you know the news by now. bethlehem is reoccupied. i've spent lots of time on the phone since last night talking to our friends. it's so hard to know anything from the media coverage - so i wanted to share with you what they told me.
the israeli army started to move into bethlehem around midnight their time on friday. i happened be checking my email when jehad sent me a message, and so i got on the phone right away. at that time, he said the shelling and heavy gun battles were all over the bethlehem area, in beit jala, beit sahour, al-khader, and in bethlehem. israeli sent in around 30 tanks, coming on the main street of bethlehem and occupied aida refugee camp. at one point, the tanks came all the way to bab al-zqaq intersection. they also took over intercontinental hotel and paradise hotel.
today, the gun battles and shelling continued throughout the day. the two hotels and aida camp continue to be occupied. they also occupied the northern half of azzah refugee camp. i called 'aza from handala center. he had left the camp before the occupation, and was stuck in doha (the village across the street from dheisheh) unable to go back home. he tried to call his home but there was no electricity or phone in the camp, and he had been unable to reach his family when i talked to him. i am very concerned because their house is in the occupied part of azzah camp. regardless, no one is able to leave their house in azzah camp because there are clashes with soldiers who are now inside of the camp.
tanks are also positioned at the top of the hills of doha as well as many locations inside of the village. several dancers from ibdaa dance troupe live in doha. qussay told me one of the tanks was parked near his house, barely 50 meters away. shrouq's house got almost occupied by the soldiers. at one point they apparently came in but decided that the house wasn't quite suitable to use for their outpost, so they took her neighbor's house instead. there are 2 tanks parked right outside of shrouq's house.
yasir told me that israelis positioned themselves in strategic locations throughout the area, in many elevated places (like the top of doha). from what i gathered, it seem that they completely encircled the bethlehem area altogether. from dheisheh, people can not even reach where palestinian security building is (it's on the way to bab al-zqaq) because it is too dangerous. he told me any exposed areas, like intersections or wider streets, are dangerous because everything is seen by the israelis who are overlooking the entire area from the hilltop. apache helicopter gunship and f-16 fighter jets were over bethlehem all day long.
there have been 4 deaths in bethlehem in less than 24 hours of the incursion. a 35-old woman in al-khader village who was shot, so were a young man in aida camp and another in beit jala, and a pregnant woman from hosan village who apparently died during medical emergency when her ambulance wasn't allowed to pass an israeli checkpoint. this was as of 5pm my time, when i last spoke to them.
our friends couldn't sleep at all last night and many of them sounded exhausted (when i called hammash family the entire household had collapsed to a mid-day nap - zeyd told me he only slept for an hour the night before). and probably won't be able to again tonight. they are resillient people and were coping with the situation with amazing strength, although not without fear of what may happen next. below is a letter from jehad and rashid from ibdaa.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jehad Abass"
Sent: Friday, October 19, 2001 5:58 PM
Subject: It was really good morning occupation
Dear friends and comrades It was really good morning occupation, also morning of bumping, and it was one of the mornings for the funerals, it is normal day for each one, cause of that, but if it was not like that it will be not normal day, cause every morning we were and still weak up at the sound of bumping and shelling, and that thing become part of our daily life, and it is still normal day, Yesterday we couldn't sleep at all cause the Israeli enter Bethlehem area and reoccupied the area as it was in paste before the Palestinian authority enter Bethlehem, but in this time it isn't like the paste, cause the Israeli army they were shot and bumping every were without deferent's, and we become as number and just sting and account the number of the martyrs, and listen to the news, cause every moment there is new news. Until now the number of the martyrs are 5 martyrs, one woman she is 35and a mother for 6 children, and one of the youth he is just 19 years' old and he study in the university, One of the men he is father for a little girl, the other one he was marred before 1 month. The other he is father for 4 children and is it is still normal day until now isn't it? And it still normal day .the night is coming close..Darkness, fears, sounds of shelling, sound of ambulances, and the number rise every moment. .That's what Sharouq say. .Shorouq is a little girl her age is just 13 years old but she can easily know what kind of pullets are being shutting by the Israelis, her home which locate in Aida camp under occupation now. Three tanks around her house and she just lies at the ground with 11 person they are the number of her family cause they afraid from the pullets and the bombs .when we call Shorouq it was 7:00 PM the first thing that she says that she is feeling afraid about her friend Laila cause the Israeli soldiers enter her friend house and put the father and his little daughter in the first flour while 16 soldier were up in the second flour and start to shut .. Laila's mother had been injured when she tried to defend her house and family and she is now at the hospital, I ask Shorouq not to be afraid cause it will be ok soon. .But Shorouq ask me " are they going to leave ??? " so I couldn't answer ..but I still think about the same question which Shorouq asked me "are they going to leave ??" so are they going to leave ??? And is Shorouq and Laila and thousands of Palestinian children are going to sleep tonight?? It is 7:30PM the darkness completed now, so the danger now became more and more close, good evening for the souls of all Palestinian martyrs Good evening Palestine .
Rashed and Jehad
Ibdaa Culture Center Dheisheh Camp Bethlehem, Palestine