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Internationals' Updates From Palestine Territories

ISM Updates -

1.Brian Avery Returns Home

2.If they put the roadblock back again, we will come back and remove it again

3.Army damages school, injuring 8 year old, and prohibits University students from taking exams

4.Two shot along the border in Rafah

5.Border Crossing Blues

6. Appeal for Translators - English to any language

1. Brian Avery Returns Home

Photos and story - http://www.palsolidarity.org/index.php?page=/activists/brianavery/BrianAveryReturn.htm

2. If they put the roadblock back again, we will come back and remove it again

Nablus 27 May 03 Mona Lisa, Olof, Hussein

Jamal Abdel Nasser Street is one of the most important streets in the city of Nablus as it is the throughfare that connects east and west sides of the city of Nablus. The Israeli Occupation Forces blocked this major throughfare with impassable mounds of dirt, cement blocks, and random roadway debris. The IOF created this crippling roadblock as part of their operations during the invasion of Nablus in April 2003.

The local community organized a demonstration 6 months ago to remove the roadblock. They succeeded to remove enough of the roadblock to permit traffic to pass, but one week later the IOF closed it again, remounding earth and debris, and adding large trenches gouged out of the roadway.

Before April 2002, Nasser Street supported a variety of ordinary urban activity. There is a large playground for children nearby, and hundreds of people worked in the Palestinian Authority building and the local businesses that lined the street. After the IOF constructed this paralyzing roadblock, and began firing live rounds into the community from the top of the overlooking hill where their sniper base is now located, normal activity on Nasser Street all but ceased.

Following the invasion, Israeli tanks used the street outside the stores as a temporary checkpoint for more than 112 days during the city-wide curfew imposed on the community by the IOF. As an additional insult, the IOF then attempted to close the alternate route for traffic, Amman Street, with an iron gate. In December 2002, the local community rallied together again to remove gate in a non-violent demonstration to protest the illegal occupation of their city, and their nation.

According to a local shopkeeper, Mr. Sa’id, five shops have closed in the last year due to the roadblock. Mr. Sa’id states that he has lost almost all of his former business, and will have difficulty repaying his business loans to the banks. If there is no change, his current enterprise will not survive more than a month. According to Mr. Sa’id, “Business will get better step by step if the road block is gone, and I could start on my plans for a coffeeshop.”

“My daughter, 24 years old, died because the ambulance couldn’t reach her for more than four hours due to the roadblock and the checkpoint” says a woman who lives in the street. Following the loss of her daughter, her 28 year old son became ill, and again his family called an ambulance. Again, the ambulance was not permitted immediate access by the IOF, and her son died of a heartattack.

Jarir, a paramedic from the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees recounted many stories concerning the suffering of medical workers due to Israeli military roadblocks and checkpoints. “Many times they have stopped us for more than four to five hours even though it is evident that there are only patients inside the ambulances.”

During an invasion, while attempting to deliver food, medicine and baby formula, the soldiers stopped Jarir and three other volunteers in the Old City of Nablus. They were hundcuffed and brought to an occupied house as hostages for more than 15 hours before being taken to the Israeli military base at Huwarra for interrogation. The soldiers did not release them until the next morning.

On the way back from responding to a call from a local village, soldiers stopped the ambulance and insisted on examining a pregnant woman for explosives. Jarir refused, and told them that only a doctor or a nurse is permitted to examine a patient. They confiscated his identiy card, and did not let them pass. After an hour and a half, the woman went into labour. After waiting for two hours, they were finally allowed to pass the checkpoint. The way to the hospital only took four minutes, but the baby was born in the ambulance.

ACTION At 9am on on Wednesday, May 28, 2003, members of the International Solidarity Movement and the local community, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, removed a pair of roadblocks on Jerusalem Street (Jamal Abdel Naser Street) that snarled local traffic, prevented rapid response of emergency vehicles to all areas of the city, and resulted in the closure of several shops along this major throughfare.

