April 2002

Tuesday 2nd April, 2002
I have little time to write. Please see www.jerusalem.indymedia.org. I fear there is about to be a massacre here. Bethlehem is a closed military zone. The local freedom fighters are being rounded up in fierce gun battles and being driven back to Manger Square.

Wednesday 3rd April, 2002
17.12: Curfew was lifted for a few hours so I went to check on our people in the hotel (rousing cheer upon my entrance!) Some I spoke to said they would not go out, despite the fact that I had been walking through the area with no trouble. Picked up some food and two volunteers to help me try to get an ambulance in to help the wounded in Manger Square. Got some volunteers from Azza camp to help.

While making arrangements two tanks and an APC passed by. Have been offline for over 24 hours – most frustrating! We have been working non-stop for the last few days with little sleep and no food. We are trying to find a way to get some supplies but there are snipers everywhere, so even going out is a little tricky.

For the updates of what is happening it is best to look at our website as there is not enough room nor enough time for me to put everything here. We have had the most phenomenal response from people around the world. I have been interviewed on radio and TV including stations from the UK, the US, Colombia, Australia, Austria. The others here (another Brit, two Americans and a Palestinian) have been trying to get as much truth out as possible. It is so hard though as we have difficulty in corroborating reports.

I am particularly concerned about the Manger Square situation; there was heavy shooting at about 7.00am and I know there are people trapped there. I don’t know how long this siege is going to last. We are still under curfew although a few nurses braved the streets this morning.

Thursday 4th April, 2002
I have had so little opportunity to write about what is happening here. I know that we are getting some good press coverage, which is great (I have been interviewed on TV and radio worldwide now) but I am more concerned about the lack of intervention or assistance. All I hear is “terrorist this” and “terrorist that” from Israeli spokes people.

Last night I was on Channel 4 news and before me that obscene Israeli spokesperson, Ranaan Gissin, claimed that they are not targeting civilians. I was able to report about the man who has spent the last two days with the dead bodies of his wife and son in their home. They were killed by Israeli fire. No ambulances were allowed to evacuate the dead. We, as internationals, received a plea to try and gain access to the building but the situation has been too dangerous. Thankfully, late yesterday a vehicle was eventually allowed access. Another elderly man was shot and had half his head blown off; a journalist friend of mine called me from the hospital to tell me how sick he felt.

We have run out of food. Heather, Sarah and Sean have gone now and I was not impressed to receive a call from Sarah who was eating chicken stew while I looked hungrily at our IMC-PAL puppy’s dried food. Seriously though, so many homes have little or no food.

In Ramallah it’s worse as some neighbourhoods have no running water or electricity. The journalists are getting kicked out and even those that are still here are being prevented from giving the full picture. We’re all fair game to the Israelis.

I want to correct a few things that are appearing on the media:

1) The internationals who were evacuated yesterday left entirely of their own volition.

2) There are also civilians in the Nativity church who fled there after the Israelis started to shell the area. (It is densely populated and the families felt safer in the church.)

3) The Palestinian resistance fighters are not holding ANYONE hostage.

4) The priests, nuns and monks who are there are attempting to administer aid to the injured.

5) There was some form of attack on the building, probably by shell fire.

Actually, I could write pages and pages but I do not have the time or energy to do so right now.

Friday 5th April, 2002
Bethlehem 6.00: Firstly, I wanted to say thank you so much for the many emails I have had from people who have happened to come across this journal. I don’t know how you found it. I started it as a sort of ‘postcard’ for friends back home to know what I was up. In the past few days I have had so many messages from around the world expressing solidarity and support for what we are doing here. Thank you.

Just got up, managed about five hours sleep – hurrah! Don’t feel so jubilant having checked our news for info so I am ready for the barrage of interviews that I will no doubt be doing. Israeli shooting at the Church of the Nativity has left nine men dead. Nine more martyrs. Nine widows perhaps, nine families grieving and brimming up with hate and despair. How long is this going to go on for? Wake up world. How many people said they didn’t know what was happening in Germany? How many times does history have to repeat itself?

