My apologies for the long silence - just returned from a 3-week travel outside Palestine. Coming back has been great - I have been bombarded with work but at the same time pampered by friends and families. However, the situation has turned really terrible the last 2-3 days.
2 nights ago, 2 young people from Bethlehem died when allegedly the bomb exploded prematurely on their way to plant them at Maccabieh (Jewish Olympics) games in Jerusalem. One of them turned out to be 19-year-old Ibrahim Luhadna from Dheisheh - many of the kids at Ibdaa were friends with him. People are still waiting for his body to be returned by Israeli military, not even knowing when they can have his funeral. Last night, young people were plastering flyers with Ibrahim's picture all over the camp’s alleys, adding the new face to Dheisheh's gallery of young victims.
This morning my friends Samer from Beit Sahour village walked into Ibdaa office. He told me he hadn't slept at all the night before because of the shooting at the village. He said they had to evacuate their house and children in his family were so terrorized they could not stop crying and screaming all night.
For the last 2 days, day and night, military helicopters have been hovering over Bethlehem area, sending many children to hysteria. This afternoon came the news that an Israeli helicopter attack killed 4 civilians in Bethlehem. Two missiles were shot into a residential area not far from Nativity Church. It was an assassination of Islamic Jihad activists, involving injuries and killing of bystanders, including a high school teacher of some of Ibdaa dancers. The teacher had nothing to do with politics - he was in a wrong place at a wrong time. So, the kids of Ibdaa lost a friend yesterday and a teacher today. It absolutely breaks my heart when I see their eyes.
Gunfire was heard this afternoon into the evening from all directions. The village of Beit Jalla was struck again by Israeli tank shells. Tens of Palestinian militia members were there to shoot the settlement of Gilo. The exchange lasted well over an hour. Streets were completely deserted, except cars of Tanzeem zapping by occasionally. In the village of Al-Khader south of Dheisheh, there also were intense clashes. We kept hearing ambulances rushing back and forth while sounds of automatic weapons rang in the night sky.
It is very likely that the assassination this afternoon will lead to intensifying of the confrontations in the coming days in Bethlehem area, no doubt with the series of funerals coming up. Seeing 6 deaths in only 2 days, there is extreme tension, anger, and sadness in the air. And everyone is feeling this may only be the beginning. take care,