Two bulldozers worked for 3 hours to remove one roadblock entirely, and cut a passable section through the second roadblock to allow traffic to move freely. As evidence of how central this throughfare is to Nablus, traffic began passing through the area the moment the bulldozers had cleared a car’s width – and continued to pass steadily, dodging the bulldozers, throughout the 3 hours of work.

This action of clearing roadblocks is not merely the coordination of resources, but reflects the refusal of the Nablus and International communities to be intimidated by the repressive military presence of the Israeli Occupation Forces. On the hill directly above the roadblock, there is an IOF military installation that has repeatedly fired upon the population of Nablus.

The two roadblocks beside the destroyed PA headquarters, on Jerusalem Street, were removed by the efforts of Palestinians and Internationals as a direct protest against the unjust restriction of movement in Nablus, and the West Bank and Gaza as a whole. Illegal restriction of movement, and the unjust 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.

Comments “Now I have hope.” - Mr. Said

“If they put the roadblock back again, we will come back and remove it again.” - Governor of Nabus

“The checkpoint is a form of collective punishment and, as such, illegal, and we will continue to work against it.”- Director of the Health Department, Nablus Governorate

3. Army damages school, injuring 8 year old, and prohibits University students from taking exams

Bethlehem 16 Jun 03 Kate Crockford

The ‘road map’ to peace, a plan highly lauded by international media and optimists on both sides of the Green Line, this week revealed itself to be full of roadblocks as violence continued unabated. On Tuesday, Israeli Air Forces attacked Gaza city, shooting missiles from an apache attack helicopter into the crowded civilian area, in a purported assassination attempt on the life of Hamas leader Rantizi. Unfortunately, while the attack failed to kill its target, it resulted in the deaths of three civilians, including a mother and her young daughter. The next day, Hamas retaliated: a young man from Hebron blew himself up on a bus in the downtown Jerusalem area, killing 17 and injuring scores. The Army responded to this attack by tightening closures on the West Bank, enforcing curfews, and stepping up their arrests and other operations, as well as another assassination attempt, this one successful, on two Hamas members in Gaza. The cycle of violence has once again begun to spin out of control, and this week alone saw over 30 casualties, both Israeli and Palestinian.

Unfortunately, the media has not been paying attention to the situation on the ground in Palestine due to the renewed efforts at diplomacy. Under the radar of most international media but glaringly obvious to Palestinians here in Tulkarm (and throughout the West Bank), the army has imposed a curfew on Tulkarm City for the past five days. Curfew, contrary to a popular misconception, is a 24-hr closure throughout the entire city, and results in destruction like loss of employment, loss of income for farmers and small business owners who can’t get to their fields, sell their produce or open their shops, family tensions due to forcing children to remain inside in the sweltering heat, and mass frustration. Again, while curfew is extremely destructive to a people, and often results in the killing of children throwing rocks at jeeps and tanks in the street, it is almost always ignored by t Today, Saturday, the army announced to local media that the curfew would be lifted at 11:00 am. So when, at approximately 3:00 pm IDT on Saturday afternoon, ISM activists in Tulkarm heard the first gunfire since the typical, sporadic shooting and sound bombings heard throughout Friday night and the early morning hours, five internationals entered the center of Tulkarm city with cameras seeking to document the clashes and, if possible, investigate the motive behind lifting curfew only to shoot people in the streets a few hours later.

According to many local residents, jeeps had been circling the city since the early morning, and gunfire could be heard throughout. The ISMers decided to take a walk around the city in order to get a better idea of where the army was located and what it was doing. At approximately 5:00 pm, the activists came upon a group of young boys who frantically encouraged the internationals to follow them to the Al-Fadilia school, at the edge of the city on the road leading to the army headquarters, the DCO. One of the young boys was carrying a large piece of metal that had fallen from an APC (All Personnel Carriers, small tanks), and motioning excitedly toward the school, down the street and around the corner.

