Appeal from under the Siege
serves as an update to the Appeal sent
on March 30 from members of the international and Palestinian
community trapped in the siege of Ramallah. All aspects of
the general situation described in that document still prevail,
and what follows are only some of the more recent developments.
This document focuses on the situation in Ramallah only, as
we have been unable to collect any systematic information
from other occupied Palestinian cities (six now, in addition
to numerous villages). However, reports we are receiving from
friends and colleagues in these places indicate a similar
situation to the one in Ramallah --and in some of the more
isolated areas the level of Israeli violence seems to be even
higher, due to the lack of media coverage and international
On early Friday morning, 29 March 2002, tens of thousands
of Israeli troops re-invaded the city of Ramallah in tanks
and armored personnel carriers and remain to this time. The
Israeli forces continue to occupy Ramallah completely. President
Arafat is besieged in his own compound with dwindling food
and medical supplies. There are no indications when the re-occupation
will be over.
Curfew: All of Ramallah's 250,000 inhabitants remain under
24-hour curfew. They are under the threat of being shot on
sight should they leave their homes for any reason. Tuesday
morning, for example, a woman who left her home to take her
young son to the hospital was shot dead in her car by an Israeli
sniper. On Wednesday, a number of foreigners in Al-Bireh were
shot at even though they were announcing via megaphone that
they were unarmed and trying to get supplies from their office.
These are only two examples of many.
doctors and humanitarian agencies are still unable to move.
Wounded are in need of medical attention. Doctors have been
asked to remove many bodies from downtown buildings, but they
cannot reach the buildings due to tank positions and continued
firing. The bodies have been decomposing and there is fear
of an epidemic breaking out. There is no current capacity
to respond to an outbreak if it occurs.
afternoon, after five and a half days of total curfew during
which the population could not leave their homes to obtain
food, water or any needed medical supplies or treatment, the
Israeli forces announced a lifting of the curfew in some areas
for two hours to allow a few shops to open so that people
could get provisions. Due to the demand, the shops that did
manage to open had to ration their goods to a limited amount
per family. The announcement of the lifting of the curfew
was made in some areas while in others people left their homes
at their own risk. As people ventured into the streets, however,
Israeli snipers continued to open fire, terrifying those in
the streets and causing injuries. We managed to confirm two
injuries, one a 14-year old boy who is still in hospital.
There are unconfirmed reports of others, but it is impossible
to receive a comprehensive idea of events in the current situation.
The curfew was re-imposed at 6:00pm, now for an indefinite
period of time.
army informed diplomatic missions that internationals in Ramallah
would be allowed to leave the city through the two checkpoints
during this two hour period: Qalandia and the DCO. However,
individuals were expected to make their own way to the checkpoints.
A miniscule number managed to evacuate, as many do not have
cars (either because they do not own cars or because their
cars were destroyed by Israeli tanks on the streets). Even
those with cars did not feel at all safe attempting to travel
under continued gunfire. In fact, anyone reaching a checkpoint
came under direct Israeli fire. For this reason, and for reasons
of solidarity, most of Ramallah's international community
remains in the city.
of the Population: Ramallah is constantly filled with the
sounds of heavy caliber gunfire, tank shell explosions and
helicopter gun ships circling above, even when the general
situation is calm and there is no Palestinian resistance.
This is taking a heavy toll everyone's nerves, and children
are particularly affected. All families live under the constant
fear of having their homes invaded (or re-invaded) by Israeli
morning Tuesday, the Israeli forces started an offensive against
the Preventive Security headquarters, with 400 desperate and
terrified policemen, women and children inside. The non-stop,
intense attack involved the use of Apache helicopters and
tanks from about 1:30 am throughout the morning, and sporadically
until noon. The sounds of non-stop helicopter machinegun and
pounding rocket fire, as well as repeated tank shells could
be heard all around Ramallah for the entire night. In areas
throughout Ramallah, windows and mirrors continued to shake
during the onslaught. Residents in the Beit Hanina neighborhood
in Jerusalem also couldn't sleep from the sounds of the intensity
of the attack. The electricity was cut off in some neighborhoods,
making it difficult for residents to know where the attacks
were occurring, creating a sense of panic.
of Water Supplies: The water situation in Ramallah has become
dire. The water supply to Ramallah Hospital has been completely
cut off. Some areas of the city have also lost their water
supply and residents are forced to collect rainwater. This
is extremely dangerous to the public health situation, as
safe drinking water becomes unavailable and general hygiene
water pumps in the Beitunia area (responsible for providing
water for a large part of Ramallah) were severely damaged
in the shelling and the subsequent Israeli occupation of the
pumping station. Two of the water pumps can be fixed. The
other two pumps are thoroughly damaged and cannot be fixed
without spare parts. Needless to say, such spare parts are
company repair teams are not allowed free access to the pumps.
In some instances, these teams have been shot at by the occupying
forces. The teams have been able to gain some access when
accompanied by International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
personnel. The ICRC, however, are understaffed.
the pumps are repaired, the water pipe network has been extensively
damaged in the bombing and also needs repairs. The water company
is attempting to fix some, but its staff regularly comes under
Electricity: Of the nine electricity-feeding stations in Ramallah,
six are inoperative. Attempts to fix the damaged ones are
facing the same constraints as the efforts to fix the water
infrastructure - i.e., any attempt by workers to repair the
damage is met by Israeli gunfire
a large number of electrical poles are damaged, and are inaccessible
to repair crews due to the curfew.