I am almost too tired to relate any information. We have been doing virtually non-stop radio and TV interviews since the invasion and I am exhausted. Exhausted mentally and physically. I don’t know how many more accounts of the tragedy, death and destruction I can take. I am also angry, really fucking angry. What other country could do this, could be allowed to do this? How many armies in the world could surround, starve and try to kill the elected leader of the people there? Israel has tanks, F15s and 16s, Apache helicopters, heavy armaments and they are trying to slaughter a people. And the politicians do little. Bush, Blair, do they realise? Have they got an inkling of how civilians are being abused and killed? ARGHHHHHH.

We heard from two Brits who left, sadly one of them received the news earlier his week is father had died. He had been prevented from leaving by the Israeli forces for over two days. When they got to Heathrow they had to be escorted away by police as they had been “abused” on the plane. What sort of world do we live in where people attack others like this just for trying to uphold basic human rights?

You truly would not believe what is happening here. It is vile, disgusting, reprehensible, immoral. And all George Bush can talk about is poor Israel besieged by terrorist. Israel is the terrorist.

Tuesday 9th April, 2002
8.50: Got a call from John at the hospital to say that some men had been released. I went over and called three others so that we could walk with them back to their homes. Of course, when the detainees are released they do not get a lift back home, nor are their families contacted to let them know they are alive. They are just dumped somewhere. Sometimes, if curfew is still in place like this morning, they can be re-arrested for being on the streets.

We walked the long way back to Beit Sahour and the streets were deserted. Eerie feeling. It was too quiet. We got them home without trouble though. I spoke to one who told me there are about 1,000 men still detained. This includes old men. I didn’t get the opportunity to ask more, like if they were given adequate food and water. Curfew remained in place all day.

I have managed to retain a relatively jolly demeanour, despite the gruesome news that keeps coming through to us, but it tends to last only when I am fairly busy. The last few hours have been quite static and there are quite a few people in the office at the moment. I am not used to being in such close proximity with so many people for such extended periods of time.

We snuck across the roof this evening to another office to use their cooking facilities, which are far better than ours, so I have snuck back whilst there is no one in our office for some solitude. The interviews are drying up; the internationals being here is yesterday’s news now so the attention has dwindled. As for the army, I do not know what their intentions are but I feel that this situation cannot continue for too much longer. At least, I hope not.

The food supplies have almost been exhausted and there is no fresh food to speak of. A bakery did manage to produce some bread today but I imagine the flour etc is running low. The shops have been stripped of canned and dried foods, and there are only packets of biscuits and some sweets left. Not that the shops were open today. Yesterday, when curfew was briefly lifted, people went out in their masses to replenish what foodstuffs they had at home. The shops were mobbed.

The news from Nablus, where five of the group managed to reach last night, is particularly grim. Jenin, as we have no one there yet, I imagine is even worse. We have had information that is just too appalling to even think about. Bodies are strewn throughout the cities and cannot be collected by medical teams. Nor can any of the injured. Reports from a doctor in Nablus tell us of people dying through lack of medical assistance. Despite the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israeli forces are denying safe passage to the emergency medical services.

Bethlehem 08.30: I am not actually too sure what the day or date is to be honest. I can only tell whether it is day or nighttime. Living under a military invasion like this is really strange. While I live here I do, of course, have the privilege of being a foreigner: having a British passport means I probably won’t get shot, at least not in the shoot to kill sort of way. We did have a lot of shooting at or around our building yesterday afternoon. A tank was holding an ambulance ‘hostage’ by just sitting in the road, pointing its muzzle at it. The shots then rang out for about five minutes.

Last night, when I wanted to write up my journal, I had so much I wanted to say, but now it seems to have disappeared. It is like a being in a really bad dream, or some sort of stupid movie. There isn’t a feeling of reality.

Yesterday curfew was lifted for a few short hours so I walked to Beit Sahour, with two friends, to liberate my laptop. (We have had the most awful internet access difficulties which has affected our ability to report quickly about what is happening.)

I had called the DCO (District Commanding Officer) earlier to ask if and when curfew would be lifted. The loudspeaker announcements made from the jeeps are, of course, in Hebrew. After a great deal of questioning I was told that I couldn’t be given that information as I may be a terrorist planning an attack.

