This is a Humanitarian Crisis!
Nablus has been under siege for the last 10 days while Balata refugee camp has been under siege for the last 18 consecutive days. We have just heard that every single entrance/exit to Balata has been sealed off completely. No food or medicine is allowed in. Medical relief teams are being obstructed and at times completely prevented from passing through. Activists from ISM (the International Solidarity Movement) were attacked while carrying out their missions to observe and bear witness on what the Israeli occupation authorities are brutalizing the Palestinian population. Beit Foreek has been completely sealed off; its mayor reports that there are signs of starvation.
Two men and a boy were killed by Israeli military fire since this morning. The first, Amjad Bilal Masri is a 15 year old boy who was shot while standing in front of his house. The sniper bullet hit Amjad in the back. He died on his way to the hospital. The second is Amer Kathym Arafat who was also shot in the back by a sniper bullet. The third is Rouhi Hazem Shouman, 25, who was also shot in the back by a sniper. Ms. Majida Masri, spokeswomen for the Coordinating Committee of Palestinian Political Faction, called a couple of minutes ago on all Nabulis who are able to get to Rafidiya Hospital to defy the curfew and join the families of the martyrs in a collective funeral for the three. "They were all shot in the back by cowardly snipers. Their only crime was to refuse to succumb to Israeli occupation designs to empty Palestine from its people."
Reports from Balata indicate that a deliberate starvation campaign is being carried by the Israeli military which has sealed off the Camp and refuses to allow food and medicine to get through every single allyway, formal or informal entrances. A few days ago, the Israeli military shot and injured 4 people who were walking a funeral for an old woman who passed away. No demonstrations or political events were taking place in or around the funeral.
The siege of the old city of Nablus and its neighborhoods (Yasmeeneh, Qaryoun, Habaleh) has been intensified since December 30, 2003. The Israeli military claims that they were looking for the leader of the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, Abu Sharkh. They took his brother and wife as hostages, paraded the wife in a jeep in the old city and forced to call out to her husband over loud speakers to surrender in return for her freedom. She has been released only yesterday. No one can get into the old city, but Dr. Ghassan Hamdan of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committee, who is in the old city has called on the whole world to immediately intervene to support the people of Nablus. He condemned media outlets for neglecting to cover what's going on, including the largest Palestinian daily, Al-Quds, which has not reported on what's going in Nablus in its front page. Dr. Hamdan criticized the Palestinian Authority who have not done anything to aid Nablus and demanded that "Abu Alaa, the Palestinian Prime Minister, hold a ministrial meeting in Nablus to highlight the horrible conditions the city is experiencing under this brutal Israeli campaign." We have just heard explosions in the old city. It was in Qaryoun neighborhood inside the Abdelhadi Palace that houses 75 people. The Palace, built 400 years ago, is a waqf, endowed by Mahmoud Abdelhadi for the use of Abdelhadi women who have no place to live and no sources of income (widows, single women who do not work or have no income, and women whose main breadwinners are disabled). The Israeli military has ordered the 75 people
to vacate the palace at 3:30 in the mooring and left them out in the cold.
Mr. Aslan, a neighbor, invited took in all the 75 people and offered them hospitality and warmth. The families are scattered throughout the old city (before the more strict siege) and unable to go home. Dr. Mahdi Abdelhadi, Director of PASSIA, has gone to the Israeli supreme court. The Court ordered an injunction against the destruction of the Palace but the military appealed the decision and received a permission from the court to destroy this historic building "if security needs call for such action." This also requires your immediate attention.
Nablus has been split again into two parts near Maha's Gate, which is names after Mrs. Maha Nimr who lived nearby and whose son has been arrested and is currently being interrogated in Ofer settlement prison (near Ramallah); no family members or lawyers are allowed to see him until the "interrogation is completed."
"Tora Bora," as the residents call it, is the mount of dirt Israeli occupation army has compiled near the destroyed Governate of Nablus (as well as the prison that was bombed with prisoners inside in 2002 resulting in the killing of 10 Palestinian policemen who were guarding the prison). Tora Bora literally separates the two parts of the city and no one can come or go without risking being shot at by the Israeli military. Children (including my own nephew Ibrahim and nieces Widad, Noura, and Nada who live in the eastern part beyond Tora Bora) have been risking their lives to get to school to take their final exams. Ibrahim, 10 year old, and other kids almost got killed on December 23, 2003 as he tried to get home. He was finally able to reach his home a few hours later and only after the international media, medical relief workers, my other brother, Amer, and Amal, my sister-in-law and Ibrahim's mother risked their lives, argued with the soldiers and insisted on getting all the kids home across a checkpoint.
