Today is the fourth day of the Israeli Army's campaign of terror against the Old City of Nablus, during which ISM activists based in the city worked with Palestinian UPMRC (first aid) volunteers in the delivery of food and medicine to stranded households, rescuing the injured, evacuating families from occupied houses and monitoring the activities of Israeli troops.
In their rescue operations they were frequently hindered by Israeli soldiers who denied them access to areas where wounded people were stranded.
On two occasions yesterday they were able to rescue families who called out to them from the top floors of their occupied houses. With the ISM activists looking on, the families were able to escape from the houses without interference from the soldiers occupying the house. However, today they were unable to rescue a woman, her ten year old son and new baby from a house under occupation by Israeli
special forces. The woman's husband has been taken into detention by the Israelis and the soldiers denied that the woman wanted to leave her home. When the activists insisted on talking to her the soldiers took her to window while keeping her children in another room. With the soldiers standing behind her the visibly terrified woman, whose arm had been injured, told the activists that she didn't want to leave. Later the soldiers vacated the house for the house across the road. They had been there only an hour when the activists arrived with a doctor who had come to give a tranquilising injection to a hysterical teenage girl who was traumatised by the soldiers' behaviour but already the house had been thoroughly vandalised. The family of eight were all being kept in a small room.
Last night the activists were fired upon by Arab mercenaries who were holding prisoner an ambulance driver, and four UPMRC volunteers in the Hammam Shifeh bathhouse. This time the mercenaries shot to kill rather than shooting over their heads or at the ground as it their usual practice and the activists heard the bullets whistling past their heads. The ISM then contacted Miri Weingarten of the human rights organisation, Physicians for Human Rights, who contacted the Israeli Army at 8.15 pm, informing them that medical workers were being held as prisoners in violation of international law. The Army spokesperson calmly informed her that they were aware of this and they would be released in 10 to 15 minutes. At 10 pm the activists were told by the troops that they could retrieve the female UPMRC volunteer from the bathhouse.
When they did so the rest of the medical workers were led away to the interrogation centre at Jamal Abd Nasser School. They were finally released from there at 2 am last night. It seems that it is the Israeli Army's strategy to round up for interrogation as many men as possible in the hope of recruiting them as informers.
This morning the Army expanded the focus of their operations from the east to the west of the Old City but their tactics remained the same: human shields were made to walk before the soldiers as they conducted their house to house searches and made their captives stand in front of the buildings as they ransacked homes, took away the men, occupied houses and confined their occupants in single rooms.
A new feature of the operation was that tanks based in the suburb of Ras El-Ain fired their shells into the Old City. Their targets were not apparent those who witnessed the assault since there were no resistance fighters in the area.
This afternoon Tommy, a Danish journalist working with the ISM, and 15 UPMRC volunteers were bringing food to families living near the Jamal Abd Nasser School in the Ras el-Ain suburb. The entire school has been turned into a military base by the occupying army who are being billeted in occupied houses surrounding the school. The families of these houses have not been allowed out to buy food since the invasion commenced. They found the streets around the school full of tanks, armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and soldiers. At 4.40 pm they saw that four other UPMRC volunteers were being held next to an APC so they approached to investigate. When they arrived at the APC its commander immediately demanded to see Tommy's passport. When Tommy handed it over, the APC's commander, Ariel Ze'ev emerged from the vehicle.
" Do you remember me fat-arse? " he asked. " You're in big trouble now. "
Ariel Ze'ev headbutted Tommy at Azmut checkpoint two weeks ago and. He and his men are renown in Nablus as among the most sadistic soldiers in the area. He has boasted to ISM activists that he is not human and enjoys making people suffer, has been seen by the activists beating women at Azmut checkpoint and has been known to roam the streets around his occupied house in search of Palestinian children to take back and beat up.
The soldiers then took one of the UPMRC volunteers into the APC as a prisoner and then began to taunt Tommy.
" Am II getting my passport back? " the journalist asked.
" No no no! " Ariel replied. " When I get asked about this I will say it was all a misunderstanding. Anyhow I've been missing you. I need something ugly to look at. "
" I haven't seen you for a long time either, " replied Tommy. " I was beginning to think that Israeli soldiers weren't that bad. "
" You never know when I'll be back, " replied Ariel. " By the way, where's Maria? I've been missing Maria. " (Maria is another member of the ISM.)
Gradually, all of the prisoners were released except Tommy and Jaber Jowbreh, the UPMRC worker held in the APC.
When darkness fell Ariel told Tommy he could leave but that he would keep his passport. Unwilling to spend the night in such unwholesome company, Tommy left and is working with the Danish consulate to recover his passport.
After Tommy left Jaber Jowbreh remained unaccounted for several hours but, after a coordinated campaign by the ISM and the Israeli human rights group, Hamoked, to discover his location, he was released from Jaber Jowbreh prison at around midnight.
Two Palestinians were killed yesterday (a man and his grandson who were crossing the road together) and two more killed today. One was killed trying to cross the street with his wife (who was injured in the same attack and is now in hospital). The other was shot dead by soldiers when they saw him trying to close the door of his store, which had been damaged when the soldiers forced their way into the store on a previous occasion. The ISM are unable to determine the number people wounded over the past two days as they have been too busy to visit the hospital.
The Army claims that its operation in Nablus is intended to destroy the infrastructure of terrorist (Palestinian resistance) groups operating in Nablus but, because the Old City was not sealed off before it was invaded, the resistance fighters were easily able to escape to other parts of the city . A more likely explanation for the operation is that it was intended to terrorise the city's population into submission.
If this is the case then it seems to have been totally unsuccessful. Yesterday, 1,500 people gathered at a rally outside of the Old City organised by the Political Coalition (an alliance of Nablus community associations). This evening the Political Coalition coordinated a protest involving the entire population of Nablus. At 8.30 the people of the city all came out onto their rooftops and to their windows and began to cry Allah Akhbar (God is Great), whistle and bang their pots and pans together.
The more daring then began to gather in the streets, in spite of the pouring rain, to shake hands light fires and march to the city centre as they were cheered from the windows and rooftops of Nablus. Tommy, accompanied the crowd which and reported that he felt carried along by the tremendous civic pride of the people of Nablus.
Though physically exhausted from their labours of the past four days and shocked by the savagery of the violence that they have witnessed against defenseless civilians, the spirits of the ISM activists have been raised by this display of resistance by a city that is occupied but nevertheless unconquered.
The attachment is a picture taken today of a soldier in Nablus guarding two of his human shields.
For further information contact:
Tommy on 059 373 180 or
Maria on 059 381 803.
ISM Media Coordinator
Cell: +972-67-862 439