The IOF breaking yet another human rights law by using a human shield
ISM'er forcibly prevented from documenting the use of a human shield
I made a wish that they would leave the Old City and it came true on the morning of Thursday 28th August, however, they promptly showed up in Balata Refugee Camp so my dreams of rest and recuperation after five days of soldier watching/chasing/getting gassed and shot at by was over. On the morning when curfew in the Old City was lifted and we were on our way to Balata, we heard from Abu Hussein [our host in the Old City] that the soldiers were still occupying a house and that there was a family inside. So off the six of us went not thinking anything of it. It seemed like the perfect situation we would just pop in see if the family needed anything, alert the medical relief teams and then we would be off to Balata - there was even a juice shop right across the street so we could get our morning fix of freshly squeezed orange juice. This juice shop was to play an integral part in the unfolding of events.
Mika and I stayed outside buying the juice - three fruit cocktails and three orange juices, while Kelly, Taimour, Saima and Mark went inside to check on the situation. 15 minutes later Mika and I became a little concerned as to why the others were taking so long and were not answering their phones. So across the street and up the stairs we climbed to be met by a soldier telling us we could come in and join our friends or we could go away. At this point it was clear that our friends were being detained. They managed to call out to us that there was a family of 18 people inside and that they desperately needed food. We dutifully bought food - tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, yoghurt and milk - thinking that the other four would only be held for a short while. After delivering the food and sitting outside consuming the fruit juices it became clear that this was not the case.
At the request of the four inside, operation phone the bureaucrats began. The British Consulate found it an impossible situation to comprehend thinking that my friends were being detained by Palestinians and lecturing me on the travel restrictions and telling me it was dangerous. At this point I was thinkng 'well you don't say' as two tanks and some jeeps came rolling past [even though curfew had been lifted]. Well I shouldn't rat on the British Consualte too much at least I managed to speak to a person. At the US Consulate I was greeted by a recorded message that waxed lyrical about buggies and prams not being permited in the Consulate building and how they could not except credit cards for about three minutes before I had the option of 'if you are ringing in the case of emergency'. I dutifully pressed 8 as instructed by the voice only to be told that this was an invalid request. I tried three more times having to endure the buggy and pram announcement before I was forced to leave a message in the only place available - the concerns about passports and visas department. By this time my friends had been detained for about 2 hours.
Then the tanks and jeeps that had rolled past a few minutes earlier decided they were bored so they would shoot small Palestinian children and tear gas pregnant women. By this time I was really beginning to worry about my friends inside as the soldiers hiding them were not exactly the friendliest of sorts and now I was getting shot at with rubber bullets and tear gassed to top it all off. While all the time I knew that we were needed in Balata where the army were systematically terrorising a whole community. My fears for my friends became more intense when I received a call from the British Consulate, who had finally managed to grasp the situation, telling me that the internationals in the house [my friends] would be arrested and deported. Great!
By this point I was prepared to just walk right up to the next border police jeep I saw and ask them to take me too. I was certainly not going to let them take my four friends without them having to deal with me also. I was now managing to make contact with the others inside the house, which calmed me down somewhat, although I was still convinced that they were about to be bundled into jeeps at any minute. So I stayed outside the house or in the immediate vicinity, enduring the hassles of the IOF and looking out for the border police who would come to take my friends away.
A text message from Saima saying the soldiers had told her that they would release them at 7pm [nine and a half hours after they were detained] lifted me some way out of the dark place I had fallen to while sitting on the pavement awaiting the fate of four people I had come to care deeply about. However, being a pessimist by heart, I still feared the worst.
Then at 6:45pm I saw the four of them descend onto the pavement and I honestly think I have never been so happy to see people in my life. But there was not long to celebrate, the IOF were still reeking havoc all around us and eighteen Palestinians remained detained in their home.
And the worse part of all of this, as is the pitiful excuse for the occupation, is that the days' actions were perpetrated all in the name of security. But security for whom? The people of Nablus? My friends? I think we know the answer to this and it is not a pleasant one in this age of liberal democracies and global interaction.