At about 2:00pm in the afternoon of Tuesday 20th November 2006
over 100 Israeli soldiers entered the town of Bethlehem, south
of Jerusalem and laid siege on a house believed to be occupied
Shareef Abu Hadeed, suspected by the Israeli authorities
an Islamic Jihadist.
At this time of day hundreds of children are leaving the three
nearby schools at the end of their school day. Many of them pass
through Manger Square, the scene of another bloody siege just
two years ago, on their way home. Given the open design of the
Square and the propensity of young people to congregate in such
places, what developed over the next four hours was unavoidable
and it could be argued, a part of the Israeli occupational plan.
This incursion onto Palestinian land was the second in two
weeks. The previous incursion saw the troops kill more innocent
children. Speaking with Palestinians, their opinion is that the
timing of these incursions are more than just coincidence. You
do the maths.
The soldiers surrounded Hadeed's house which was only a block
from the centre of the town. The wail of sirens, the blocking
off of streets and the general presence of the army is sure to
evoke some response. As is the tradition in Palestine, when
anyone's house is threatened, the local community rallies to
protect the occupants and the property. Far to often they have seen the brutality
of the Israeli's enacted on their family and friends.
With what can only be described as the monotonous regularity of
the coming together of two waring factions, the youths in the
square responded to the military action by doing what they
always do. Against the heavily armed and armoured soldiers - in
their bullet proof vests with heavy calibre rifles - the youths
began to gather stones to throw at the soldiers and their armour
plated jeeps and personnel carriers.
The youths, however, had a very regimented way of arming
themselves. While each took turns throwing stones, they also
took turns breaking up any rubble they could find. Failing any
rubble being available, they broke up the steps of the building
they were using as protection. The sounds of the two group's
weapons are distinct and totally different. To listen to the
differences between the two
CLICK HERE. I wonder which one you would rather face and who
is at the distinct disadvantage?
In like turn, the soldiers opened fire on the youths with rubber
bullets for the first few rounds. When this did not frighten
them away, they opened fire with live ammunition, concussion
grenades and tear gas. As in all these confrontations the
soldiers fire indiscriminately into the crowd, their prime
target is the head of their intended victim. The "kill shot" as
Hollywood refers to it.
So they boys threw rocks and the army fired at them. The local
media stringers, who have connections throughout the West Bank
and Gaza, were on the scene almost immediately after the troops
arrived. So quick on the scene were some of them that at the
day's end they could not get to their cars which were still
behind the Israeli perimeter.
What was unfolding just a block from Manger Square was the usual
intimidation and harassment the locals are used to - if you ever
get used to a constant state of siege. The soldiers took up
positions on the roof tops adjacent to the house the suspected
"terrorist" was supposed to be in and drove their armour plated
jeeps into the alley beside the house. Just to the left of the
house is a block of apartments in which the suspect's extended
Not only did they fire into the crowd of youths gathered well
away from the home, they also continually fired into the
apartment block. This correspondent saw numerous live rounds
hitting the front walls send out puffs of dust and splinters of
stone. What was happening to the mental state of the families
inside is beyond comprehension. It is, simply, state terror of the
highest order. There is no other word for it. The innocent men,
women and children who are caught up in these acts of invasion,
are simply "collateral damage" should they be wounded or killed.
However, the many cats that inhabit the streets seemed totally
unperturbed by the man made chaos going on around them. Running,
chasing and climbing trees was, seemingly, their main interest
while all around them terror reigned king.
After some time the suspect's brother was brought to the scene.
Handcuffed and roughly handled from the jeep he was transported
in, he was sent into the house to 'negotiate' his brother's surrender. He
went in and was out of sight for some time. When he emerged he
told the soldiers that his brother was not there.
This didn't please the military who directed another hail of
into the apartment block walls. Then the suspect's father
appeared. He too was ordered in. After a search of the rooms and
the roof top, he too declared that his son was not home. He
disappeared behind the into the run down building in front of us
that the soldiers had commandeered as their base and
After more arguing coming from inside the building to the
right of the journalists position, the man's father once more
emerged. He walked back to the house and went from room to room
opening up each curtain. He appeared on the balcony and took
down some shirts and a pair of pants that were drying in the
sun. He came out just a little while later and behind him came
the first of the women and children to emerge from their
Eventually 14 women and children were to emerge from the both
the house and the apartment block. One, a frail
older lady had to be helped up the path from the house and to
the interrogation centre. The family
members had to walk single file up the path to the detention
centre. They came out with dignity, holding the hands of the
children who could walk, carrying their babies in their arms.