At first, a few people trickled on to the street. Then, it was if a floodgate had opened. Hundreds and hundreds of people appeared. Cars were dashing across town and some of the food shops had opened. There was a really surreal feeling in the air. Crowds were gathering, talking and exchanging news. This has been the first time in seven days that people have felt safe to venture out. Even then it wasn’t that safe. One could hear the odd shot ring out, and the area of Manger Square and the Old City remained under curfew. Those who tried to make it out were shot at.

The shops were mobbed with people stocking up. Some families must have been desperately low on supplies. The shops were stripped of all their goods very quickly, and there is little hope of any supplies coming in to the area so we have to stick it out. I picked up some food for our office so we will be OK for the time being. The three of us sat in my garden eating a salad. Five minutes up the hill from my house there are over 250 people trapped in the oldest functioning church in the world. It felt really strange.

The accounts we are receiving from areas such as Nablus and Jenin are enough to make anyone shudder, unless one is called Ariel Sharon. What the Israelis are doing is mindless. The wanton violence and destruction is too disgusting for words. They are committing war crimes daily, yet Powell goes to Morocco. I was pleased to her that the King berated him for not traveling here first. There is a great deal of propaganda and dis-information in the press, which is par for the course. I have had a few conversations with a reporter from Ha’aretz, but even that paper, which usually does have some balance and truth to their reporting has been helping to propagate the lies and the spin. We have had so many calls from so many people that we haven’t really thought about who we are talking to. Perhaps some of the calls aren’t genuine, I don’t know.

Wednesday 10th April, 2002
13.00: There is a blimp hovering over the top of Nativity Church at the moment – we are watching it live on TV. Neta called me from the mokat’a (Arafat’s compound) to tell me that the army has recommenced bombing the buildings. It is strongly felt, by many including me, that the next 24 hours will be critical. The Israelis cannot withdraw from Bethlehem and Ramallah. Jenin and Nablus are different; they are just bombing the fuck out of those places with little interference, but in Ramallah there is Arafat and a load of internationals in his compound and we have 236 people in Nativity Church. Will they just walk away from this? I cannot imagine that they will.

I have had a variety of hate calls over the last few days. They are really quite pathetic and do not trouble me much. What does trouble me is the blind willingness of these people to just accept what Israel says or does without taking the trouble to understand or listen to the ‘other side’.

One chap from England was particularly angry (he left a message on my answer phone as I hung up on him twice). He demanded that I take my protesting friends to stand on street corners in Israel, outside bars and restaurants, outside kindergartens, etc, to protect Israelis from being blown up. I wonder if he has ever thought, just once, why this is happening? I wonder if he has ever considered what is happening to Paelstinians as immoral or wrong, the same way he demands that I consider the rights of Israelis. I do actually try to be objective and do care about all lives. He, on the other hand, does not appear to afford some humans the same respect.

This damned invasion has caused me to take up smoking again, something I am not particularly pleased about but the stress is awful. Another ‘quiet’ day in Bethlehem; a little shooting and the columns of military vehicles still rumble past. Curfew has been lifted in Beit Jala but not in Bethlehem. We have very little food left. Just finished the frankfurters.

Thursday 11th April, 2002
08.41: Many local people were expecting something to happen overnight at the Church of the Nativity. Nothing did. In interviews I keep getting asked “what do you think will happen” and “when will the Israelis withdraw?” I don’t know what to think really. I wonder if they will withdraw from some areas but keep hold of others? They cannot leave either Ramallah or Bethlehem until the two standoffs have been ‘resolved’. (I hate to think what Sharon’s idea of resolved is.)

I hope that curfew will be lifted today; if nothing else I would really like to have a shower and get some clean clothes. Most people, obviously, have been confined to their homes but at IMC-Palestine we’re living and working out of an office so no hot showers, no beds and no clean clothes! We are also rather low on food, but I fear that any stores that do open (curfew lift permitting) will have very limited quantities of food left.

I want to go to Nablus but I have two fears. One, I think I’d feel as if I am abandoning people here. I live here, this is my home now, and I’m part of the community. I would feel awful if I left for a few days to find that something dreadful happened I wasn’t here in solidarity with my friends and neighbours. And two, deportation. That is always a worry, and as the internationals have really embarrassed the Israelis and shown them for what they are, they are very happy to find ways to get rid of us. I know some people who have already been refused entry in to the country and ten of the French group, including Jose Bove the anti-MacDonalds farmer with the Asterix moustache, were deported last week. I live and work here, I have nowhere else to go, so I need to be a little more careful.