When the activists arrived, they saw APC tracks criss-crossed on the road in front of the school and what was once a wall separating the school property from the road. The wall was completely destroyed from the entrance gate (the gate was also destroyed, and pock-marked with bullet holes), down the sidewalk about 40 meters, all the way to the edge of the school property. The wall, in large blocks of concrete, littered the grass on the school property, while other pieces had fallen forward onto the sidewalk. The boys told present ISMers that one APC and one jeep had destroyed the wall, and the activists confirmed this assertion as they clearly identified APC tracks on the road leading up to the sidewalk. According to the children, who had been playing soccer in the schoolyard when the army approached, the APC began to fire at the wall and the school building behind it before finally

In addition to the damage to the wall, internationals took pictures of bullet holes in the main gate---it was also crushed and destroyed by the APC---and in the school building itself. The school, an institution run by the Ministry of Education in Tulkarm and serving boys ages 16-18, was not in session due to summer holiday, but, as aforementioned, there were many people in and around the building at the time of the attack. While the army did not hit any children with live ammunition, the Red Crescent of Tulkarm city confirmed a report that an 8 year old boy had been hit by what the army calls a ‘rubber’ bullet. This term is extremely misleading, however, because such bullets are actually round pieces of iron coated in plastic. From close range, these bullets can kill. The young boy was hit on his left thigh, and, according to the Red Crescent official, his femur was fractured. On S

Internationals present were dismayed to find evidence of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) targeting a school building, but this is far from the first time educational institutions have been targeted, and it was one of the least destructive attacks on schools in Tulkarm throughout the long 36 years of illegal Israeli occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In addition, the IOF often prohibits students from attending schools and universities during crucial times in the semester.

The morning of the attack on the secondary school, the army entered the Palestine Technical College in the Khadoury district of Tulkarm and forced, by gunpoint, all of the students, faculty and administrators to leave the school immediately. The students at the school, where the IOF caused $3 million dollars of damage in 2000, burning labs and offices and shooting holes in precious technical instruments, were prohibited from taking their final exams, and thus were forced to reschedule them for the next day, Sunday the 15th.

4. Two shot along the border in Rafah

Gaza 15 Jun 03 Laura

Rafah, Gaza Strip. An IOF tank has just shot two people, one 10-year-old and one 23-year-old, in the Brazil area of Rafah. The 23-year-old is in critical condition. Both were taken immediately to Al-Najar Hospital in Rafah for treatment.

The two were shot along the border with Egypt, where the Israeli military is building an Occupation Wall. The border is in fact an artificial border and Rafah a city divided, sectionned into 2 parts in Camp David in 1982. At that time, the border was an officiality, but gradually it has become a military zone.

Before the talks, there was a train that ran through the city delivering olive oil and other goods between Gaza and Egypt. After the 1982 talks, a barbed wire fence about a meter high was erected, but it was left there mostly without military supervision. You could walk up to the border. Farmland, houses, and stores reached the border and passed into Egypt. Families waved at each other from the rooftops.

Over the course of this Intifada, the IOF has aggressively expanded its control over the border. Israeli tanks and military towers; the Occupation Wall and its adjacent 100-meter no-man’s-land effectively comprise the legal/security wing of this international border, shooting daily and nightly at innocent civilians in their homes and on the streets. The two boys shot just now are the latest casualties in this endeavor which has left over 200 dead and hundreds more injured in Rafah alone.

In Rafah, Caterpillar bulldozers demolish farmland and homes almost daily, in the effort to create a 100-meter no-man’s land along the border, where formerly there existed a flourishing city. Over 945 homes have been demolished completely; hundreds more partially demolished or damaged. From the border rooftops, you can see Egypt’s bright green contrast against the dead sand the army has made of the Palestinian border. Countless families who used to walk to each other’s homes are now separated by an electric steel wall 8 meters high.