Mustapha Barghouti has described the bloody campaign against Nablus as a "real war on this city whose other name, the Mountain of Fire, has basis in the
steadfastness of Palestinians and their refusal to allow the Israeli military to break the Palestinian collective will to continue struggling for their rights." "There is a completely news blockage of what's going in Nablus," Barghouti added, explaining that lack of news coverage has to do with "the negligence of the Palestinian Authority, PA, to assume its responsibility for the protection of the population." "Instead," Barghouti added, "the PA is wasting time and energy in useless meetings with the Israeli occupation government that is intent on destroying our people's will."
Reporter's Note: This report is partly drawn from word of mouth of relatives and friends, and partly from Radio Tariq Mahabbeh (you can listen to the radio station at www.tmfm.net). For interviews and more information, you may call:
Amer Abdelhadi at (+972-59-371-372)
Tariq Mahabbeh (Radio station) at (+972 57 830 333).
Rabab Abdulhadi(no later than 9:30 p.m.) at (+972 9 237 2891).
Please bear with us; phone lines and internet connections are not working as well as we are told they should.
The People of Nablus appeal to you to declare today (Saturday, Jan. 3rd), tomorrow (Sunday, Jan. 4th), and Monday, Jan. 5th international days in solidarity with the people in Nablus and Palestine.
Prime Minister Tony Blair (letter)
Foreigh Secretary Jack Straw
Keith Hill MP
Foreign Office Advisor Mike O'Brien
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Personal Rep of Sec Gen to UN in Palestine Terje Rod Larsen
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Spokesperson of the Israeli Prime Minister
Spokesperson of the Israeli Defence Ministry
UK Ambassador to Israel Sherard Cowper-Coles
I am horrified to read reports of the current seige being undertaken by the Israeli army against the civilian communities of Nablus, Balata camp and Beit Furiq.
Nablus has been under permanent curfew for 10 consecutive days and Balata refugee camp for 18 days. No food or medical supplies are being allowed into Balata, with every entrance sealed by the army and there are signs of starvation. Medical relief teams are being obstructed and at times completely prevented from passing into the camp. Beit Furiq has been under intermittent and severe closure for many months. This is in direct contradiction to the recent speeches of Prime Minister Sharon who claims the army has been easing the closure of the occupied Palestinian territories.
In Balata on 3Jan 2 men and a 15 yr old boy were also shot by Israeli snipers. All 3 were shot in the back, there are no reports of Palestinian fire at the time. The Israeli government should be pressed for a full independent investigation into their unlawful killings. Their names are Amjad Bilal Masri (15 yrs), Amer Kathym Arafat and Rouhi Hazem Shouman.
Earlier last week the Israeli military shot and injured 4 people who were walking alongside a funeral for an old woman who had passed away. No demonstrations or political events were taking place in or around the funeral. I urge you to demand the Israeli government conduct a full inquiry into the use of lethal ammunition against an unarmed funeral procession.
In Nablus old city the 400 year old Abdelhadi Palace that houses 75 women who have no place to live and no sources of income (widows etc) has in the past week been seized by the Israeli military, the women forced onto the streets at 03:30 hours the night it was overrun. The ancient building is now under threat of demolitian, the women homeless. It is imperative the women be allowed to return to this charitable institution immediately with no threat of soldiers' harrassment again.
And let's not forget that during the so called period of "relative calm" in Israel/Palestine when no Israeli citizens died in attacks, from 4 Oct to the end of December the Israeli army was responsible for killing 117 Palestinian civilians, including 23 children and and they demolished 500 families' homes. This should be loudly condemned by all governments and the United Nations. The selective condemnation by the British governments of Israeli deaths vs Palestinian deaths is blatant racism and is a disgrace to our nation.
I urge you to apply every and immediate pressure on the Israeli government to cease its seige of these residential areas and to end their many terrorising tactics against the civilian Palestinian population with immediate effect.
Jack Straw email@example.com
Mike O'Brien mike.o' firstname.lastname@example.org
Kofi Annan email@example.com
Terje Rod Larsen Personal Rep of Sec Gen to UN in Palestine firstname.lastname@example.org
Ariel Sharon email@example.com
Spokesperson of the Israeli Prime Minister firstname.lastname@example.org
Spokesperson of the Israeli Defence Ministry email@example.com
UK Ambassador to Israel Sherard Cowper-Coles firstname.lastname@example.org