Friday 12th April, 2002
Another day and the usual bangs, booms and bombs. There was a massive explosion earlier this morning, the building shook to the foundations. We had to get to the hotel as there had been a food delivery from the UN yesterday. They very cleverly deposited desperately needed food rations in to a lock up near the Star Hotel but there didn’t seem to be a distribution network set up. A couple of the locals asked us to help as they couldn’t take it themselves for fear of being shot on sight.

As we walked to the hotel we saw a thick plume of smoke rising ahead of us. There were a couple of jeeps and the soldiers stopped us and told us we couldn’t go through. They didn’t tell us not to be outside, although curfew hadn’t been lifted, so we just walked the longer way.

When we got to the hotel we found that a small group had already managed to make a start. They had walked a fair way in before being challenged and when they were, the soldiers had not been violent or antagonistic toward them. In fact, they seemed quite willing to allow us to proceed with our mission. We all grabbed more sacks and some boxes of milk powder and took them to a point inside the old city where the soldiers had said we should wait. We started some negotiations to allow us to take the foodstuffs in by hand, which seemed to be going rather well, until the Red Cross turned up.

I have already had a few “run ins” with certain staff members. I have been working with the Red Crescent and arranged for internationals to accompany ambulance crews as they felt a little more secure with our presence. The Red Cross official was not pleased, and made it very clear to me, yet she has nothing to do with the daily running of the Red Crescent. She has a rather irritating attitude: full of self-importance and it always seems as if there is a bad smell under her nose.

I had called the District Commanding Officer to see if he was willing to assist us in some way. He seemed perfectly happy to speak to me and I explained that if we were out on the streets with all this food and curfew was lifted we would be mobbed and it would be very dangerous for his soldiers. He understood and spoke to one of the soldiers to explain the position. The Red Cross had already appeared at that point and had spent about half an hour faffing with two women just talking on the phone all the time. So much for helping the needy in times of crisis. People are starving and all they could do was flounce about with their “just walked out of a salon” hairdos.

To cut a long, and boring, story short, the Red Cross effectively told us to go. They had three jeeps, one of which was empty so we asked them to come to the warehouse and fill up with as much of the supplies we had. They refused and in fact, the woman in charge just shouted at us. At that point I angrily shouted back at her that this was no time to be bickering pointlessly when people are starving, and didn’t she have anything better to do.

Later, curfew was then lifted and Heather and I spent ages fighting our way through the little supermarket for some food. There was one totally irritating journalist who waved three bottles of wine in the air and demanded to be served before everyone else. He was standing behind me and was most unpleasant. Pushing old women out of the way is utterly obnoxious and he should have been ashamed of himself, but of course he wasn’t.

Saturday 13th April, 2002
This morning felt far more tense than yesterday. We had organised to do another food drop, or attempt to, so our small gaggle of renegade internationals (I am sure that some people think of us in this way) dutifully arrived at about 10am. We decided to go earlier, just in case our friendly Red Cross officials were coming in to town today.

We were fortunate that the BBC turned up just before we were leaving, so Jeremy Bowen asked if he could join us and very kindly gave us a hand carrying stuff. Then, Channel 4 appeared just as we were setting off so not to be outdone, they also joined in, too. (We made the Channel 4 evening news, again!)

We walked down a narrow road that meets one of the main lanes in to the old city centre. It was almost deserted but a few faces did poke out. We carried on as the sounds of war reverberated around us. Ahead, probably no more than two streets forward, we saw the twisted and torn wreckage for a car flying 50 feet in to the sky. The soldiers had been systematically blowing up anything in the roads this morning and smoke was slowly rising from various areas of the town.

The street we were in was relatively unscathed by the onslaught that has raged here for almost two weeks. We moved forward cautiously, we could hear shouting in Hebrew, and rounded a corner that took us right into the heart of the town. I was utterly speechless.

