Since the 12th of August, when it was discovered that two suicide bombers who attacked a shop in Tel-Aviv and an illegal Jewish settlement near Nablus had come from the city's largest refugee camp, Askar, it has been impossible for the volunteers to work on the rebuilding of houses in the Old City that have been destroyed by the IDF since last April's invasion.
Overnight on the 13th-14th of August the IDF entered the city and destroyed the home of one of the suicide bombers- a flat in one of the many concrete apartment blocks that make up Askar camp. The next night the Israelis entered the city again to destroy the home of the second bomber. Both blocks had been evacuated in anticipation of the retaliation for the bombings. This seems to be the routine.
The Palestinians are refugees in their own country; dispossessed and made homeless in 1948 and again in 1967 and now, without country or the right to self-determination that they feel is theirs, losing more land and civil liberties to the infamous 'security' wall and Road Map. The IDF surround every major town in the West Bank and Gaza, checkpoints manned by armed IDF guards on all main roads. The length of the wait at the checkpoints seems to be down to the mood of the guard on duty- it can be minutes, hours or days. For the Palestinian people from the villages surrounding Nablus who come to the city to buy end sell food and other goods this makes day to day living an ordeal. One Israeli soldier grabbed a Palestinian man from the queue of people waiting to pass the checkpoint and told the group of Germans and Italians that we were with that he would make the man dance for us while we watched. There are endless similar abuses that have become daily occurrences.
Ironically, the in-fighting between the various militia groups and families in the city and the refugee camps has been as much of an obstacle to the volunteers as the Israeli incursion into the city. 3 days ago some from Balata refugee camp was killed in a fire-fight between militia from the camp and the Old City. The victim is rumored to have been one of a gang of 11 who raped a Palestinian girl.
Today the area of the city under curfew has been increased, Israeli troops patrolling further from the Old City. There are reportedly 40 Israeli tanks in the city centre and soldiers have been conducting intrusive house to house searches. 200 Palestinians and 2 internationals have been arrested in the last 36 hours, since Ariel Sharon's promise to disable Palestinian 'terrorist' organizations.
Tobias Singer, speaking on his talk show on Israel National Radio the bombing of the No. 2 bus in an 'ultra-ortodox' Jewish neighbourhood in Jerusalem said, "when you're dealing with the 'Arab world' you are dealing with a maniacal race, a cancer. The only way to get rid of a cancer is to cut it out."
On the same show he interviewed several Zionist Jews from the USA, all of whom called for Israel to stop appeasing the US government and use the force they believed necessary to, "retake our land".
Meanwhile the Hezbollah TV channel paid tribute to martyrs to the Palestinian cause since the second intifada.
One of the workcamp leaders and 3 volunteers managed to escape from the apartment in which the female international volunteers have been staying. Located close to the Old City, the apartment is in the area under curfew and the volunteers have been able to observe the movement of IDF soldiers and vehicles on the road outside. Tanks have been used to tear up roads and shell indiscriminately. Helicopters have been patrolling all day. So far only one Palestinian has been reported killed, though helicopters have fired missiles on a hospital a couple of hundred yards from An-Najah University. Internationals are currently helping local emergency services to deliver medical supplies to people trapped in their homes by the curfew.