Nablus: Resistance Under Occupation

Boys in Nablus give victory signs. (ISM Library Photo)

In the midst of an already month-long invasion, the sheikhs announced over the mosques for everyone to yell from their windows and their roofs “Allahu akbar” (god is great) together for an hour. It began with the voices from the mosques, together, “Allahu akbar” again and again, the voices growing louder and prouder with each chant. Then, a chorus began from the old city, and then the mountains and the camps.

Thousands of different voices, in different rhythms and tones, yelling and chanting together, their sound almost drowning out the noise of the tank fire around them. The voices joined together in strength and solidarity; recognizing but not broken by the pain and suffering felt throughout the city. During this month, most people have been confined (but not safe) in their homes, students have been prevented from taking their final exams and stores remain indefinitely closed.

11 people have been killed; three of them children and hundreds of people have been hospitalized due to injuries. Everyone is mourning, many are terrified, but the people in Nablus joined together to show that they will not be defeated.

There has been very little media about the situation in Nablus, even in the Arab press. Israeli press announced briefly that the IOF is carrying out operations to remove a terrorist infrastructure. Nothing more. The army pulled out of Balata a few days ago and have intensified the siege of Nablus and the old city. One area of the old city, the Qarion section, has been completely closed for six days now, as IOF forces move house to house, destroying doors and walls as they move.

Every day, international volunteers and Palestinian medics attempt to bring food and medical supplies people living in this area and every day we have been stopped. Both yesterday and today soldiers shot at us with live ammunition as we attempted to deliver bread - one Palestinian medic and one volunteer were injured by shrapnel. no press is allowed into the area either. Explosions from Qarion are heard throughout the day and night.

On New Year�s Eve we were attempting to bring an ambulance to evacuate injured and ill people from some of the houses in the area when we were stopped by a jeep. Soldiers stepped out and began giggling and asking us inane questions such as, “Are you here with the anti-globalization movement or are you just here?” We quickly realized that the soldiers were high, smoking up in the back of their jeeps. Twenty-year-old soldiers, high, M-16s in hand, were put in charge of securing the area from Palestinians. It is a frightening thought…

Almost at midnight exactly, a massive explosion was felt and heard throughout the city. Windows on all of the houses within a half of a mile of Qarion shattered. We spent the next hour attempting to evacuate people from houses nearby, as it was warned there would be more explosions shortly. Piece by piece, using trigger explosives, IOF forces are destroying a castle that is over 200 years old.

The army claims that there are wanted people in the building, but locals say there is nobody in the building. In the meantime, everyone in the area surrounding the building is imprisoned, most of their homes are occupied, and many random people have been arrested.

Concurrently, the rest of Nablus has been put under curfew. Today rows of jeeps arrived at the university (where students were taking final exams) and evacuated everyone. Three women friends of mine were attempting to go to university this morning - when they walked out of their door soldiers threw tear gas and a sound bomb at them.

It was announced over the mosques yet again for every to go to the streets and to break curfew. The few people that did were met with force - tear gas, sound grenades and live ammunition. There are no counts yet on how many people were injured today.

Yet, people are continuing to resist. Each morning I wake to the sounds of tank fire and the marketplace. Breaking the curfew, many vegetable, meat and bread vendors attempt to continue their work as usual. On the street where I live, vendors set up their stands around 7:00 in the morning, just after the jeeps drive by announcing curfew. By 7:30 more jeeps drive through, throwing tear gas and shooting randomly.

Most people move to the sides and alley ways, and shops close their doors, but 5 minutes after the jeeps drive by everyone is back on the street as normal. This cat-and-mouse like game continues throughout the morning and early afternoon. by late afternoon, the shebab (“youth”) have set up makeshift roadblocks made up of cardboard and rocks to prevent the army from entering their streets. There they wait, using the roadblocks as barricades to shield them as they throw stones.

The twelve-year-old son of the family I live with has two final exams to finish before completing his term. He was scheduled to finish them two weeks ago. Every night he studies, with me or his father, and claims that he is prepared. Every night he lays awake, frightened by the shots and explosions heard on the streets outside of his house. Every morning he hears the jeeps driving through, announcing curfew (home imprisonment).

Yet, every morning he gets out of bed at 8:00, gets dressed, and heads for school by 9:30, hoping to finish his tests. He usually doesn’t get past his block before being forced back by soldiers or warning shots, and on the days he makes it to the school he finds it closed, with army jeeps blocking the entrances.

He, and the people of Nablus under curfew, will continue their struggle against the occupation with each new day.

Kelly B. works with the International Solidarity Movement in Nablus.