I felt as if I had walked on to a film set. There was a pick up and two cars in front of us, all wrecked and one still on fire. We started calling out “hello” and “we have food.” Partly so that the Israeli soldiers could hear that it was just a bunch of stupid foreigners. A face, then another, appeared at a balcony a few dozen yards ahead of us. To start with they beckoned us, then waved us, then beckoned us again. They desperately needed food and the old woman came out toward us so one of the group took her a sack. Brave woman, the soldiers were only yards away.

We dithered a little, which was stupid of us, and it allowed more people to notice us. Suddenly, there were people appearing in doorways and coming toward us, young boys shouting and rushing at us. The sacks and boxes we had were gone in seconds but we were concerned about the people coming outside and drawing attention to the situation; it made it so dangerous for us all. Suddenly, the shooting was toward our position so we had to beat a very hasty retreat. I had tried to get the people back indoors, as I hoped that, if we kept things calm and stable, we might have been able to come back at least once more. Sadly, we couldn’t. It was far too risky for everyone.

Later, a convoy headed by the DCO’s jeep passed through to the old city. In the convoy were cars with Italian flags on so one of our group, an Italian, called the embassy to see why they were there. They were bringing more food with the UN. I hope that some more of those desperate people managed to get some food today.

One of the journalists, an Arab, asked if I would go with him to deliver some medicine to an old woman with a heart problem. I agreed and enlisted the four others who were coming back to the office to come too. Another convoy arrived as we walked in so we actually had some protection. The woman’s home was not to far in so we were able to get in and out quickly.

Tuesday 16th April, 2002
19.00: It appears that a preliminary assualt is being made on the Church of the Nativity. As the Israeli army took over the Star Hotel earlier today, the only vantage point from which one can see Manger Square, there will be little footage or reporting available. I spoke to friends around the area, plus a call to those inside, and the situation sounds very grim.

There was a sustained attack for about 20 minutes or so, many loud explosions and a lot of gunfire. The sounds of attack have been interspersed by the sounds of fireworks from neigbouring Gilo, built on land stolen from Beit Jala and now masquerading as a suburb of West Jerusalem. The Israelis are celebrating independence day. I wonder how many of them think, or even realise, the tragic cost to other peoples freedom and lives their ‘independence’ has brought? Judging by the things I have seen and heard these last few weeks, nowhere near enough.

Groups of internationals have been marauding around the West Bank attempting to provide humanitarian assistance and bring in food and water to try and alleviate the suffering of so many thousands of Palestinians caught up in this hideous attempt by Sharon to beat them in to submission. Twenty of them were just attacked, by the Israeli army. I still do not have all the details but there are reports of broken fingers and bloodied individuals. They were kicked and beaten, including being struck with rifle butts. Sharon mentioned in a speech recently how the Israelis, despite everything, manage to “remain humane”. I wonder when that was?

A funny thing happened on Sunday night. I got arrested. I escaped to Jerusalem for a couple of meetings, to see friends and to have some respite, even if just for a few hours. I was walking through the old city with an old friend of mine from England. He’s a photographer and well used to the joys of life here. We passed by a group of eight border police and were called over. I must confess I ignored them and carried on walking. “Hey, lady, over here now.” I walked over to find John being confronted by an aggressive, antagonistic bufoon.

He demanded our passports, which neither of us had on us. John gave him his driving licence and his press card. He started shouting about he is the security whether it is here (old city), or West Jerusalem or Israel or anywhere. He then said that he was not like the British police. John demanded his rank, ID number and name, something that he is obliged to give if asked. He refused and ranted some more and made several comments in Hebrew to which his cronies smirked. Then he said that we were both under arrest so John said “fine, take us and get the judge,” sticking his arms out to be cuffed. He shouted at me “what is your name,” which I refused to give. I asked one of his colleagues if they thought this was fun. No response.

A couple of the others did look slightly sheepish and one of them then intervened. He spoke to John whilst I stood watching the debacle, biting my lip. I had not just spent two weeks in Bethlehem, breaking curfew, having guns and tanks pointed at me, and being shot at to be arrested in Jerusalem. I was furious. This is exactly the display of arrogance and disdain that encourages hostile feeling. I felt like punching his stupid, ugly face.

