The reoccupation of Ramallah

On the morning of Friday 29 of March, and after midnight, people in Ramallah were awakened by the sharp squeak of Israeli tanks and troop carriers. The roar of moving tanks was deafening and frightening. Moments later the bombardment of the Palestinian Authority Compound was begun. People in Ramallah began to realize that their already besieged city was reoccupied by Israeli colonial troops.

Grave developments began to accelerate. Over sixty American-made tanks began to bombard the gates and walls of the PA Compound. Uneven clashes took place between PA Presidential guards and Israeli tanks. Then the Israeli colonial army began to demolish seven buildings that included PA civilian and security offices. Later on, President Arafat was encircled and besieged along with a group of PA employees and a handful of guards. After few hours of Israeli reoccupation, the Compound was turned into piles of rubble. After disconnecting telephone and electricity lines, an Israeli military bulldozer dug and destroyed the water network. Later on, Arafat was confined into two rooms and the Israeli colonial government intends to keep him isolated and humiliated until he capitulates to Israel”s colonial dictates.

At night, we watched Israel”s prime minister Sharon declare: “Israel”s hand is stretched in peace. The Israeli government met and principally decided upon wide-range military activity in area A.” He added that “the government will act to subdue the terror network. Arafat is an enemy and heads a coalition of terrorists. At this stage he will be isolated.” Sharon informed the Israeli public that the government decided a partial call up of the military reserves. He concluded by calling for unity and responsibility. Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer declared that “Israel will not harm Arafat but will keep him in isolation.”

Colonialism and the Colonized

Afterwards, the implementation of “stage two” began to take place. The “victorious” Israeli colonial army turned its military machine against the civilian population and a strict curfew was imposed. Meanwhile, more than 30,000 Ramallah residents were glued to their TV and radio sets. And scanty news began to flow from local television and radio stations. But due to the immobility of their correspondents, both the local television and radio stations began to function as radio stations. Then, the Israeli colonial troops occupied four local television stations and detained a number of their staff. Later on, we were greatly shocked while watching alternatively our local TV stations. On two of the local TV stations, the colonial occupiers began to televise pornographic movies. We wandered, was this a sick joke or a policy! However, this incomprehensible and uninvited Israeli “service” was stopped on the fourth day. On the second day, water, electricity and telephone communication was disrupted. About 80 percent of the residents were denied these services.

On the second day, we heard that troops have ransacked the Cairo-Aman Bank. Customers’ safes were broken and jewelry was stolen. Another Jordanian-owned company was ransacked. While the residents were suffering under strict curfew, Israeli soldiers were seen breaking into Palestinian supermarkets and plundering food and soft drinks. Apparently, the army supply of food rations was not appropriately functioning. At least seven multi-storey buildings were occupied by snipers. Other buildings were set on fire. The Israeli troops occupied also the Fire Brigade Station in order to prevent the putting down of fires. Moreover, a number of houses were occupied by the troops and the civilians were all cramped in one room. Later on troops will search the houses; steal money, gold, jewelry and small electric appliances; smash furniture and electric appliances; then use the house to sleep and live in it.

While scattered clashes continued in the center of Ramallah, Israeli tanks kept rambling inside the narrow streets of this small city. They are apparently, carrying out tank military patrols. On Saturday 30, an Israel military bulldozer drove down the hill of our neighborhood and three tanks gave it a cover from the top of the hill. Later on we learned that the bulldozer dug a deep tunnel across the road that connects Betunia and Ramallah. This method of isolating the city was repeated elsewhere in Ramallah.

In the first 9 days of the Israeli occupation, tanks were still trailing ambulances, TV vehicles and civilians. A large tank ran over the low edge of our neighbors” shacks and an old woman was rescued from being overrun by the tank. Later, a gas balloon was salvaged out of the rubble.

Deteriorating Health Situation

Since the beginning of the Israeli onslaught, the Israeli colonial army adopted a racist and systematic policy of obstructing the normal activities of the Palestinian health system. Tanks surrounded the major hospital and invaded another; water, electricity and telephone were cut from the city including hospitals; ambulances were shot at, held by tanks for over one hour; and their free access to the wounded and to hospitals was obstructed in a brutal manner. These inhuman acts constitute gross violations of the laws of war and specifically the 1949 Geneva Accords. They constitute war crimes. The following is a chronology of major violations in the field of health.

Sat. 30

1. Israeli tanks surrounded the Ramallah Hospital and prevented the free access of ambulances and civilians;
2. Water supply and electricity were cut from the Hospital;
3. Israeli troops occupied the al-Ri’aya Hospital in al-Bireh. They gathered the physicians and staff in one room and searched the hospital;

April 1st

1. Palestinian health officials say that Israeli troops expropriated 6 ambulances and arrested 9 staffs of ambulances inside Ramallah;
2. 25 dead bodies of Palestinians were gathered in the Ramallah hospital and hospital officials say they cannot bury them due to the military imposed curfew;
3. 3 out of the 8 ambulances were put out of order by the Israeli army in occupied Bethlehem;
4. Ramallah Hospital ran out of blood infusion of O+ and O- . The Hospital Administration called upon the residents of Ramallah to come to Hospital and donate blood. No one dared to go to the Hospital for fear of being shot and killed by the trigger-happy soldiers;
5. The Administration of the Ramallah Hospital confirmed that it is about to run out of medicine. It called upon the world to help supply the Hospital with the necessary medicine.

