Report of activities and events in the area of Jenin, Aug. 25...28 2003
Mission team of Paz Ahora
On Aug. 25 2003 a group of people of our organization travelled to Jenin (West Bank, Palestine), accompanying a truck in order to ease the delivery of its humanitarian load (medication and haemodyalisis instrumentation of urgent need) to the Suleiman Hospital in Jenin, as well as to fix the conditions for new cooperation projects with the Jenin Municipality Town Council and with other governmental and non- governmental organizations in the Jenin area, rather isolated from the south by the destruction of the roads and the military punishment of Nablus; humanitarian help of direct utility to help mitigate the urgent needs of its population.
1. State of repression and population security; various incidences
It is clear that it is not possible to disconnect the activity we carry out in Palestine from the situation of ocupation and military repression existing in the palestinian territories, among other reasons because the tanks and Apaches make impossible or difficult seriously such activities. Beyond that, to be witness of this situation, given the government- organized disinformation, and the crazy and abusive undiscriminate punishment of the palestinian population makes the task of reporting about the facts in situ at least equal in importance that about the management of our projects.
With the pretext of the prosecution of the responsibles of the Jerusalem attack, the israeli army has invaded, reoccupying and repressing the few areas of which it had only apparently retrieve few days ago supposedly in application of the "roadmap". Really, the tanks retrieval consist in a travel of one kilometer to the surrounds of the cities, to clean the canoons and mantainance, and to the minimum chance enter again to show clearly that the only real authority in Palestine is the one of the force of the occupant army. Concerning the control of the palestinian populatin they cannot move as always from their residence towns or cities. This is like always, with dozens of military checkpoints which have never stop working.
When we arrived to Jenin the tanks were thus out of the city, at its limit on the road from Afula. They were being cleaned and so on. The next day the curfew was imposed over the city and its camp and two tanks run all day and all night around the city and the camp, with total prohibition to the population to get out of houses, move persons or cars, open shops etc. Next day we counted already six tanks more agressively running the city, shooting to the air or to small installations in the streets and walks of the city and throwing gas to the people which it is said to contain small quantities of DDT. The people were the few children and teenagers who protest in the streets of the centercity against the presence of the army, the siege and the curfew. These people helped us the day before to find food and drink and were only agressive against tanks. They are true part of the chilhood of Intifadah. The build small barriers and barricadas trying to difficult the pass of the tanks. The small fires and stones, and one or two iron and wood sticks are the only weapons they have. This day a palestinian teenager was seriouly injured, shooted in the stomach, being attended in the Suleiman hospital later, and other two were injured of less importance.
The streets already were presenting a worse face. The tanks already destroy everithing they found in the streets, like public containers, litter bins, streetlights, telephone cabinets etc. The camp was raided day and night and we heared shooting and machine-gun bursts every while.
Once provoked the desired "total emergency situation" (israeli sources were published by agencies telling that the soldiers in the tanks shooted because the children threw molotov cocktails which put in risk their lifes), the total siege was imposed on Jenin, such a way that, as reported before, even us as internationals were not allowed to enter from Al Faraa.
When we tried to come back to Jenin from this refugee camp in the road to Nablus (road that has been destroyed by israelis between Al Faraa and Nablus), at about 19.45 hh we found the road from Qabatyia to Jenin blocked by three tanks. The soldiers laugh noisy seing our car stamped by logotypes of the organization. Following is a short summary as exact as possible of our "conversation" (P: paz Ahora; S: soldiers).
S: Stop!. Do not move!. Get out of the car!
S: Where do you go? You cannot pass by here
P: We go to Jenin. We are there working for the hospital. We have the permissions of the municipality and we have been allowed to get out Jenin in the morning
S: You cannot enter Jenin. Jenin is under curfew and nobody can get in or get out. Give me your passports
P: If you prefer we can phone now to people in Jenin to show you why we are there. One colleague of the organization is still there. We have to go for him, tomorrow all three of us leave Jenin.
S (looking at the passports): Hamas? (to Gregorio)
S (to Jaime): Hamas?
S: Whay you use then a beard like Hamas?
