ISM Turns Back Bulldozer and Tank
ISM Turns Back Bulldozer and Tank to Save House in Rafah
At 5 pm last night the ISM team in Rafah in the South of the Gaza Strip received word that the Israeli Army was in the process of demolishing houses in the area of Saleh a-Deen Street. By the time they arrived they found a tank and a bulldozer that was pushing around the rubble of a house that it had already destroyed. As the ISM activists watched, the bulldozer and the tank proceeded towards a house that was still intact.
The six ISM activists (from the UK, the US and Italy) then rushed towards the house and entered it but not before the bulldozer had succeeded in crushing one corner of it. When the bulldozer driver realised that there were international activists in the house he immediately stopped work then returned to the site of the house he had already demolished where a chicken and pigeon coup remained standing, while the tank stood guard between the intact house and the chicken coup. Leaving two of the activists in the house the two activists then left the house to prevent the chicken coup's destruction but were slowed down by the tank, which fired its machine-gun at the ground in front of them so that the bulldozer destroyed the coup before they could stop it.
The activists then stood in front of the bulldozer when it resumed its work on the rubble of the house it had already destroyed so that both the tank and bulldozer left the area with the activists following them back to edge of border strip to ensure that they did not return.
This action was followed by a day in which some of the activists continued their work in the Tel e-Sultan area, acting as human shields while water workers repaired one of the wells that the Israeli Army demolished using tanks and bulldozers on January 30, while others attended an anti Gulf War rally..
Two of the activists are now sleeping in a house in the Saleh e-Deen area to prevent its demolition.
Successful Negotiations Over Closure Outside Jenin
Yesterday the ISM also conducted successful negotiations over a road closure between Jenin and Berqin – a large village 5 km from the city.
The three activists from the International Solidarity Movement (from Sweden, Denmark and the USA) - received a call at 8 am saying that the Berqin road had been completely closed by the Israeli army. Twenty minutes later the activists arrived at the closure – consisting of a squad of Israeli troops and their armoured personnel carrier (APC) and found approximately one hundred Palestinians waiting on the Berqin side.
The road is not only used by citizens of Berqin but is also the only accessible road for citizens of several other villages further west of Jenin.
The ISM activists called the Hamoked human rights organisation and started negotiating with the soldiers in charge. After one hour the soldiers agreed to let through anyone going to the doctor or the hospital, but only on foot. Three hours later, due to pressure from both the ISM and Hamoked, the soldiers started letting women and elderly people pass the closure.
“I am doing this against my orders. According to my orders no one is allowed through. Actually you should be thanking me for not shooting at the people up there because my orders tell me to,” a soldier stated pointing up the steep mountainside where Palestinians were climbing a narrow path 50 meters above them.
From time to time a few teachers and hospital employees were allowed to pass. But this was the exception rather than the rule.
During the eight hours the ISM were present at the closure, four cars were allowed to pass three of them without any negotiation and the last due to pressure from Hamoked.
For two hours the organisation negotiated the case of a family with five children – one of them a baby aged 17 months – trying to get through. The family lived in Jenin but were trapped on the wrong side of the closure in their car after visiting a relative in Berqin.
All the students trying return to their villages during the afternoon were forced to return to Jenin or climb the rocky and muddy mountainside.
At 5 pm two men, who wanted to get to their homes in Berqin, decided that they had had enough and decided to pass the closure regardless To minimize the risk of soldiers shooting upon the two Palestinians, two ISM activists from Sweden and US took each one by the arm and accompanied them through the closure. The soldier in charge froze and the action was successful.
Humiliated by the men's defiance, the soldiers got into the APC and drove it along the length of the road while one of them fired his M-16 into the air causing the Palestinians to flee the checkpoint in all directions.
When the ISM activists left the checkpoint at 6 pm a few of the Palestinians had returned to either climb the mountain path or continue to wait at the checkpoint.
Susan Barclay Deported "for security reasons"
Yesterday American ISM activist Susan Barclay, who has been held in the Mikhal detention facility for women since Thursday night when she was arrested at the Howarra military checkpoint outside of Nablus, was served a deportation order ordering her to leave the country within 72 hours.
The order cited security as the reason for her deportation. It seems that the Israeli government considers Susan a threat to Israel's security because of her tireless work monitoring and reporting the Israeli Army atrocities in and around Nablus and trying to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian through non-violent direct action.
Since her arrest Susan has been denied access to visitors, including her lawyer (although one Israeli supporter succeeded in bringing her clothes and food yesterday by appealing to the guards) but tomorrow her lawyer intends to talk to her briefly before her appeal to be released on bail until her appeal against her deportation in heard. The appeal will be held in private within the Mikhal detention facility at around 12 noon. No supporters of Susan will be allowed to attend.
ISM supporters in the United States have done their best to lobby their government to demand her release through appeals to the State Department and direct phone calls to the US Consulate in Tel Aviv. They have reported that they were put on hold for as long as twenty minutes, hung up on and diverted to answering machines for passport applications. Recently, they have also reported being told that information on Susan cannot be released for the sake of her privacy. All of the mainstream American media stations have shown no interest in covering Susan's incarceration.
Over the past weeks international volunteers working in Palestine have been under increasing pressure from Israeli authorities. The pressure has manifested itself in the form of threats, physical assault, passport confiscation and the noting of passport and visa numbers at checkpoints.
ISM activists in Nablus report that the Old City has been quiet since Saturday after four days of terror and vandalism by the Israeli Occupying Army although troops continue to occupy several houses in the old city.
Elsewhere in Nablus soldiers stormed into the home of the Al Meseemi family in Balata Refugee Camp at 2 am last night, throwing a sound bomb and shooting before forcing the family into the freezing rain. When they discovered that the family's oldest son, Eiad, was not home they began to beat his sickly father. When the man fell to the ground the family begged the soldiers to let them inside to retrieve the father's medicine saying that without it he might die but the soldiers refused saying that would be no bad thing and began hitting the other members of the family and denied an ambulance access to him.
Later that night the father died. His name was Mohammad Mahmud Meseemi. He was 52 years old. His oldest child, Eiad, is 27 years old and a wanted man. The family do not know how they will support themselves.
In the ISM report of 22 February I reported that the ISM activists in Nablus were fired upon by Arab mercenaries holding hostages in the Hammam Shifeh. Several readers have emailed me since then expressing confusion as to why the Israeli Army would employ Arab troops.
The people of Nablus reported to the ISM activists the soldiers were former members of the South Lebanon Army - a renegade Lebanese militia that fought for Israel during its occupation of southern Lebanon. The Israeli Army strenuously denies that any of these troops now serve in its Army.
While it might well be the case that they were Lebanese, it is also possible that they were Druze soldiers who openly serve in the Israeli Army. It is also possible that they were Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who are discriminated against under Israeli law but can gain certain advantages for themselves (assistance with home loans, for example) by volunteering for military service.
I have just received a call from the activists in Rafah who are sleeping in a house in the area of Saleh e-Deen Street. They reported that the house that they saved from demolition last night has just been destroyed.