Wednesday 17th April, 2002
A slightly surreal day. Went to the Star Hotel, which is full of journalists and Israeli soldiers. As we approached we were only asked for our passports, then allowed past. The soldiers seemed totally unconcerned by our presence. There was no communication between us but there was no animosity either. We were in our world and they were in theirs. The journalists were all sitting around drinking, eating, listening to music–one wouldn’t know there were people being killed or prevented from receiving the most basic humanitarian assistance a few yards away.

As we prepared to leave there was a shift change and an APC arrived to deposit the next load of conscripts. I have never seen so much luggage in my life, not even at a catwalk show. There were bags, rucksacks, boxes, tons of stuff. Many of the photographers were outside, getting their shots. I took some pictures too, but had to restrain my laughter. It all seemed rather comical. Journalists I’ve seen on the streets with their hands in the air whenever any military machine rumbles past, taking the opportunity of close up pictures with no fear of reprisal. The soldiers totally ignored the intrusion.

I had been given an envelope via a Jewish man from Jerusalem who used to employ a Bethlehemite in the days before the second Intifada. It contained $100 and I was asked if I could try to deliver it to him. I rang the man it was from to let him know it was in my possession and that I was going to attempt to get it to his friend. He told me that he was so worried and that the man in question is a good man. He thanked me for my efforts and expressed his appreciation for what I (we) have been doing here. He sounded very sad. It may have been a brief conversation but his feelings were conveyed in a very tangible way. I felt heartened by his obvious humanity, but felt sad too that there are so many people who feel only hatred and do not see that there are so many lives are being destroyed by this conflict.

Friday 19th April, 2002
Yesterday morning, as a group of us were attempting to get food in to the Nativity Church (which we didn’t, of course) I received a telephone call from a very distraught woman whose husband had undergone open-heart surgery a few weeks ago. They live by the Peace Centre, right on Manger Square. She was very, very worried. He had run out of medication and was becoming very poorly and she begged me to try to help. After I hung up, one of the journalists came over and said that he had overheard my conversation and that he was a family friend. He, too, asked me to try and do something.

I rang a friend of mine, a doctor and a director of the Red Crescent, and asked him to call the family and to let me know what they needed. I spoke to him today and he told me that the man was indeed very ill and needed immediate attention, if not evacuation to hospital. I realised that my calling the DCO may have little effect so I managed to track down the number of Andrew White, envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I rang him, explained what I knew of the sick man and asked if he could try to intervene as he would probably have much more success at exerting pressure than I ever could. Funnily enough, and very usefully, it turned out he is a medic himself, so I gave him the family’s details for him to call them directly.

About two hours later Andrew called me. He was just on his way back from visiting the man and he told me that he had been in a very bad way and if he had not received appropriate medication quickly he could easily have died. It really was that serious. The army had been willing to allow him to visit, although they weren’t so keen that it had to be immediate but Andrew insisted. Thank goodness he did. The man now has the medication and, following a thorough examination, Andrew decided to let him remain at home but took some swabs for tests to be made. He told me that my calling him in had possibly saved his life.

This afternoon Donna and I took a tentative wander into the old city. It was awful. I hadn’t yet been to the part we wandered around and the damage was extensive: cars burnt out, the road ripped up, bullet holes in all the buildings, smashed doors and windows. Out of a side street came a little girl. She walked over to us and asked if I spoke Arabic. I couldn’t understand all of what she was saying but she wanted us to come to her house, she had gestured that someone needed help.

We got to her home, which was a few minutes further on. I asked if there were soldiers and she said no, they were further down. The door was riddled with bullets. Up three flights of dark, narrow steps brought us to another door which had been forced. Inside were her family.

It was a large family, the parents and six or seven children. I think there were eleven children in total, if I understood the mother, but pictures showed some who were adult and presumably lived nearby. Their flat was trashed. A computer was ripped apart, a television smashed. Bedding and furniture was strewn about and I worked out that the army had forced their way in. I had to call a friend to speak to the father in Arabic as I couldn’t make out all of what he was telling us.

At 4am this morning soldiers forced their way in. They proceeded to search the flat, which included throwing precious foods on the floor and damaging their possessions. The little girl who had brought us showed us her face and head. At least one of the soldiers had struck her and she had marks on her face and the back of her head. They needed some medication, for whom I’m not sure, but after about ten minutes hunting in the debris one of the boys found the prescription. I promised I would try to come back tomorrow with what they needed.

