officer of the military force. According to my sources, the officer - who was stationed nearby - was well aware that the work of the ambulances was being impeded or prevented, but only around 1pm did he speak with his soldiers, shouting at them that they knew that by now allowing the ambulances to do their work they were breaking the law and that they (the soldiers) knew it. Those internationals at the clinic then went into the Balata camp where the others were scattered.
It is important to be inside before dark because soldiers get nervous and it is far more difficult to identify internationals at night. The group of almost twenty had left their gear at one spot in the morning and were headed from different directions to collect it for the night. About 5:30pm Saturday, on their way to pick up their packs before going to various families to stay for the night, a group of six were going down an alley. As they entered, they saw soldiers at the other end. They stopped and held up their passports. Two more internationals entered the alley and became part of the group that was talking to the soldiers. The soldiers beckoned to the group to come forward. The group met the soldiers midway. For about half an hour from around 5:30pm they made light talk, joked together, smoked cigarettes, with the group trying to get the soldiers to let them pass. The soldiers behaved well. Soldiers don't have the authority to arrest internationals. At one point, a soldier began urging the internationals: "You should come with us - we'll get you out of here." The internationals refused, saying the soldiers had no right to arrest them and that they wouldn't go with the soldiers. Eventually, the soldiers made it clear that the internationals could either come without resisting or they would be forced to come. When asked how the soldiers would force them to go, a soldier pointed his gun at them. He was told that if he shot an international, it would be much worse for Israel than for that international. They continued talking together for another half hour.
The internationals decided not to try to collect their things so as not to endanger those in that house. The internationals then proposed that the soldiers allow them to to the the UNRWA clinic to spend the night. Then three of the group of about eight soldiers moved behind the group in the narrow alley and began forcing the group forward through the alley. At the end of the alley was an army truck. the internationals refused to get in. More soldiers were there, and some roughly grabbed the eight in the group and forced them into the truck.
The group was driven to a military base (at no time were they told where they were or where they were being taken) near Nablus. They arrived around 7pm. There was a grassy spot next to some rocks and dusty ground, and the group was forced to sit on the rocks and dust. They rebelled and stood up. They were there until 12:30am when two army trucks arrived. They were told they were being taken to a police station. The group said they wanted to travel in one truck andnot two, refusing to be split up. They were then forced into the two trucks. After driving for about 30 minutes, they arrived at the Ariel police station. Nothing much happened between 1:10am when they arrived and 3am when the police asked them if they wanted something to eat. One of the group went to the canteen there, accompanied by a policeman and brought back bread, cheese, and hard cooked eggs. The group were told they might be deported in the morning.
They spent the night in the police common room upstairs. One of the group asked permission to phone the embassy but was not allowed to do so. In the common room, although they were afraid their cellulars would be confiscated, at around 3am they began to make phone calls without interference. At 9:15am this morning (Sunday) the group were questioned one by one. Police in the waiting area tried to make lots of noise to interfere with phone calls the group were making.
WHAT IS NEEDED
Phone calls, faxes, emails, to any and all of the embassies involved as well as spreading the word through any and all media as quickly and widely as possible.
As reported to Elana Wesley shortly after 9am today. My phone: (03) 6811805.