Daily disruption in Balata: A four day overview

The time of relative quiet that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) initiated during the Palestinian Authority elections, in order to please international observers and media, is now definitely over.

While before the army kept coming at night, the IOF now also causes trouble during the day. The main target of these daily IOF attacks on Nablus is, once more, the Balata Refugee Camp. With almost 30,000 inhabitants — the largest camp in the occupied West Bank — it is situated on the outskirts of the city.

Saturday, January 15 2005

The army comes at eight o’clock in the morning as well as at three o’clock in the afternoon with two jeeps, one of them known as an “Aziza”. The Aziza is a somewhat bigger, heavier and stronger jeep than an ordinary one, not really allowing the soldiers to shoot out of it, and as such, constituting the favourite military vehicle of the stone-throwing shabab (“youth”).

The other jeep is the type called a “Golani”, so called as it is often driven by units of an army company with the same name. In comparison with the aziza, the golani jeep is smaller and more vulnerable, but it allows the soldiers to shoot in any direction, making the vehicle extremely dangerous.

In the morning, the activity involving the IOF in the jeeps is limited to provocation and the destruction of several market stands at the northern main entrance of the camp. In the afternoon, they solely provoke at the southern entrance, after declaring curfew in the area of the UNRWA girls’ school. In the case of a real military operation, usually more vehicles are involved, and the operation itself or the target is obvious.

However, in the morning the shebab manage to drive the jeeps away by stoning them and throwing two well-targeted coloured paint bags. In the afternoon, the local armed resistance puts an end to the IOF presence by shooting a few bullets, one of them hitting the engine of the golani. Jeeps come back in the evening hours. During the whole day, the IOF act — unusually — only provocative, not especially aggressive. That is to say that only one kid gets injured by rubber-coated steel-bullets.

Sunday, 16 January 2005

On Sunday morning, the IOF show lasts only half an hour. But they come back in the late evening. Again the clashes between the army and the resisting camp population are relatively light.

Monday, 17 January 2005

This time the army comes at ten o’clock in the morning with four jeeps, driving around in front of the main entrance of Balata and the street connecting it to Askar, the other large refugee camp in Nablus. One of the jeep’s tyres lacks air and, later on, a fifth jeep arrives.

As usual, tons of stones, garbage and other stuff lying on the street fly through the air and hit the IOF vehicles. During the more than two hours of clashes, the IOF shoots tear gas, rubber-coated steel-bullets and live ammunition, fortunately not wounding anyone.

This time the army also provokes by fixing an Israeli flag on one of the jeeps, as well as honking stupidly. This is in addition to the usual verbal humiliation communicated through their loudspeakers. The IOF troops also order that some of the shops in the area close; for example, they order “Falafel-shop, close your doors”.

The whole time, locals drive their cars between the jeeps, storekeepers in vegetable shops sell their goods, women with children cross the street, men sit around and drink tea along the streets. At half past twelve the jeeps withdraw, returning after eight o’clock in the evening. At this time they also get badly stoned and paint-bombed and return to Huwara army base, two hours later.

Tuesday, 18 January 2005

We unsuccessfully await the army. But we are sure to see them later on today. After all, the army comes almost every night, searching houses, destroying furniture and frightening people. About a week ago an old woman died as the army, in the middle of the night, threw a percussion grenade into her house. They also beat and arrest inhabitants of the camp, especially minors.

The IOF seem to be continuing to play what was the usual program before the elections: several times, each day, life in the streets of Balata needs to be disrupted. Normality here is not life without but rather with confrontation with the occupying Israeli forces.

Ray Smith is a psuedonym.