The family was so hospitable to us, despite what they had endured that day. The mother tried to give us food but I could not accept it, despite it being customary to do so. They had almost nothing left and I would rather offend them than take their food.

Sunday 21st April, 2002
Another excruciatingly boring and relatively unproductive day. Sarah and Heather have gone so I am in the office with different people making occasional appearances. I decided to go to Beit Sahour this morning, as I needed clean clothes and a shower in my own flat. This was my third visit home in as many weeks, very exciting!

I got a lift from one of the local drivers whose transporting various groups of press around. Getting there was fine, despite the curfew. Called in on one of my closest friends and had a spot of lunch. Chips! Then called my driver who was being prevented from leaving the hotel to collect me.

I sat in the deserted streets of Beit Sahour, deciding what best to do. Shall I walk the few miles and hope that I do not bump in to any tanks? The DCO drove by, obviously didn’t stop to give me a lift, but didn’t stop to hassle me either. Then there were two or three very loud bangs and some fairly intense gunfire, around the Nativity Church. (It is a short walk up hill from my flat to Manger Square.) Eventually managed to flag down a passing ambulance.

The old lady inside was having to feign illness to try and get to her daughter’s home in Beit Sahour. The daughter’s husband had died yesterday and the mother had been trying all day to reach her. Thankfully, one of the ambulances was happy to help and she managed to travel the four miles or so to be with her grieving daughter.

There has been very little movement around Bethlehem today. I was told that the news was reporting some withdrawal from this area but there is none. If anything it was worse today. I actually saw soldiers roaming the streets around Azza refugee camp. Usually they remain in their ‘safe’ APCs and tanks. Later I heard that a PFLP leader had been arrested in the area. Due to the increase in troop deployment I had to go straight to the office instead of trying to visit friends at the hotel. Tomorrow I hope to ride on the ambulances, anything to feel a little more helpful.

Monday 22nd April, 2002
20.00: Got out and about a bit today. Curfew was lifted for a few hours so I didn’t have to wander empty streets alone. I wanted to get the medicine to the family but there were soldiers outside the office so I had to wait until curfew was lifted before attempting to do so.

I found my way back to their home and went in. They were so happy to see me. The grandmother was also there and she had been told about my earlier visit. I don’t know if they thought I wasn’t coming back or not, I had said I would return on Sunday, but when she saw me with the bag of tablets she burst in to tears and hugged me. She was so distraught I almost started to cry with her. I spoke to the family for a short while and shared a cup of coffee with them. I certainly couldn’t refuse this time, especially as I had brought them what they needed.

13.00: Just looked out to see quite a few troops in the street, with one of the APCs that are used to transport detainees. I could not see if they had got anyone. Right outside an ambulance was stopped and searched at gunpoint. I took some photos but am not sure how well they will come out as I was trying to be as discreet as possible. I certainly have no desire in drawing attention to myself.

12.00: Had to go to the hospital to meet a couple who had very kindly got the medicine the family I met the other day needed. They arrived safely and, as I had heard that CPT was in Bethlehem I thought it would be good to try to link them up. (The couple are also from a Christian organisation.)

I had been told that CPT members were prevented from going to the Star Hotel so I took them the back way. We got to the university and found about ten soldiers in the road. We carried on walking and talking, pretending to be oblivious to their presence. From the university gates came one of the brothers I met the other day. CPT had sought refuge there! As we approached the soldiers, strangely, they just backed away and did not try to bother us. I left the couple there and came back to the office.

Fortunately, I walked the back way. I got back in and the Danish guys here told me that there were soldiers in the buidling opposite. (Coming the back way gives some cover so they hadn’t seen me.) So, at the moment, we are having to stay inside, although I have been told that the curfew will be lifted at 14.00.

I rand a friend at the hotel to let him know that we have soldiers in the area, especially as there is a Palestinian here. He told me that some of the press tried to go in to the old city and were stopped. Seventeen of them had their press cards taken and were sent back to the hotel.