Jaime: I dont know what you mean. We dont know Hamas.
S: You cannot pass.
P: We need to pass. We are living in Jenin these days. Our colleague is waiting for us. Our passports are OK. We can phone the municipality if you need justification of our presence there.
S: Nobody can enter Jenin. It is very dangerous. There are Hamas terrorists who shot and can kill you. You jeopardize your lives.
P: We have been there for four days and before the tanks entered streets were in peace.
S: Perhaps this day is the last day in your lifes.
S: Get out from here. Go away now!
By the way, in Qabatiya, two kilometers from Jenin on the road to Nablus, tanks came to the town (16000 population) also from the direction Nablus/ Al Faraa. They were running the streets and shooting all the night of Aug 27th, and finally at 3.15 in the morning demolished a house in the town, the one of the family of Haani Malek Zakarny, giving five minutes for their residents to get out but not to save their belongings. In that house lived 15 members of the family. The reason was supposedly that a 16 teenager belonged to this family. he was killed by the israeli fores six months ago in a shooting when he tried to enter Israel to carry out some kind of armed attack. his attack then never toke place. The parents had advised to the israeli authorities about the intentions of their son. They tried that the boy was not killed. He was, and the family were advised in turn that their house will be demolished in about six months, which is now.
To undersand the cruelty of the punishment the demolition of a house means, we have to know that a normal family works and saves money for 15 to 30 years to build their house. The house is more than a residence or property, it is normally the only property, the result of a work of decades and the personality of the family and their ancestors.
On 28th the breader of our district, a 60 years-old man, was arrested by the soldiers in the tank convoy simply by "violate the curfew" openinig some minutes the breadery to get some of food for the day. Remember that many people live in the shops or business premises being their houses previously demolished.
2. Arrivals. Transport of the medical goods. Travel to Jenin (25...27 / 8 / 2003)
In the Ben Gurion airport a Paz Ahora colleague who returned to Spain the day we arrived was denied to fly because other of our colleagues accompanied her to the airport adouane. The airport security considered suspicious this fact and interrogated and checked body and baggage of him, who was not going to fly. Our colleague was not allowed to fly until next day, when she had to pay another ticket.
During the transport of the medical goods from Jerusalem and Ramallah to Jenin the pass of the truck, its load and the driver was blocked in the Majsom Gitit checkpoint, in spite of our presence and documened justification. Our group continued to Jenin where we asked the municipality to try again the transport with truck with an israeli number plate.
Finally after long burocracy the pass of the goods was allowed and the medical equipments were deliveed to the Suleiman Hospital. We are witnesses that the need of haemodyalisis instruments (specially catalyzer filters) was so urgent that the first new patient entering the department needed to use one of the filters just delivered.
3. Meetings with the Hospital and Municipality authorities
In an interview recorded in video with the director of the hospital the technical situation and the medicine and equipment stock and delivery needs has been recorded. Also there are interviews with the administrative director and the major of the Jenin Town Municipality. The major explained us the most urgent needs of the Town Council particularly those related to basic services (disinfectation, street cleaning, public transport, etc.). Then he invited us to cooperate in future projects and also accepted our invitation for a meeting in Madrid, with his presence and the one of other two persons of the municipality. We also introduced to him the possibility to assist to the euromediterranean meeing to be held in Madrid during this winter.
4. Visit and meeting with responsibles of the Born- Blind Association of Jenin District.
On Aug. 26th we visited the site of the Born- Blind Association of Jenin District, a nonofficial and self-financed organization which carries out activities of teaching, care, feeding and other to dozens of born-blind people in the municipality and its influence area (around 250000 population). They explained us that one of the priorities was the dotation of Braile language writing machines which cost is practically prohibitive for them, thus allowing to own very few unities (apparently 6 to 8). Also they explained us the present works to build a garden in the surroundings of the site.
5. Visit to the Refugee Camp of Jenin, where massacre and massive house demolitions were performed by the israeli army in april 2002
We have collected a small video report of the situation of the "zero-zone", the area resultant of the raids of the israeli army in spring 2002 when more than 70 people were murdered, hundreds injuried in diverse degree and dozens of families lose their homes.