April 2nd

1. Israeli troops opened fire on a convoy of UNRWA vehicles carrying food and medicine for Ramallah hospital. The convoy came to Ramallah during the lifting of curfew for two hours;
2. The Israeli police in West Jerusalem stopped and searched an ambulance arriving to Jerusalem from Nazareth. It was loaded with medicine that was donated by residents of Nazareth to al-Maqassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. The police threw the medical supplies on the street and made the ambulance drive back to Nazareth;
3. Today in the afternoon when curfew was lifted, few of the relatives of the 27 who were killed in Ramallah and kept in Ramallah Hospital, attended the burial of their dear ones. They utilized the two hours of lifting the curfew to bury the dead inside the Hospital parking because Israeli tanks and troops prevented their proper burial in the cemetery. We did not know the names or the ages of the dead;
4. Today, we were extremely worried about the expected delivery of a pregnant Palestinian woman. We tried our best to secure a free and safe access to hospital, so she can deliver her first baby. I am sure there are many other pregnant women and sick and wounded civilians who cannot reach the hospital;
5. Signs of dwindling food provision is taking place in Ramallah. People are suffering from lack of food, water, electricity, telephone, medicine, and hospitalization.

April 3rd

1. The Israeli invading army expropriated the only ambulance run by the Jenin Hospital and the hospital was bombarded for several hours making it non-operative;
2. A Palestinian health official said today that water supply was cut from Ramallah hospital and the hospital staff began to collect rain water in order to meet their needs.

Through its consistent obstruction of normal Palestinian health activities, the Israeli colonial army, intentionally, drives at the maximization of Palestinian suffering and human losses. The wounded are kept lying in the streets and inside buildings without any access to medical care Obviously, the army’s intention is: “let them bleed to death.”

Today, the Israeli colonial army lifted the curfew for few hours. This move coincided with General Zinni’s visit and meeting with Arafat. We went out and saw the devastation and wanton destruction brought about by Israeli tanks. Several electricity and telephone poles were knocked down, several buildings were burned down or ruined and several shops were ransacked. We realized that food provisions are beginning to dwindle. There is no milk nor dairy products nor vedgetables. We could not buy much food. Drinking water is running down, but we learned to share our water with our neighbors. In short, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated further.

Palestinian casualties have exceeded 110 dead and countless of injuries inside the West Bank. Mass arrests are still taking place and torture of the detainees by soldiers is widespread. Heavy fighting is taking place in cities and refugee camps. The Sharon-Peres onslaught is continuing.

A Colonial Onslaught

The Sharon-Peres right-wing coalition government has dealt a deadly blow to the Palestinian Authority and Oslo is in a coma. Arafat is a captive leader and General Sharon intends on deporting him. Under the cloak of “Palestinian terrorism” Israel’s political objectives in the Palestinian occupied territories are being dictated by tanks, helicopter gunships, devastation and fire. In addition to Arafat, the entire Palestinian civil society has become captive. The severe suffering, the carnage, the indiscriminate killing, the extra-judicial assassinations, the denial of necessary services, and the national humiliation are all intended to create heavy pressures on 3.5 million Palestinians in an attempt to bring about the capitulation of the PA and Arafat.

As a result of Israel’s colonial onslaught, over 110 Palestinians were killed. The number will increase. Israeli casualties have so far reached at least 11 dead soldiers. Israel’s colonial onslaught continues and General Sharon runs his war of aggression by the assistance and political support of the US right-wing administration and Israel’s phony Zionist left.

On the other hand, the Israeli colonialists are trying to impose a colonial solution for a colonial problem. They use the archaic colonial policy of scorched earth to fight our people. They have committed gross war crimes.

In their drive to push us back to the stone age, the Israeli colonial army have ruined our infrastructure and brought severe suffering to the civilian population. They have caused suffering, insecurity and economic devastation to both peoples. They have caused the fascisation of Israel’s public opinion. They use the issue of “terrorism” as a feeble cloak to cover up their unreadiness to pay the price of decolonisation.

In order to divert attention away from the real issue, Arafat is being demonized and the colonial conflict with the Palestinians is being personalized through Arafat. Through the use of old Roman methods, the Israeli military trio of Sharon, Ben-Eliezer and Mofaz, are exerting futile attempts to replace the Palestinian leadership, with Palestinian lackeys and vassals.

The colonial fanatics of Israel are trying to manufacture a situation that serves best their colonial interests inside the Palestinian occupied territories. At the same time, they are trying to obstruct the development of Palestinian national self-determination. They do not realize that colonial questions cannot be solved by tanks and the colonized cannot be subdued for ever.

However, in spite of the devastation and loss of life, the Palestinains have a strong desire to continue the national struggle for independence. We have reached the point of no return and we will not capitulate to Israel”s colonial “dictat”. We are determined to continue the struggle until complete liberation. Despite our captivity, we feel that the popular masses in the Arab World, the Third World and European and American leftists and peace-loving people - do support our national cause. Therefore, we are steadfast, optimistic, patient and have a strong resolve to end Israeli colonial rule through continued national war of liberation.

Zuhair Sabbagh teaches sociology at Bir Zeit University in the occupied West Bank.