Forces Using Human Shields: Israeli soldiers are still occupying
a large number of private residences and detaining the residents
(often in large numbers) collectively in single rooms. This
includes foreign nationals. Often these detainees are not
allowed to speak to each other for periods of hours or days.
We also have confirmed reports of Palestinian children being
forced to stand in the windows of their homes to protect the
Israeli intruders from any possible Palestinian sniper fire.
at the Arab care Medical Hospital was held at gunpoint in
front of Israeli soldiers as they searched the hospital on
three separate occasions. When the doctor asked them not to
contaminate the surgery, he was physically roughed-up.
civilians were arrested Tuesday night and were to be used
during the attack on the Preventive Security headquarters.
The civilians were put in front of the Israeli forces to prevent
the Palestinians from shooting back at the advancing tanks,
until they were finally removed and detained in a single room.
to the City: Diplomatic missions are being barred daily from
entering Ramallah. An EU convoy composed of Consul-Generals
was turned back on Tuesday.
A UN convoy
carrying medical and food supplies to the Ramallah Hospital
was repeatedly fired on by Israeli forces and one UN staff
member was arrested and is still detained. Fortunately, the
convoy managed to get through. However, no other international
relief efforts have been allowed passage into the city.
Limited: During the lifting of the curfew on Tuesday, only
a small number of shops could open. It was not possible to
move from one area of town to another as tanks were stationed
on main roads and intersections, and many shopkeepers could
not open their shops. Some of the shops were looted by Israeli
soldiers and were out of many supplies. There were long queues
in front of shops that could open, and some basic provisions
ran out. As a result, there remains a large shortage of basic
provisions, especially for infants.
the curfew is lifted again, provisions in shops are now limited
or non-existent since they are not being allowed to be replenished.
No food supplies have been allowed to enter the city.
Being Taken: Israeli forces continue taking Palestinians prisoner
in house-to-house attacks and collective roundups. All males
between the ages of 16 and 40 are subject to arrest for no
reason other than their age and sex. Until Monday night, the
number of prisoners was 700 according to Israeli figures.
It is impossible to ascertain the exact number. The ICRC still
does not have access to these prisoners to ensure adherence
to international law, and specifically the Geneva Conventions.
Reports indicate that these prisoners are being held in deplorable
are being released. They are being dropped either at the center
of Ramallah or at distant checkpoints, and are expected to
make their own way to their homes under the curfew and the
shoot-on-sight policy. Many are forced to take refuge in abandoned
buildings where they have no provisions, or among families
in these neighborhoods, where they have to share these families
already meager supplies.
have also targeted medical and relief workers. We have confirmed
reports of five medical workers arrested from the Palestinian
Red Crescent hospital, as well as a human rights worker from
the al-Haq organization. As of writing this update, we have
seen armored personnel carriers approaching the Red Crescent
headquarters, heard explosions and now are hearing reports
that it is being raided.
Vandalism and Destruction: There are numerous reports of soldiers
stealing from residents and gratuitously destroying property.
In one such confirmed instance, soldiers stole gold from a
family's apartment, took 400 shekels (approx. $100) and destroyed
packaged food and furniture. Another confirmed report involved
a group of Israeli soldiers occupying the apartment of a lone
female resident - they ransacked the premises, harassed her
verbally, helped themselves to her dwindling food supply and
crushed her car with their tank when leaving.
are a number of reports of soldiers making sexually inappropriate
comments to Palestinian and foreign women during house raids
and when driving by to enforce curfews.
and Unnecessary Use of Violence: Israeli tank shells and machine-gun
fire continue to be heard constantly throughout Ramallah,
even though there is generally little or no Palestinian resistance.
are being used to knock down doors, and anti-aircraft guns
have been repeatedly used against buildings with people inside.
besieged people of Ramallah, continue to appeal to all people
of good conscience around the world to mobilize immediately
and not allow the continuation of the siege to breed complacency.
appeal to the people of Israel, in whose name these actions
are being taken, to make their voices heard. This is the time
for you to tell Palestinians that they still have partners
for peace. Your silence now is the death warrant for the prospects
urgently appeal for food and drinking water, and for the
general access of all humanitarian agencies. The situation
is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster.
appeal for the safety of all individuals.
appeal for the immediate and total withdrawal of the occupying
forces from all Palestinian towns and villages.
appeal for medical supplies and access to medical treatment,
electricity, water, phone lines and other necessary facilities.
appeal for freedom of movement within the city and outside
access to the city.
appeal for the immediate end to vandalism, looting, humiliation,
and gratuitous violence and destruction.
appeal for access of humanitarian agencies, including
the ICRC, to all detainees, prisoners and hostages, including
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, to ensure their well-being.
APPEAL FOR THE SIEGE TO BE LIFTED.
has been made to you by Palestinians, as well as nationals
of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia,
Jordan and other nationalities.
fear of retribution, the names and contact information of
those authoring this appeal have not been included. For their
contact information, please contact Michael (972-52-266-208).
Committee of the Red Cross: Jer. (972-2) 582-8845, Tel Aviv
and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA): (972-2) 589-0401