Many of these families were refugied in the camp from the expropiation of their properties inside the present borders of Israels state (mainly Haifa). When their homes in the camp, rented by another owners, were destroyed, they go through a new refugement process to live to the homes of their friends in Jenin city. In some cases our neighbours in the city tell us that all the family lives now in the family business premises (shops, workshops, etc.) with the few furniture saved from the bulldozers or tanks, and crowding in the floor of these premises.
The UN are taking the responsibility for the rebuild of the camp houses. For the moment the area has only been leveled out.
6. Visit to the Refugee Camp of Al Faraa and meeting with persons and associations
Invited by Nedal S., who has helped the population of this refugee camp created in 1950 with different activities (mediating with NGO like PCWF in medical and financial assistance, sponsoring of children, mantaining the Refugee Camp Website, working with the youth associations in the town...).
We were informed that the camps created by the UNWRA and other international institutions are sited in lands rented to third part landowners. The rental is performed for a period of 95 years which was considered exceedingly enough to assume solved the conflict and the situation of refugees at its term. Counting from the first moment in 1950 this forecast seems not to be very exact.
We visited also one of the ssociations with greater activity in the camp, the Boy Scout Association. Given the lack of a Council in the refugee camps, the urgent needs of the population must be solved by the direct effort of the residents and small organizations like women or neighbourhood groups. The oy Scouts have a certain reeance in Palestine given that they are founded in 1918 being the older NGO in Palestine. Apart from other considerations it becomes clear that this kind of youth groups are helping the families with care to ill people, teaching sports and jobs, and substituting in a certain degree the lack of governmental funding and programs. For example, in the camp, relative far from Jenin and Nablus, specially with the roads destroyed by the israeli army, there is no hospital and just one school.
After the first contact with people of this groups, telling us their needs and projects, we leaved the camp.
7. Invitation by the Nablus An Najah National University
We were invited by the responsible of the Youth Exchange Program (ZAJEL) in the An Najah University, Alaa Y. Unfortunately we were not able to go, since the road from Jenin to Nablus has been destroyed by the army and the rest of the ways passed by Jenin, under total siege that day. Hours ago we were noticed also that israeli tanks came both from Jenin and Nablus to the town of Qabatiya...
We thank Alaa his invitation and assumed the compromise to contact and / or visit the ZAJEL directority as soon as possible. We undestand Nablus is suffering specially the repression and the punishment of the israely army, which tries to disconnect the north from the south by reducing the influence of (more clearly, destroying) the important and geographically centered city of Nablus.
8. Contacts with different organizations in Qabatiya
The impossibility both to return to Jenin and to travel in direction to Nablus gave us the only chance to stay in Qabatyia, only 4 km far from Jenin. The town were rounded by tanks in all directions. Again the extraordinary hospitality of the palestinian population under israeli military occupation was evidenced. We contacted in a short while with organizations sited in the town, like the Arab American University, the Latin Church School of Qabatyia or the Town Association of Support to Disabled People. In particular the Latin Church School is trying to increase their activities with the creation of a Laboratory of Languages. We were told by teachers of the University that many people in Qabatyia and Jenin are interested in learning languages in the school, which now is not possible without the laboratory. We think that this could be managed for future projects.
We must remark again the way the palestinian population functions in their heroic resistance to the unhuman occupaton and violence and destruction they suffer from the state of Israel. We arrived Qabatyia knowing nobody. In few minutes a coffee shop owner, a PNA policeman and some other people invited us to have a tea and smoke argila, in the coffee shop we met the people of the University, palestinians and american. Later, when we told them we would pass the night in Al Faraa one of the young people told us that it was very dangerous, because they knew that the army was coming from the two directions and it was better for us to stay that nignt in the town. This was by all means very reasonable and we accepted. The person of the Association of Disabled eople invited himself to have dinner and sleep in his house and then to have breakfast and showed us the demolished house quoted in the paragraph 1. We visited and give our condolences to the affected family, who lose their home and all their belongings.