‘Journalists, paramedics, again’

“Oh, there, there, look, I see them, soldiers walking down the street. Shit, I hope they won’t enter this building. What? Yes, I’m fine, but look at this, oh shit, this is aweful ! It will be definitely worse then last time. Yes, I will go away from the window.”

I just called my cousin Ghadir, who lives in downtown Ramallah. She stays in her appartment with two friends. “I wish I had a camera with me”, she says. In another part of Ramallah, near Arafat’s compound and behind the infamous City Inn Hotel, my aunt couldn’t sleep. She called Ghadir last night talking about Israel’s latest assault on Ramallah. She, her husband, and daughter Dima, who is a physician at Maqassad Hospital in occupied East Jerusalem, had to stay inside their home. Everyone is worried.

Already on Thursday evening, soldiers positioned at the “new” Ram checkpoint (the day before it was moved 100 meters further down the road), told us, “don’t go to Ramallah, you are not allowed to enter.” The whole day rumours were that all foreigners should leave Ramallah. Al-Jazeera apparently had reported that all representative offices were recalled, however, when I later spoke with some diplomats, they told me that it was false. Nonetheless, a great number of foreigners have been evacuated from Ramallah.

Earlier this week, already on Wednesday, before the blast in Netanya, it was announced that Israeli military planners were preparing for a major assault on Palestinian cities, towns and refugee camps that would be broader and deeper than the assault undertaken earlier this month in which more than 45 Palestinians were killed and 167 injured. Actually, most people here expected it to happen after Eastern.

Meanwhile, a group of more than 300 international activists have been demonstrating and protesting the whole day. Seven were injured, four arrested (and later released) at a protest in front of Orient House. Worse, the internet connection at the office failed, the server stopped working, and I wasn’t able to check whether our press release had been sent out. Fortunately, this morning I found out that it was sent out. Later that evening I was doing an interview for KPFA, the first community supported radio station in the USA. I reported about Israel’s extended, large-scale military assault against Ramallah with more than 100 Israeli tanks and armored personel carriers, shooting indiscriminately at any moving object, cars, ambulances and at residential areas and homes.

I spoke about the five Palestinians that had been killed. One, 24-years old Suraida Abu Gharbiya was shot and killed after she left her home with her husband and five months old daughter. They were trying to escape the indiscriminate Israeli shelling. Her husband was severely injured while holding their little daughter. We were told that they faced much difficulty reaching the hospital.

Later, in a supermarket on the way home, I saw the live images of a cameraman (of the Egyptian Nile TV) being shot in his mouth. On the little television in the corner of the supermarket I saw the cameraman running from the van. You hear screaming and then I saw him lying on the ground. Another cameraman was screaming “ambulance, ambulance, ambulance!” (click here for the images).

More than thirty Palestinians have been injured, including five in serious condition. To add insult to injury, Israeli troops banned ambulances and paramedics from evacuating the wounded and threatened to shoot at ambulances and medical personnel disobeying the Israeli orders. One ambulance was hit so far. Moreover, the International Red Cross (ICRC) has been denied entry into Ramallah.

Israeli forces have been besieging various hospitals, ambulances are prevented from evacuating the injured, and in several places in Ramallah, wounded Palestinians are lying in the streets. Israeli troops have surrounded Ramallah Hospital, Hospital Sheikh Zayed, and the Red Crescent Society, hindering ambulances from evacuating the wounded and preventing any movement. Israeli tanks destroyed the electricity networks and telephone networks and other infrastructure.

During the day, we heard messages from Ramallah and El-Bireh that Israeli soldiers had broken into many residential buildings and institutions, capturing residents, holding them in confined areas, depriving them from food and water and any contact with the outside world. Various buildings have been turned into military outposts, including the offices of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees. Snipers were installed on the roof top and its employees were held hostage until they were informed that should evacuate the building.

During last night, Israeli troops have been reinforcing their presence at Palestinians cities, villages and refugee camps in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, tightening the siege imposed on Palestinians, as a first step to more invasions and assaults. Israeli armed vehicles and tanks are now in the center of the Palestinian town of Beit Jala.

Today, Palestinians in Israel and in the Occupied Territories are holding rallies to mark Land Day, the 26th anniversary of the killing of six of their brethren by Israeli security forces during protests against government expropriation of their land.