5. Border Crossing Blues

Gaza 15 Jun 03 Raphael

Palestinians and foreigners are suffering from the consequences of Israeli closure policies at Rafah Crossing Point between Gaza and Egypt. Raphael Cohen trys and trys again.

For a Palestinian to have the audicity to wish to leave or enter the Gaza Strip requires the permission of the Israeli Occupation. Assuming the right permit can be acquired, Palestinians are still at the mercy of the officials at the Rafah crossing, liable to be detained by the Shin Bet and subject to the frequent Israeli closure of the border (more than 160 days so far during the Intifada). Rafah Crossing Point is the only exit for 1.3 million Gazans to the outside world. The Israeli Occupation forces have this week demolished the infrastructure of the Palestinian Liason at the border, an indication of the extent to which Palestinian authority is nothing but a word game. Foreigners too are now also experiencing great difficulties getting into the Gaza strip while Israel maintains they represent a security threat.

The Egyptian side of the border at Rafah is open 24 hours a day: the Israeli side for about six hours, on a good day. For the twenty or so Palestinians with whom I queued, the even shorter hours on Saturdays, the Jewish sabbath, meant we were unable to get on the bus despite waiting from 12:30 pm and watching those in front pile themselves and their bags on to the coveted bus. At 2:00 pm Egyptian officials told us to head back inside the departure hall. The general mood was disappointment and quiet resignation at having to try again. The distance between the final Egyptian checkpoint and the Israeli vehicle barriers is no more than 20 metres, but for Palestinans and foreigners trying to enter or leave the Gaza strip it might as well be 1000 miles.

Frequent closures and failures to ’catch the bus’ mean that the Egyptian authorities are used to dealing with people stuck at the border. At the moment several hundred are waiting to cross asa aresult of the current lengthy closure imposed by the Israelis to mark implementation of the Road Map.. To those who do not have relatives in Rafah or El-Areesh, this means sleeping in the departure lounge, or if lucky on the floor of the attached mosque. For once the travellers passport is stamped with an Egyptian departure stamp, it is not possible to leave the hall without cancelling the journey, a measure few seemed willing or able to do. This step certainly provoked the interest of Egyptian security and customs officials. Although in the case of missing the bus, little more needed to be said. The advice for foreigners (non-Egyptian and non-Palestinian) was to take the Palestinian bus on its return journey from Egypt, rather than the Egyptian bus, as a way of avoiding missing the bus again.

The mood back in Egypt outside the border complex was less resigned. Three Palestinian women from Gaza who had been turned back that day for having too much luggage (the Israelis randomly enforce their limit of 60 kg per person) expressed their hostility towards the Israelis for making a simple journey so complicated. Nor did they stint their curses on the local taxi driver who had kept them waiting and overcharged them. They were joined by a fourth Gazan matron, who had crossed that day. To their complaints she added her own: the excessive Egyptian customs duty on her six niqabs. Apart from touting taxi drivers, the vacinity around the border is a den of money changers and fast food vendors. Improptu garment sales are held for excess clothes, while cigarette smugglers try to persuade you to take a suitcase full of Cleopatras (Gaza’s cheapest brand) across for them. (The legendary tunnels linking the two halves of Rafah city, so often cited by the Israeli military to justify their destruction of civilian homes, are far more likely used for smuggling tobacco than weapons - as if you could get a tank, let alone a helicopter gunship through a clandestine shaft).

The following day I returned to the border at 8:00 am. Passing through the Egyptian controls proved no problem as my face had become familiar to the uniformed bureaucrats. I exchanged nods and smiles with travellers I recognized from the previous day. Most had stayed at the border and would have set off on the first bus. Optimism prevailed: the day was young, the border was open. Once through the controls, the queuing continued for the bus outside. The three Gazans from the previous day were just in front of me and they asked me to take a bag for them to minimise their being overweight again. I declined, given my own uncertainties about being allowed in. The Rafah crossing was opened to Palestinians under the 1994 Cairo Agreement as part of the Oslo process. Prior to that, leaving Gaza for Egypt meant entering Israel and taking a boat from Isdud (Ashdod). Up to 1500 people per day were making the crossing before the Intifada began; now they number about 250. The Egyptian complex is under construction and promises to be a quite impressive replica of the Karnak Termple when completed. For the time being, the unfinished halls provide needed shade for the waiting departees, while they themselves wait for the political changes to justify such grand architecture.

