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Today In Palestine

1) Orphanage Action _ Chris Green
2) A Quiet Day _ Chris Green
3) Retrieving the Body of Tamir Khdeer _ Will Hewitt

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1) Orphanage Action
Date: February 5, 2003
Author: Chris Green
Area: Tulkarem

Over the past two days I've spent a couple of hours each evening in the Orphanage in the floor below our flat. Two women live, work and care for 21
children there, and the children, up to the age of 10, contribute enormously
to the smooth running of the place. Yesterday I started teaching them --We are
the children of (Africa) Palestine, and it is for freedom we are fighting etc
etc. They learned it very very quickly and have written out in Arabic some
Palestinian songs for me. We also sang as they have already been taught it
Heads Shoulders knees and Toes. WE had juggling (A high % of ISM activists
have circus skills) and dancing and playing trains through the flat.

This morning however we were woken by a phone call asking us to come to
Qalqilya as the army had surrounded the hospital. There had been a
shooting of three Palestinian police during the night, one dead two wounded.
By the time we arrived the army had left but we were asked to stay in case
there were difficulties in getting the body back to his village through the
checkpoints.

We undertook a checkpoint watch, which invariably means that the Palestinian
people get less harassment and less delay. Soon after we arrived the DCO the
military District Liaison person for the Israeli army and the civilian population turned up to ask us if there were any problems and people started
to get through with less delay. I was pleased because two people waiting were
from Quofur Kodum, and recognized me from my time here last year.

Then we returned to Tulkarem. This is a 13 km journey, which used to take 10
minutes and now takes 2 hours because of the roadblocks, which you must walk
over, and the checkpoints. (see www.palsolidarity.org for photos)

When we arrived I stopped to buy some vegetables for the evening meal.
I bought some onions, and two minutes later a jeep came down and let off
tear gas, so we were using the onions to make us cry. A man returning from
his office and looking very much like a commuter happily took some proffered
onions. Later on a young man was shot in the chest in the town.

It transpires that a boy of 12 who got hit by three rubber bullets yesterday
morning during our school patrol time has lost the sight of one eye and has
a badly disfigured face. He requires specialist reconstructive surgery,
unavailable in Palestine

The cafe is closing now so I'll stop.

2) A Quiet Day
Date: February 6, 2003
Author: Chris Green
Area: Tulkarem

03.30 a.m. Jeep and APCs go around with curfew sirens
05.30 a.m. The same
06.30 a.m. The same
It's very effective at waking people up.


08.00 School run is quiet so at 08.30 jeep goes down to the school an drops
two or three tear gas grenades.


On our way down to the school a shopkeeper to whom I gave a computer disk
with pictures of his murdered friend smiles and waves. I can't forget that
two days ago we saw him clearing up the scene of his friend's murder.
The shops are all opening and we are told that there is no curfew today till
4.p.m.


Patients gather downstairs in the ambulance station for their long ride (4
hours) to Nablus


09.00 The jeep comes rushing through town dropping three tear gas grenades

Our overnight guests, a woman with stomach pains and her husband leave to
make their way back to Quaffin. Staying in our flat was better than sleeping
on the hospital waiting room floor.

At lunchtime two of us are just going out when a woman comes in to the Red
Crescent and is pleased to see us. She has not seen her son for 6 days. He
was shot four times and taken away to hospital in Israel and she wants to
visit him, and would like international witnesses to pressure the Israeli
authorities. After 8 phone calls we are able to establish that he is fit and
has been discharged from hospital. We put her in touch with some Arabic
speakers at an agency designed to locate missing prisoners, and stay in
touch. The official line is that as he is a prisoner she is not entitled to
visit him.

Later we visit the Refugee camp elementary school. The teacher we meet is
not allowed by United Nations rules to talk to us. He worked in Jordan and
got married there in 1991. It took 3 years of negotiating before his
Jordanian wife could come to him in Palestine. Now she can't visit her
elderly relatives, as she won't be let back in to Palestine if she leaves.

