ISM Updates of 2 April 2003: Tulkarem, Rafah
ISM Updates of 2 April 2003: Tulkarem, Rafah
Tulkarem: Israeli Army Invades Tulkarem Refugee Camp; Stand-Off Outside Hospital
In the small hours of this morning the Israeli Army and border police invaded Tulkarem Refugee Camp with attack helicopters, tanks, APCs, hummers (special forces vehicles) and hundreds of soldiers and border policemen. After taking control of the camp, they began to round up the camp's entire male population between the ages of 15 and 45. At dawn the men were marched in groups to the Tulkarem Refugee Camp's School for Girls where they were held until for varying periods of time before being taken away in trucks. It seems that the majority of the men were taken to the Nur Shams Refugee Camps about 1.5 kilometres from Tulkarem Refugee Camp, where they were dumped in the streets and forbidden to return to their homes for three days.
Following the abductions, the soldiers began ransacking the houses of the Refugee Camp. Unlike their "house searches" in Nablus, which were carried out in a systematic, house-to-house manner, these seem to have been conducted at random, making it difficult for the ISM to anticipate where the vandals would strike next.
In spite of this, the eight ISM activists (from Ireland, the US, Germany and Occupied Palestine) did their best to monitor Israeli activities in the Refugee Camp and moderate their brutality through negotiation. On several occasions the border policemen threatened to arrest the activists unless they left the area and on one occasion a soldier forcibly stole a hand-held video camera that the activists were using to film the invasion. The camera was later returned to the activists but its video tape confiscated on the orders of the soldier's commanding officer, with whom he communicated by radio. The soldier who stole the tape claimed to be Moshe Cohen of the Golani Division.
In the afternoon Israeli border policemen entered the Thabbat Thabbat Hospital in Tulkarem City and bashed one of its visitors in front ot the ISM activists before dragging him away. About half an hour later they announced on loudspeakers that all men must leave the hospital and surrender themselves into their custody immediately. The ISM activists who were in the hospital then went out to insist that this would constitute a war crime and they had no right to round up hospital patients under the Geneva Convention.
The border policemen then claimed that one of the cars parked outside the hospital was stolen from Israel and they suspected that it had a bomb in it. They said that they intended to blow the car up and would have to evacuate the hospital before doing so.
The ISM activists refused to be taken in by this obvious lie and refused to leave the hospital.
The standoff between the ISM and the border police continued for about three and a half hours with the border police stopping cars and ambulances that were trying to enter and leave the hospital and threatening to blow up the car while the ISM activists refused to leave and contacted the Hamoked and Physicians for Human Rights Groups, which demanded that the border police respect the hospital's status.
At 8.10 pm the border police abandoned their blocade of the hospital but threatened to return tomorrow
Tonight the Tulkarem Refugee Camp is still under Occupation and both the camp and Tulkarem City are under curfew.
An estimated five thousand men were abducted from Tulkarem Refugee Camp today and, except for a handful who managed to evade capture, the camp is now empty of males between the ages of 15 and 45.
Rafah: Israeli's Invade
At about 9.30 this evening a large Israeli force of tanks, bulldozers and armoured personnel carriers backed by attack helicopters began their invasion of Rafah, with the bulldozers clearing the way for the other vehicles.
The seven ISM activists in Rafah (from the US and the UK) were staying in houses in danger of demolition by the Israeli Occupation forces when the invasion began. They are monitoring the invasion from the houses in which they are staying and report seeing several missiles fired from helicopters followed by explosions and hearing the sirens of Palestinian ambulances. They also report that the city has been shaken by several powerful explosions, including one that is presumed to be the sound of a mosque being dynamited and that the tanks are firing their main guns sporadically.
Electricity has been cut
off to Rafah so the activists are minimising their mobile