Fifty or so people, including ten children, managed to cram themselves and their luggage on to the bus which set off for the final Egyptian control and fence. The bus stopped and parked so as to allow the near continuous stream of double lorries to continue delivering their loads of cement and gravel unhindered (where is all this building material destined for?). Each was subject to a brief underbody search using a mirror at the Israeli barrier, about 20 metres away. Suddenly a man in a sharp suit ran up to the bus accompanied by Egyptian officials. This previliged latecomer proceeded to hand out brand new, late model mobile phones to anyone who was willing to take one (25NIS, about $5 was the recompense). After 30 minutes waiting it became clear there was some problem. Discussion centred around three causes: the overcrowding on the bus, the activities of the phone man an Finally after more than two hours on the bus, the signal came to move. This required all those standing in the aisle (about 15 people) to move to the back of the bus and crouch down on the floor to avoid arousing Israeli suspicions of overcrowding. Once through the barrier everybody helped their neighbour get up and breathed a sigh of relief. The short journey over, now came the difficult part: convincing the Israelis to let you into Gaza. For Palestinians this meant being separated from their luggage after a preliminary glance at passports and passes by apparently Palestinian staff (since 7 July 2001, only eight Palestinian workers and three drivers have been allowed to work at the checkpoint). If all looked in order one proceeded inside the arrival hall and passed through a metal detector. The Israeli woman clerk summoning people through had failed to internalize the st

That day three people were sent back by the Israelis; two of them were foreign. The first was an American Palestinian with two children trying to join her husband in Gaza. She did not have Palestinian papers and was denied entry simply because she was American. She was sitting in the Egyptian departure hall when I returned. The other, myself, was British. I rejected the offer of the Shin Bet to prove to them I was not a security risk (that is by informing on all my contacts in Gaza) and chose to return to Egypt. This proved an involved process, as by the time the ISA has decided to release me it was getting dark and there was no transport across the border. I waited for some three hours on the border road between the two sides in the hands of the Israeli liason watching the jeeps, apcs and tanks I had become familiar with in Rafah heading in and out of their base. The distant sound of shooting could be heard periodically, and I wondered if my

6. Appeal for Translators

Response to our past appeals has been enthusiastic and we owe the deepest gratitude to everyone who has answered our calls for assistance. You are truly amazing. We call on you again for help, this time so we might reach a wider and more diverse audience.

Work is underway to translate our website into multiple languages so that our message may reach more people worldwide. To facilitate this, we are asking for volunteers to assist us in translating the palsolidarity site to your local language.

This is not a small task. In addition to translating the existing content (excluding journals, reports, press releases), we would need a commitment to translate future documents which are created at an average rate of 5-10 per week and to complete the translations within 48 hours of the time that the document appears on the ISM website. The archive of journals, reports, ISM in the news, and press releases would not need to be translated except for those that have a prominent position on the website. Volunteers would receive the files to be translated via email and a tool to upload translated files would be made available.

If you are multi-lingual, if you think that the ISM site in your local language would reach more people and raise awareness about the realities of occupation, and if you have the time to spare, please contact webmaster@palsolidarity.org include your contact information, the language you are qualified to translate to, and how much time you think you could spend each week on this task.

Thank you again,

Webmaster, Palsolidarity

latest reports available at http://www.palsolidarity.org/index.php?page=/reports/journals_reports_main.php

For the latest information on ISM see http://www.palsolidarity.org

The latest volunteer reports are available at http://www.palsolidarity.org/index.php?page=journals_reports_main.php

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