The evacuation was a lesson in humiliation for the men, women
and children that day. Two men also came out of the apartment
block. As they approached the top of the path they were told to
stop. They both had to strip to show they were unarmed. The
first had to remove his jacket and lift up his jumper before
dropping his pants. The second had to repeat this. Both were in
full sight of the women and children. The only comment that can
be made about this is that it is nothing more than a act of
humiliation and degradation perpetrated for no other reason than
to show who has the power in this relationship.
Once the house and apartment were evacuated there was little to
do. We could hear the occasional volley of shots and concussion
greandes fired at the youths in Manger
Square. The day seemed over. Then, from behind the wall of the
building one of the women appeared. She told us she needed water
and the journalists were quick to respond in filling up some
bottles. She told us the army were "treating us like animals".
Some of the women had fainted, some needed medication. We could
hear the cries of the children coming from the house beside us.
We could hear the raised voices of the soldiers arguing with
their prisoners. The woman also told us that what made them leave their
homes was when the army told them they were going to bomb their
houses to the ground. For the lives of their children they fled
(Listen to clip).
Not long after she had taken the water word came through that
Hadeed had phoned a local TV station and told them "fuck the
Israeli army". It seemed the "intelligence" the attack was
predicated on was false, as much of it is. In Palestine there is
only one common enemy - the Israeli army. However, there is not
total agreement between either the political factions or the
religious groups. Some of the Muslim Palestinians hate the
Christians as much as some of the Christian Palestinians hate
them. Then there are other factions and long standing family
feuds to be reckoned with. So it is not impossible to believe
that some of the home invasions and raids like this one, are
motivated by revenge at some slight caused by another whose
faith or family loyalties are different than another's.
The day wore on and by 5:00pm it was obvious that there was
little more that would eventuate that day. What there was to do was
to go to the hospital where the wounded had been taken. Reports
had been circulated that 10 youths and one cameraman had been
wounded. Two of the youths were reported to be in a serious
condition. One was shot in the head, the other in the chest. We
commandeered taxis and moved to the hospital, through the check
points at which stood armed jeeps and their crews.
At the hospital there was pandemonium. Family and friends had
arrived and as the doctors worked furiously on the seriously
injured, the crowd swirled around them. Distraught men cried out
for their sons while their relatives held them back. One of the
two young men in the ER was seriously wounded in the arm. It
looked like half the meat from the top of his arm was missing.
He also appeared to have a leg wound. The other had been shot
through the leg. He was the lucky one perhaps. We couldn't see
much because the doctors ordered the hospital security to remove
us. We couldn't get to see the other victims either. The two
seriously wounded were in the operating theatres.
We returned to Manger Square to see what was happening there.
The crowd had thinned out as night and the temperature fell. The
crowd had managed to find a garbage skip and push it into the
centre of the road. They had pushed it on it's side and built a
fire from tires beside it. Maybe they were trying to emulate the
smoke screens used by the military to shield their movements.
By the time we had arrived the fire was burning down and the
soldiers had stopped firing. The youths seems a little less
active now and their stone throwing had dwindled along with
Another day was over. But the siege remained. The suspect was
detained later that evening at about 6:30pm. The previous few
hours had been a waste of time. Regardless of the inaccuracy of
the intelligence the army based their invasion on, two young men
were now critically injured. Thousands of dollars of weaponry
had been spent and hundreds of dollars of damage done to houses.
I would suggest the toll on the human psyche cannot be measured.
Many say the Wall is the problem. I disagree. The Wall is a
symptom as much as a cause. While many focus on the physical
structure, it has come to represent much more than that. It is a
symbol of a kind of imperialism that approaches fascism. It is a symbol of
the forgotten, the Palestinian people who want nothing more than
to be able to live out their dreams just as we do.
It is also a
reminder that our government has abandoned the international
human rights agreements they have signed. It is a reminder to
us, that without peace there can be no justice and without
justice there can be no reconciliation. Until the Wall comes
down and with it all it has come to represent, the events
of Tuesday the 20th November, 2006 will continue to be repeated.