IOF Invades Nablus - ISM Activist Beaten
Israeli Army Invades Old City of Nablus / Palestinian ISM Activist Detained and Beaten at Qalqilia Checkpoint
At 2.30 yesterday morning Israeli soldiers, supported by tanks, stormed into several houses on the outskirts of the Ras al-EIn suburb, using them as firing positions and terrorising their occupants before moving onto new houses, in their rolling invasion of the suburb.
At 4 am they occupied the Jamal Abed el-Nasser School on the boundary Ras al-Ein and the Old City and immediately began turning it into a base by bringing in sandbags and provisions. Throughout the day the school was used as an interrogation centre for Palestinians who were rounded up in house to house searches.
The school is in a very old part of Nablus and adjoins some of the city's Roman era tunnels (Nablus is the world's second oldest city), which the Israelis claim have been used by wanted men to escape Israeli snatch squads. Throughout its fifty-five year war against Palestine the state of Israel has systematically destroyed buildings, historical sites and artifacts of cultural or historical significance to the Palestinian people and the people of Nablus fear that the Israelis will use this claim as an excuse to blow up the tunnels as part of this campaign.
By 7.45 the Israeli Army moved on from Ras al-Ein to begin its invasion of the Old City in the same systematic manner, with soldiers moving into houses and apartment buildings, which they used as snipers' posts, while tanks and armoured personnel carriers were stationed on the main streets and intersections. When the Army had consolidated their hold on the Old City, squads of soldiers then began systematic house to house and store to store searches. Because the ship-owners had immediately closed their stores and gone home when the invasion of the Old City commenced, the stores were shut and barred and so the soldier used explosives, machine gun fire and sledgehammers to force their way in before ransacking the stores.
The Army reported that they destroyed one bomb factory in the operation but the Old City is only a very small part of Nablus and ISM activists based in Nablus diligently searched every store that the soldiers had ransacked and found only ruined merchandise. This is consistent with the pattern of Israeli attacks on Nablus this past year where security objectives are often cited to disguise attacks on economic and cultural targets (when F-16 fighters bombed two historic soap factories last April the military claimed that they were bomb factories).
Throughout the day ISM activists worked with Palestinian UPMRC (first aid) volunteers to rescue the wounded and escort people back to their homes by shielding them from sniper and tank fire. At one point one of the UPMRC volunteers was taken hostage but released later.
In the morning, when a Palestinian ambulance driver and an independent international activist tried to reach the house of a pregnant woman who had gone into labour, they were fired upon the Israeli soldiers so that the ambulance driver was hit in the hand and the activist wounded in the leg by shrapnel (the ambulance driver was fluent in Hebrew and had announced his mission to the soldiers and was clearly identifiable by his uniform). They were then joined by six ISM activists (from Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, the US and the UK), the woman's husband, a nurse and four UPMRC volunteers who returned with them to the alleyway in which the house was situated.
The ISM activists went in front protecting the Palestinians with their bodies. As soon as the four soldiers, who had previously fired upon the ambulance driver and the independent activist, saw them they aimed their M-16s at them and ordered them to go back. The party of unarmed Palestinians and international peace activists advanced slowly towards them as the four soldiers were joined by four others.
Step by step the group advanced down the alley as the soldiers' orders to stop became more and more menacing. One soldier aimed sighted his sniper rifle on them, illuminating them with its laser.
When they had advanced 50 metres down the alley and were only 30 metres from the soldiers the ambulance driver (who has survived many attacks by Israeli troops as part of his work) warned them to go no further or the soldiers would shoot them. At this point Anne and Susan (from the US and the UK), who had been at the front of the group, went slowly forward trying to calm the soldiers by explaining to them their mission.
When they got within ten metres the soldiers screamed at them to go back so Susan began to inch her way forward alone until the doctor, who had come alone by another route, came upon the soldiers from the rear.
After a few moments of confusion, the doctor was able to negotiate permission for the woman's husband to come forward to show the doctor the woman's house. When the man's came forward the soldiers made him take off his jacket and lift up his shirt before allowing him to show the doctor to the house from which they fetched his wife and 3 year old son to take them to the hospital.
Last night the Old City and Ras al-Ein are still occupied by Israeli troops who seem to have moved into stay. The ISM estimates that 7 houses and the Jamal Abed el-Nasser School are being occupied by soldiers. More than twenty stores and an unknown number of houses have been ransacked during the operation and one car crushed by a tank. Throughout the day explosions were heard throughout the old city. These are believed to due to the creation be "rat-holes", which the soldiers blast in the walls of adjoining houses when passing between them.
Nablus hospitals report that two people were killed (a fifteen year old boy and a 32 year old man) and 21 injured.
Also yesterday Osama Qashoo, a Palestinian ISM activist was detained at the DCO checkpoint at the entrance to Qalqilia. The alleged reason for his detention was to check his ID card.
When, after an hour of waiting Osama asked the soldiers where his card was, three soldiers set upon him.
"Don't speak!" they shouted at him as they punched him in the chest and neck. "Just shut up and stay here or we'll keep you here till midnight."
Then they made him stand to attention and stare in a certain direction.
After two hours of this, Osama again asked for his ID and the soldiers punched him in the face then shot close to his leg, threatening to shoot him in the leg if he spoke again. Then one soldier crushed his ID card and threw it in the mud.
"Pick up your card and fuck off to Qalqilia," he was told.
Rather than grovel through the mud for his card, Osama started off to Qalquilia without it (a Palestinian caught without his ID card by the Israelis is automatically imprisoned) but then changed his mind and went back to the checkpoint where another soldier, who had recovered the card, told him that he could have it back but would not be able to leave Qalqilia.
Over the past few months the Israeli army has been hastily building a "Security Fence" (the Apartheid Wall) around Qalquilia, cutting the people of the predominantly agricultural town off from its surrounding villages and their farmlands, which are being expropriated by Jewish settlers. The wall is still under construction but already the only legal way to enter or leave the town is through the DCO Checkpoint.
When Osama had finished his errand in Qalqilia he was forced to return to the ISM headquarters at Tulkarem via an illegal and very dangerous route through the rubble of some buildings on the outskirts of Qalqilia that the Israeli's have destroyed to create clear fields of fire between the wall's security towers and the town. Soldiers patrolling this area are known to shoot on sight anyone attempting to cross this it.