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|Inside Hell, a testimony from Ramallah|
|06/06/02 at 08:10:33|
Inside Hell, a testimony from Ramallah
Inside hell: Muna Khleifi lives in Ramallah, one of the Palestinian towns besieged by Israeli soldiers. Here she describes a week of deprivation and terror
By Muna Khleifi
Thursday: 29 March 2002
This morning I telephoned my sister and my brother to arrange to go shopping for food and milk and tinned food. From previous experience tinned food is the most suitable in these situations. We go to the supermarket which is crowded with people doing the same as us. My sister-in-law phoned, telling us to take our children from school because everybody else was doing so. We picked up my daughter and then my son and sent them to my mother so we could continue shopping.
People were panicking. The streets were crowded with people trying to reach home, trying to reach their children and trying to do their shopping. In the evening everybody watches the news, waiting for the invasion.
At 3am the Israeli army comes into Ramallah. We hear the tanks coming. No one knows how far they'll come. By morning they are surrounding the building where Arafat is based and we hear shooting, shelling and bombing. We live in a compound of 10 flats in the south area of Ramallah, between two hills. The last time they invaded they couldn't get to us - not very near - but we could see them on two hills close by. This morning they are doing the same. We can see them and hear them from windows. Shooting is taking place all over Ramallah, mainly in the old city and in the centre, around Arafat's compound.
My neighbour's sister has a house very near to the governor's. She lives with her husband and two children, one-year-old twins. Yesterday Israeli soldiers went there. They told her to get what she wanted and to get down to the basement. There was a power cut and since then the family have been living without electricity. She phoned her sister to say they didn't have any milk for the children. She was using her mobile phone but now the batteries are flat. We don't know where she is now.
A friend, Albireh, phones to tell me that her brother-in-law has been taken by the Israelis. They live in the centre of Ramallah and the Israelis told them to come out into the street, men women and children. Everybody. They did so and were separated - children with women and men alone. They were kept in the street for four hours while the Israelis went into the build ing, searching everything. They shot off the doors of the flat instead of opening them. After four hours they told the women and children to get into the house and the men were taken away. Nobody knows where they are. Albireh's brother-in-law is receiving medical treatment and they wouldn't allow him to get medicine or even a jacket.
This morning we have a power cut because the Israeli troops have destroyed the transformer. Last night they started shooting at a Preventative Forces location not far from our house. They were shelling intensively at 1.30am last night for two hours. They stopped for half an hour and then shelled again for two hours. Then came another break of half and hour and consecutive shooting and shelling until 10 this morning. We hear that 35 people were killed, including a woman and a child. They were all in the Preventative Forces compound. People with families live there. This is the last news we hear.
The tanks come very near and drive in the street in front of our building. The house across the street has been hit by a tank. Part of the kitchen, the toilet and a bedroom is completely destroyed. It is raining, cloudy and cold. Now we are trying to help our neighbour to fix some of their house with some broken pieces of wood to provide a shelter. They can come to us if they want to, but they have one room that hasn't been affected.
We are afraid that the phone and the gas will be cut off. Nobody can survive without gas for cooking and heating. There is a shortage of bread in the area and no electricity so we can't charge mobiles. This is going to be a problem. If it happens we will be disconnected from the whole world, neighbours and family. Nobody has a clue how long this is going to take.
Our real problem is the children who have lived under violence for so long. We try our best to isolate them as much as we can, but it feels like trying to empty the sea with a glass. Now, with the tanks and the noise of bombing and shelling, fear is occupying our children. My husband has an artery and heart problem, and should not be exposed to the cold weather, so we prepare a plan for when the Israeli soldiers start asking the men to get out of their homes, to keep them for hours in the streets in the rain and the cold. My husband has put more layers of warm clothes on, because they don't allow them more than three minutes from the moment they call the men to the streets. They keep them for hours while they search the houses. So my husband has to sleep in these clothes.
Last night it got worse, five tanks stopped 200m away from our house and started to bomb and shoot at the Preventative Forces location. Helicopters were shelling from above our house. We thought the door of hell had opened. I went to check on the children in their rooms. I found my daughter awake in her bed, unable to speak, her eyes were full of fear. I carried her in my arms and took her to our bed. She could not speak at all; it was clear that even when she was in our bed that was not comfort to her. I decided to bring my son also to our bed although he was not awake. I woke him and asked everybody to get dressed warmly in case the soldiers came.
We are lucky because the shooting and bombing of the Preventative Forces location lasted only 18 hours . And we got electricity back.
But now my husband is worried. He teaches media at the Institute of Modern Media, Al Quds University. He teaches the practical side of TV work - camera, sound, editing, and directing. This morning, he got a call from a friend telling him that the Israeli army had taken over his building and turned it into their HQ for their forces. Everything my husband had achieved in getting funding to buy equipment for the students is now exposed to destruction and damage. Now he is sure that the Israelis soldiers will destroy it, considering this as part of the war against terror.
But we are lucky when we compare ourselves with the Abdeh family from Bethlehem. When the Israeli soldiers opened their front door (the house consists of one room, a kitchen and toilet) they shoot dead the grandmother and the uncle in front of five children, their mother and their father. Now they can't call for an ambulance to take the bodies to the hospital. The mother has put the children in the toilet room to prevent them from spending the night in front of their dear dead grandmother and dead uncle. The Israeli soldiers do not take this into consideration and will shoot the father and the mother if they go out to call for an ambulance. Aren't they here to fight terror?
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