Greetings from Nablus under siege,
Nablus has been under siege for the last 10 days while Balata refugee camp has been under siege for the last 18 consecutive days. We have just heard that every single entrance/exit to Balata has been sealed off completely. No food or medicine is allowed in. Medical relief teams are being obstructed and at times completely prevented from passing through. Activists from ISM (the International Solidarity Movement) were attacked while carrying out their missions to observe and bear witness on what the Israeli occupation authorities are brutalizing the Palestinian population. Beit Foreek has been completely sealed off; its mayor reports that there are signs of starvation.
Two men and a boy were killed by Israeli military fire since this morning. The first, Amjad Bilal Masri is a 15 year old boy who was shot while standing in front of his house. The sniper bullet hit Amjad in the back. He died on his way to the hospital. The second is Amer Kathym Arafat who was also shot in the back by a sniper bullet. The third is Rouhi Hazem Shouman, 25, who was also shot in the back by a sniper. Ms. Majida Masri, spokeswomen for the Coordinating Committee of Palestinian Political Factions, called a couple of minutes ago on all Nablus residents who are able to get to Rafidiya Hospital to defy the curfew and join the families of the martyrs in a collective funeral for the three. “They were all shot in the back by cowardly snipers. Their only crime was to refuse to succumb to Israeli occupation designs to empty Palestine from its people.”
Reports from Balata indicate that a deliberate starvation campaign is being conducted by the Israeli military which has sealed off the camp and prevents food and medicine from getting through every single alley way, or formal or informal entrances. A few days ago, the Israeli military shot and injured 4 people who were walking a funeral for an old woman who passed away. No demonstrations or political events were taking place in or around the funeral.
The siege of the old city of Nablus and its neighborhoods (Yasmeeneh, Qaryoun, Habaleh) has been intensified since December 30, 2003. The Israeli military claims that they were looking for the leader of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, Abu Sharkh. They took his brother and wife as hostages, paraded the wife in a jeep in the Old City and forced her to call out to her husband over loudspeakers to surrender in return for her freedom. She was released only yesterday. No one can get into the Old City, but Dr. Ghassan Hamdan of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, who is in the Old City, has called on the whole world to immediately intervene to support the people of Nablus. He condemned media outlets for neglecting to cover what’s going on, including the largest Palestinian daily, Al-Quds, which has not reported on what’s going in Nablus in its front page. Dr. Hamdan criticized the Palestinian Authority who have not done anything to aid Nablus and demanded that “Abu Alaa, the Palestinian Prime Minister, hold a ministrial meeting in Nablus to highlight the horrible conditions the city is experiencing under this brutal Israeli campaign.”
We have just heard explosions in the old city. It was in Qaryoun neighborhood inside the Abdelhadi Palace that houses 75 people. The Palace, built 400 years ago, is a waqf (Islamic religious property), endowed by Mahmoud Abdelhadi for the use of Abdelhadi women who have no place to live and no sources of income (widows, single women who do not work or have no income, and women whose main breadwinners are disabled). The Israeli military ordered the 75 people to vacate the palace at 3:30AM and left them out in the cold. Mr. Aslan, a neighbor, invited took in all the 75 people and offered them hospitality and warmth. The families are scattered throughout the old city (before the more strict siege) and unable to go home. Dr. Mahdi Abdelhadi, Director of PASSIA, has gone to the Israeli High Court of Justice. The Court ordered an injunction against the destruction of the Palace but the military appealed the decision and received a permission from the court to destroy this historic building “if security needs call for such action.” This also requires your immediate attention.
Nablus has been split again into two parts near Maha’s Gate, which is named after Mrs. Maha Nimr, who lived nearby and whose son has been arrested and is currently being interrogated in Ofer settlement prison (near Ramallah). No family members or lawyers are allowed to see him until “the interrogation is completed.”
“Tora Bora,” as the residents call it, is the mount of dirt that the Israeli occupation army has compiled near the destroyed Governate of Nablus (as well as the prison that was bombed with prisoners inside in 2002 that resulted in the killing of 10 Palestinian police guards). Tora Bora literally separates the two parts of the city and no one can come or go without risking being shot at by the Israeli military. Children (including my own nephew Ibrahim and nieces Widad, Noura, and Nada who live in the eastern part beyond Tora Bora) have been risking their lives to get to school to take their final exams. Ibrahim, 10 year old, and other kids almost got killed on December 23, 2003 as he tried to get home. He was finally able to reach his home a few hours later and only after the international media, medical relief workers, my other brother, Amer, and Amal, my sister-in-law and Ibrahim’s mother risked their lives, argued with the soldiers and insisted on getting all the kids home across a checkpoint.
Mustapha Barghouti has described the bloody campaign against Nablus as a “real war on this city whose other name, the Mountain of Fire, has basis in the steadfastness of Palestinians and their refusal to allow the Israeli military to break the Palestinian collective will to continue struggling for their rights.”
“There is a completely news blockage of what’s going in Nablus,” Barghouti added, explaining that lack of news coverage has to do with “the negligence of the Palestinian Authority, PA, to assume its responsibility for the protection of the population.”
“Instead,” Barghouti added, “the PA is wasting time and energy in useless meetings with the Israeli occupation government that is intent on destroying our people’s will.”
This report is partly drawn from word of mouth of relatives and friends, and partly from Radio Tariq Mahabbeh (you can listen to the radio station at www.tmfm.net). For interviews and more information, you may call: Amer Abdelhadi at (+972-59-371-372) Tariq Mahabbeh (Radio station) at (+972 57 830 333). Rabab Abdulhadi (no later than 9:30PM GMT+6) at (+972 9 237 2891). Please bear with us; phone lines and internet connections are not working as well as we are told they should. The People of Nablus appeal to you to declare today (Saturday, Jan. 3rd), tomorrow (Sunday, Jan. 4th), and Monday, Jan. 5th international days in solidarity with the people in Nablus and Palestine.