It started out as a normal Saturday morning. We were hanging out in Ibdaa Cultural Center in Deheishe refugee camp in Bethlehem. I had plans to leave later to visit friends in Al Quds and was hanging out with friends here. We were all sitting in the cafe at Ibdaa, which is on the fourth floor and has windows around three sides of the building. We were drinking coffee, chatting, watching television and all of a sudden there was a loud sound like a grenade or a bomb. We rushed to the window and all we could see at first was smoke rising up from the street about a block away. One by one we watched Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) invade the street surrounding Deheishe and then across the street in the Doha neighborhood where a few of the IOF jeeps parked in front of a house and then went inside, to arrest someone the Abu Akkar family. Then several of these tanks and jeeps came down the main Jerusalem-Bethlehem road and stopped in front of Deheishe. The shebab started throwing stones at the IOF jeeps and then the shooting started. For 5 hours the shebab (youth) threw stones at the jeeps and the IOF soldiers fired live ammunition, including steel rubber-coated bullets (which are just as lethal as the regular kind) and tear gas grenades, all of which injured 5 people from the camp. In the middle of this all a huge Caterpillar bulldozer came down the road and went up towards the house in Doha, which we thought was going to be used to demolish the house (thankfully it did not). But the soldiers were in there for the entire 5 hour period and they took some political prisoners away.
The entire day was filled with intense sounds as no cars drove down this normally very busy street. All the shops closed their doors and only the shebab took to the streets and wielded huge stones at the IOF tanks in and around Ibdaa. The soldiers moved into second floor of the shops across the street from the camp where they installed their snipers directly facing Ibdaa. The only sounds we did hear were the squeak of the Caterpillar bulldozer tearing up the streets, the whistles of the shabab signaling to one another, the screech of the grenades flying through the air, the incessant sound of bullets flying at Deheishe. In the end “18-year-old Nedal Abed Al-Fattah Issa Faraj was shot in the left leg, 22-year-old Ghassan Afif Al-A’zzah was shot in the hand, and 12-year-old Abdullah Nayif Jadallah was struck by a tear gas canister. Adham al E’wewee was shot with a rubber-coated metal bullet, and Yahya al Afandi was also struck by a tear gas canister.” A friend was hit by a rubber bullet but not injured. The Ibdaa bus has 27 bullet holes in it as it was parked downstairs, outside the center, as do businesses and cars parked around the entrance to the camp. When the IOF left people turned to the streets showering the jeeps with stones and collecting the shrapnel left behind.
Normally when the IOF comes into Deheishe to kidnap political prisoners or to keep Palestinians terrorized they do this in the wee hours of the morning, at least when I’ve been here. I have never seen such an all out onslaught on Deheishe, though it has happened many times before. The entire episode seemed unplanned as if the army was primarily here to kidnap Palestinians but when the shabab started throwing stones as their mode of resistance they unleashed a tremendous amount of fire power. The most powerful sound of today was the sound of the IOF leaving the camp with the shabab filling the street hurling a clatter of the stones that hit the jeeps as the pulled out.
A friend recently went to Gaza where she learned that Israel has banned anesthesia from Gaza. A very obvious sign that they want the Palestinians to suffer, to feel pain. Today was just one more example of this.
Photos to come soon (WordPress isn’t allowing them now…)