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Balata Camp-Nablus City Opened...but for how long

Balata Refugee Camp & Nablus City Opened...but for how long

Nablus 7 Jun 03 John Heaney

On June 4th 2003, the Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli PM Ariel Sharon and the US president George Bush met at Beit al Baha Palace in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba. The summit was intended to begin the process along the \"road-map\" to a settlement of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, with the goal of having an independant Palestinian state by 2005. George Bush, who convened the summit, said: \"Each of us is here because we understand that all people have the right to live in peace. Great and hopeful change is coming to the Middle East\".

The same day in Balata Refugee Camp, Nablus it seemed that nobody informed the Israeli Occupation Forces about this \"great and hopeful change\". They were busily imprisoning the camp with 6 roadblocks blocking the 2 main streets and other streets of the camp, severely hindering vehicular movement in and around the camp, including emergency medical services (see report, \"Balata Refugee Camp Imprisoned By Army and Roadblock\", 3rd June 03). The formerly 3 minute journey from Balata Refugee Camp to Askar Refugee Camp then took 15 minutes through numerous nearby fields. Later that day the local community & the International Solidarity Movement attempted to remove some of these roadblocks, a show of non-violent direct action against the illegal Israeli occupation. The IOF responded to this by firing live bullets at the workers and confiscating their shovels. That night they increased a

Balata was not the only area of Nablus to be suffering from severe restrictions on movement during these peace process days. On May 28th the local community and ISM had removed the roadblocks (see report, \"Reclaiming the City of Nablus\", 28th May 03) on Jammal Abdel Masser Street (known as Amman Street), after just one week of it being open, the IOF replaced a roadblock. The roadblocks were in place for 12 months, following the IOF invasion of the Old City in April 2002, except for nearly 2 weeks in January when the the local community and ISM removed them.

Today, June 8th, the local community along with the ISM came together again and showed their committment to non-violent direct action against the Israeli occupation. The group opened the Balata Refugee Camp first by removing 3 roadblocks at the main entrance to the camp on Market Street (the Main Street). Following this, they opened the roadblocks on School Street, and at another entrance to the camp. After two days of complete closure, this community is finally able to drive vegetable and other food lorries into the camp with ease, and emergency vehicles can now serve the 18,000+ inhabitants inside the 2 square kilometres of the camp.

Having successfully opened the majority of Balata, the group moved to Jammal Abdel Masser Street to open the roadblock that was replaced recently. For an hour the group worked on the roadblock, with internationals surrounding the locally driven bulldozer to provide protection from the IOF sniper towers on the overlooking mountain. Like the roadblocks in Balata, as soon as the roadblocks were open they were being used by all members of the community; medical services, taxi drivers, workmen & families.

The removal of these roadblocks, by Palestinians and Internationals, is a direct protest against the unjust restriction of movement in Nablus, and the West Bank & Gaza as a whole. This unjust Israeli occupation of Palestine, takes the form of illegal colonies (settlements), military checkpoints, fences, trenches, gates, roadblocks, and (at it’s most extreme) the ongoing construction of the Apartheid Wall that flagrantly ignores the pre-1967 borders.

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