We also visit the home of the Headteacher of the Technical Vocational
University - the biggest one of its kind in Palestine. He shows us a video of
the $16 million worth of destruction wreaked upon his college
because the workshops were too near an Israeli military base. It took the
military 2 days under curfew to smash up 6 of their 10 workshops with tanks
shells and Caterpillar bulldozers.

The video goes on to show his home.
On the same day, 21st October 2001, a tank shell blew away a room in the
house while his wife was working in the kitchen next door. A balcony was
blown off and there were holes in three rooms- the furthest of which was a
child's bedroom.

As I check with the ambulances to see which shift we are doing tonight, the
dispatcher says that there has been an incident at the Jayous roadblock.
Someone has been shot and the ambulances were not allowed to approach. The
person was taken away shot, to a military hospital.

3) Retrieving the Body of Tamir Khdeer
Date: February 2003
Author: Will Hewitt
Area: Gaza

Background Information: I came to Rafah to work with a non-profit
organization named the International Solidarity Movement (often referred to by
the acronym ISM). The International Solidarity Movement describes itself
as “a growing movement of Palestinian and international activists working to
raise awareness of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and an end to Israeli
occupation. We utilize non-violent, direct action methods of resistance to
confront and challenge the illegal Israeli occupation forces and policies.” I
have been in Rafah for one week now and plan to stay for three months. I
witnessed and participated in the events I describe here. Four other
activists, Stephan from Sweden, Olivier from Britain, Rachel from the United
States, and Joe also from the United States, form ISM Rafah. One Palestinian
assisted us with this action; I cannot name her since doing so would put
endanger her safety.

Account of Incident: At approximately 11:00 AM on February 1, 2003, members of the Rafah chapter of the International Solidarity Movement were informed that a man had been shot in the border zone near the Rafah-Egypt checkpoint by Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) soldiers the night before. Later officials from the Palestinian Authority told us that his name was Tamir Khdeer, he lived in Gaza City, and he was 19 years old.

We were told that IOF personnel would not allow ambulances to retrieve
this man’s body. Our help was requested, since our international status gives
us some protection when dealing with the IOF. Their soldiers are less likely
to shoot us since shooting us would cause an international incident and bad
press for the Israeli army and government. Helping to return Tamir’s body so
he can have a proper funeral and burial is in line with our objectives and
mission.

All six of us proceeded to the Palestinian side of the Rafah-Egypt
checkpoint. I saw one ambulance parked there, waiting. Later another
ambulance arrived. We were taken to an office, presumably the office of
Palestinian border security, given a stretcher, and told the approximate
location of Tamir’s body: about 800 to 1000 meters into the border zone, near
a grove of olive trees. All six of us walked with the stretcher into the
border zone. Olivier spoke to IOF soldiers in a military installation with a
tower and a concrete bunker near the checkpoint/border crossing. She used a
megaphone and stated clearly: “we are unarmed civilians. We are unarmed
internationals. We are no threat to you. We only want to return with this
body,” and so on. She made it clear that we intended no harm and presented no
threat to the soldiers; we only wanted to retrieve Tamir’s body and bring it
to the waiting ambulance. Soldiers in the bunker responded by shouting
obscenities, telling us to go away, and threatening to shoot us if we
continued walking. Nonetheless we continued and they began to fire near us,
at first about 20 meter away, then closer and closer. The nearest shots were
within 2-4 meters of our group. The soldiers also fired overhead and into the
ground near our feet. Olivier was hit in the thigh by a fragment of shrapnel
from one of these shots, which struck the ground, but she was not seriously
injured. She continued to attempt dialogue with the soldiers, asking if we
could speak to their commanding officer. Eventually they claimed that there
was a bomb on the body. Since the rest of their comments were derogatory and
juvenile, this sounded like an empty threat. When we later saw and carried
the body, it obviously did not have a bomb attached to it, but I cannot say
conclusively whether the soldiers were lying, since the IOF reached the body
before we did.

A white jeep approached and told us via a loudspeaker to leave the
area. White 4x4s often carry IOF commanding officers. The occupants of this
jeep refused to negotiate or dialogue, simply ordering us to leave.
Eventually this jeep drove back toward the checkpoint installation and
disappeared.

