At 7:30 tonight, about 2 hours ago, the Israeli military attempted to break into the Church of the Nativity. I got a phone call from a friend in Beit Jala who said she had just received a call from a friend inside the church. It seems this attempt lasted about half an hour.
April 16, 2002, 9:30 PM (in Palestine)
IDF Attacks Church of the Nativity
At 7:30 tonight, about 2 hours ago, the Israeli military attempted to break into the Church of the Nativity. I got a phone call from a friend in Beit Jala who said she had just received a call from a friend inside the church. It seems this attempt lasted about half an hour. This attempt was going on as I was talking to [my friend], and we had a conversation later, when she had found out that this had happened. When we were talking the first time, [before we knew what had happened], my friend was saying: “My gosh there has to be something going on over there! There is tons of shooting. There are a lot of explosions. Something is happening.” Sure enough, the Israeli military was indeed at that moment attempting to break into the Church of the Nativity by climbing over a wall on the Armenian side of the church. Now, the guys inside the church who have guns–which is not everyone–offered heavy resistance and forced the soldiers back out. I don’t know of any casualties or injuries. The report from inside the Church didn’t comment on that.
The Israeli military has been throwing sound bombs [percussion grenades] into the church for days such that the ears of the people inside are bleeding. Fortunately, a convoy of food got into the church today, so the people inside have some food. But the latest report is that there are 180 people inside comprised of families, one of the armed factions, and Palestinian Authority police. And there are approximately 30-40 priests, monks and nuns on top of that, totaling a bout 220 people. The important point to stress here is that there is not just a bunch of armed guys inside – there are a number of civilians inside, including the priests, monks and nuns. We need to get this report out, that the Israeli military for the f irst time tonight has attempted to break into the church – and they have been harassing everyone inside. Every night they shoot at the church. They start at about 3:00 am and they go until 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning. They are shouting on the loud speake r over and over again, day and night, all kinds of things at the people inside, psychologically torturing them. It’s fascinating to me that Christians of the world have refused to respond with a heavy hand to this vicious and barbaric attack on one of Christianity’s most holy sites in the world. They have allowed the Israeli military to continue shooting at this church, blowing holes in the sides of the wall to try to get in. They have also today burned completely one of the priests’ living quarters inside the church, with people inside, so there wasn’t a thing, not even a hair left inside – that’s what they said.
Christians of the world have chosen not to act thus that far in a very powerful and unanimous way, and now, because of that, the Israeli soldiers have made their first attempt to break in. It’s going to get worse. They have tried it once, it will get bigger and stronger the next time they try, if this situation is not resolved by forcing the Israeli military out
The situation in the Jenin Refugee Camp
Today, also, I talked to one friend Chivis, who is originally from Ohio. She has been in the Jenin Refugee Camp for the last few days doing whatever she can to help the people there. She is one of only a handful of internationals who are trying to actual ly help the people inside, unlike the Red Cross and other international organizations that continue to stand by while these atrocities are committed. She told me: “Today we walked through the streets and we were finding feet.” We also spoke with other friends that are staying in Jenin city, which is also under curfew and heavily bombarded still on a regular basis.
We tried to get into the camp today because yesterday, when we got in, we had the opportunity to hand carry in food and water from UN trucks from outside the camp inside the camp. The reason why we had to carry the food and water outside the camp was bec ause the Israeli military forced these two loaded trucks to just sit for 8 hours outside of the camp. They would not all ow them to enter to take food and water inside. So, only three of us were able to grab what we could and to bring it inside. Today we wanted to bring more internationals. We could create quite a significant impact by bringing a lot of water and food by hand. But the soldiers today forbade entry of any food, any water or any medicine that our international friends were trying to enter by hand.
The Israeli military continues to forbid people to bury their dead. There are dozens of bodies under the rubble. The Israeli military bulldozes homes on the top of the people who were still in their homes. I’m sure this is creating a massive health crisis for the people remaining in the camp and anyone in the surrounding area because flies and all kind of insects are eating these bodies and then they move on to the next place. The possibility for massive health problems in the camp and the surrounding areas, including the Israeli cities, is growing day by day. Even today our friends were trying to help one of the injured women from inside her home to get to the hospital, and the soldiers were shooting at them. There is no other way to describe it but continued genocide.
Village of 2000 has taken in 700 refugees
The Red Cross claims their communications with Israeli authorities have broken down and they are not able to do their work. But I have been here in Taybeh, outside of Jenin, where there has been no Israeli military and other villages around here where the re are thousands of Palestinian refugees from the Jenin Refugee camp. The [Red Cross] could have come here to visit those villages, bringing humanitarian aid, supporting the local councils who are housing, feeding, clothing and providing health care to these people. Not one single Red Cross member, to my know ledge, has shown up yet, and it has been well over a week now. Neither has the UN shown up. As far as I know, the only international organization that has shown up in these villages–which I might add are in the middle of any clashes– have been a few representatives from Amnesty International who brought lawyers with them, took statements from some of the refugees, and filed cases against the Israeli government. However, it is important to provide humanitarian aid to these people. Fortunately (the inhabitants of the surrounding villages) have done a marvelous job this far.
The current situation in Taybeh
As expected we had a kind of invasion today. At 4:50 a.m., four Israeli military jeeps came through the village by the main road. They had their sirens blaring and flood lights flying everywhere, shining at people’s homes, and they came through the village shouting over loud speakers: “People of Taybeh, you are not allowed to come out of your homes. If you come out of your homes, we will punish you.” And “punish” means one of two things: either they will be arrested and taken away to some unknown location, for an unknown period of time, where no one has access to them, or they will be shot.
This was at 4:50 this morning. We were all sound asleep. The soldiers were totally obnoxious as they came to the village. It was the most harrowing awakening that any of us have had in a long time. It was hysterical inside our house for several minutes while the Israeli military was going through. First we had no idea was going on. It was a very frightening experience for everyone even though we expected the Israeli military to come at some into our village. We have been under curfew all day today. We haven’t heard from the Israeli military since they came in at that point.
At Least 20 Internationals Detained
They have detained and arrested or deported–we are not sure–at least 20 internationals who were under their way to Jenin today from Taybeh. There are reports from two hours ago saying that the soldiers are on their way back to Taybeh. There have been some very strange things going on, a lot of explosions out in the distance, flashes in the sky that disrupted the phone service.
The Israeli military are after the press and foreigners right now in these areas. So we have actually to be careful. The group that was detained today was taken to Jerusalem, and we don’t know if they have been taken to Tel Aviv and been deported, or not. They are not hesitating to take foreigners and get rid of them.
Among the people who were taken today, one was a friend of ours, and she was staying in this house for the last couple of nights. She is Italian, a photographer, and a journalist. She was taken with them. People who have been taken are not, so far, part of the International Solidarity Movement.
* Brian Wood is one of two members of the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace joining internationals in nonviolent direct action to protest and end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. More on their trip at: www.ccmep.org/palestine.html