Thursday 25th April, 2002
I have been very slack at updating my journal. It is a mixture of boredom, depression and general lethargy. Nothing much has changed here in Bethlehem, certainly in the last seven days. The curfew continues, with occasional lifts, most people are still imprisoned in their own homes, the Church of the Nativity is still besieged, the tanks continue to roll past.

I have been taking the opportunity to go out and about as much as possible, despite curfew. Each day I go to the Star Hotel, where all the journos hang out. Not so much to see them but to have a change of scene. And, if I time it right, I get a hot lunch too. Still, not the most exciting way to spend the day, but it is a welcome respite from sitting in the office.

I took some journalists on a tour of the old city this afternoon. I showed them all the damage: burnt out wrecks of cars, doors split apart by bombs, electrical supplies to homes ripped from the walls, bullet holes everywhere, water streaming along the streets, broken windows in every building. There has been so much wanton vandalism.

I took them as far as one can go to Manger Square. Today the two corpses of the martyrs were released; the soldiers used smoke bombs to prevent us witnessing anything. Nine young boys, aged 18 and younger, were also evacuated. They are now being detained for questioning.

The journalists were quite horrified by the scenes and the stories, and rightly so. Words cannot adequately describe the destruction of people’s lives here now. How Palestinians are supposed to talk ‘peace’ is beyond me. They have been ridiculed, humiliated and degraded by the Israeli army, and by Sharon. It seems as if he has such a personal vendetta against them. What has happened here, and throughout the West Bank, is a stain on Israel’s history. I imagine Gaza is next.

Friday 26th April, 2002
Another day of the same old, same old. Walked to Beit Sahour so got some clean clothes and a real shower. One of the journalists stopped me and asked where I was going. When I told him I was walking he said “but you don’t have a flack jacket!” Well, I haven’t got shot, yet……

One of my pastimes is hitching lifts with a friend of mine from here who is working with the journalists. We get stuff to take to family and friends who cannot leave their homes, such as food and medicine, and as we are in a press car we rarely get stopped.

Went with them when they were going to see Salah Ta’amary, the Palestinian negotiator for the fate of those inside the church. He has been given permission to see Arafat tomorrow at 10.00 to get his approval of the outcome of this week’s meetings. Four people came out today; two at 10.30 and two at 13.00. Two more were shot and detained. I have just been told that two of the four who did come out have been assassinated, as they were ‘fighters’. If that is true, then the negotiations are in serious jeopardy. It’s almost impossible to separate fact from fiction in these conditions, and people are so scared.

Back to the hotel. An IOF spokesman was going to give a press conference at the hotel so I decided to stay to record it. It also meant I could have a few glasses of wine, chill out a little and sleep in a bed! He cancelled it so I came back to the office. Wish I had stayed there now! Life in an office with a cold concrete floor is not that exciting.

Monday 29th April, 2002
I feel rather fed up. Nothing has changed here in the last four weeks, or if it has, it has been for the worse. The whole district is still imprisoned: curfew is constant bar a few hours here and there. Sometimes Beit Jala and Beit Sahour are given a few hours of freedom, but as Bethlehem seperates them people cannot visit friends who don’t live nearby, or move around apart from in the confines of their neighbourhood. It is wearing people out, me included.

Even though I have the ‘luxury’ of being able to break curfew, as a foreigner whom they assume is a journalist, it is still a little nerve wracking. Tanks thundering past a few feet away, soldiers in APCs pointing their guns, snipers who knows where.

One of the Israeli tank drivers’ favourite ‘games’ is slowing down then accelerating just as they draw alongside you. The nastiest, blackest smoke is spewed out from the tanks–quite disgusting and an arrogant display. There are also a variety of makeshift signs in Hebrew for them to follow as they keep getting lost. The one at Bab-isqaq is painted in large, red letters on the wall. It simply reads ‘traffic lights’.

I had to go to Jerusalem today. Firstly to take some papers to a lawyer acting on behalf of the municipality in respect of the latest land confiscations and also to collect some money from the Pontifical Mission who are providing emergency help for families with no money. I picked up $5,000: not something I was particularly happy walking around with, but I am also the only person who could possibly do so. It will help, but not that much. So many families are penniless it will take a great deal more than that to help them. Still, it is better than nothing and there is little else being done for people here at the moment.

More curfew, killings, getting into the Church and betrayal

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