One tank and one armored bulldozer emerged from West of the checkpoint
and drove into the olive orchard where Tamir’s body was. They drove through
the orchard knocking down trees and returned along its periphery, stopping to
fire randomly into a field of alfalfa. The tank and bulldozer began moving
dirt at the Southeast corner of the olive orchard, the tank shielding the
bulldozer although there was little chance of anyone shooting at either of
them since we international activists were unarmed, had permission and co-
operation from Palestinian border security, and stood in the line of fire
between the tank/dozer and the buildings on the Palestinian side of the
border.

The bulldozer crushed dirt into a mound, then both backed away and
fired repeatedly into this mound. We heard a small explosion, followed by a
small puff of black smoke, from the mound. The tank and dozer approached
again. At this point a dark gray-green jeep with blue lights on its roof,
probably Israeli border police, drove in from the direction of the
checkpoint. The tank blew a cloud of smoke to hide these military vehicles.

Stephan and Olivier approached this jeep, requesting through the
bullhorn to negotiate, and reassuring the soldiers that we were unarmed and
non-violent. A man got out of the jeep and brandished a gun at them, refusing
to even speak. I saw two IOF soldiers jump out of their vehicles, one from the
jeep and one from the bulldozer, and run through smoke into the orchard. The
tank continued to blow smoke. Eventually the jeep drove back to the
checkpoint. The tank and bulldozer backed away from the mound of dirt and
began firing at it again. We heard another explosion from the mound.

Possibly both explosions were explosive shells fired from the tank in order to
corroborate the IOF story about the body being booby-trapped. This would be
in keeping with their usual strategy of using live ammunition to terrorize
Palestinians and activists into obeying them.

After some time, the bulldozers began destroying olive trees, heaping
their wrecked limbs and broken roots onto the mound of dirt. Also they fired
into the olive grove. Then the bulldozer demolished the entire orchard,
approximately 1 acre of trees. At this point Stephan was about 200 meters
east of the activist group, closer to the olive orchard, tank, and dozer.
After the trees were demolished, he saw the dead man’s body. He returned to
the group and asked for another volunteer to go and get the body. The tank
and bulldozer began to retreat toward the checkpoint as I joined Stephan and
walked toward Tamir’s body. It was approximately 50 meters from the mound of dirt where the explosions happened.

The body lay face-up on the ground, one arm stretched above its head,
a gaping wound in the left side of its gut. The pants were torn and there was
dried blood on the torn fabric. Stephan and I lifted Tamir’s body—Stephan
took the legs and I took the arms. His body was already stiff, and he was not
bleeding anymore. He must have been dead for several hours. The Palestinian
who accompanied us came to where the body was and searched the area. She
found a rifle clip full of bullets nearby. I assume this clip was from
Tamir’s Kalashnikov, although I did not see a gun. Probably it was either
removed by IOF soldiers or buried by the bulldozers.

Stephan and I lifted the body and began to carry it. Our Palestinian
companion insisted on helping to carry the stretcher, so I let her take one of
the two handles on my end. We rejoined the rest of the ISM group and walked
about half way back to the Palestinian side of the checkpoint/border crossing.
Then two Palestinian men ran out of some olive trees along the edge of Rafah,
north of us. I yelled and motioned for them to go back, since it was much
more dangerous for them to be in the border zone in full view of the Israeli
guns. They came anyway and one of the men took the other handle of the
stretcher from me. I tried to walk between him and the IOF bunker at the
checkpoint. We approached the Palestinian border. The IOF didn’t shoot at us
anymore.

A crowd of Palestinian men and boys surged out from a gate beside the
Palestinian security offices and surrounded us. I was very afraid that the
IOF would open fire. They did not. We all walked across the boundary into
Rafah. Tamir’s body was taken away in an ambulance.

Later, in an office inside a gated compound, officials from the
Palestinian Authority told me that the name of this young man whose body I
helped to carry was Tamir Khdeer, that he was 19 years old, lived in Gaza
City, and was shot at 2:30 that morning. They also said that the Democratic
front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed him as a member.

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