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IWPS report on the Nablus invasion

Inside the destroyed house of Mohammad Amar Abu Hamis, 32, where he and two other fighters of the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, Hammoudeh Ishtawi, 32, and Hassan Hajaj, 21, were killed by the IOF

Sunday 19th of February

At approximately 1:30 a.m. of the 19th of February, the Israeli army started an operation named “Northern Glory.” The IDF invaded Balata with helicopters and drones as well as about 50 army vehicles, including four armored personnel carriers (APCs) and two bulldozers, starting to block of the camp with its 30 000 residents from its surrounding and from Nablus City. The UNRWA schools of the camp were turned into a military base and a number of civilian houses were occupied.

In the early morning, the army surrounded the house of the Hamami family in search of Ahmad Abu Ras, 28, and arrested him and another person. In an act of collective punishment they then destroyed the house.

The army declared a curfew on the refugee camp the following morning and enforced it for 64 hours, until leaving Balata in the evening of the 21st of February. An unknown number of houses were occupied and used as sniper position, while holding the families inside and restricting them to one room. In some areas of the camp house to house searches were conducted, causing property damages to varying degrees.

Children and youth inside the camp and in its surrounding started resisting the invasion by throwing stones, bottles with paint etc. on the armored army vehicles and building barricades. The army responded with excessive use of rubber coated steal bullets and live ammunition, resulting in about 35 injuries, most of them youth, on the first day of the invasion. IWPS volunteers also witnessed soldiers in a Jeep with the number 611 338 inciting youth by cursing their parents and threatening the youth to make them martyrs.

Around 2 p.m. Mohammed Ahmad Natur and Ibrahim Ahmad Sheikh Issa, both 17 years old, were killed by a sniper shooting from an occupied house while being on the roof of one of their houses, watching the confrontation. One boy was hit by a live bullet in his neck, the other in the chest. The brother of one of the boys was shot in the thigh when he tried to come to their help. The army later clamed they were planting bombs. However, while the army tried to block the fatally injured boys from being carried to the ambulance, no attempts were made to enter the house and no bomb squad were brought to either the house or the streets around it.

Monday 20th of February

The operation continued throughout Monday and Tuesday, the 20th and 21st of February, with the army using tear gas, sound bombs, rubber bullets – often shot with a device that spray shoots several bullets at once – and live ammunition against youth throwing stones, resulting in more injuries.

Between 2.30 a.m. and 4 a.m. on the 20th of February the army searched the house of the Kitawi family, looking for their wanted son. The whole family, including children, were forced on the street, while the army destroyed much of the family belongings. Food and clothing were thrown on the floor and furniture damaged, a fridge, TV, electronic equipment smashed. Sound bombs were exploded inside the house. The father of the family reports being cursed by soldiers and threatened that his wanted son would be killed unless he turned himself in. He also reports that 4500 Shekel and 550 Dinar were stolen from the house.

In the same night the army also entered the old city of Nablus and killed Islamic Jihad militant Ahmad Mohammad Nayef Abu Sharkh, 29.

Around 17.00 p.m., when the situation had quieted down, international and medical volunteers sitting outside a field clinic in the Balata Market Street witnessed two shots being fired from an occupied house on the house across the street. A 22 year old man, who was standing at the window of his room, was hit in the chest and seriously injured. Army jeeps drove up to the house, but did not interfere as the injured youth and his heavily pregnant sister, who went into labor due to the shock, were evacuated by ambulances. Shortly afterwards the soldiers forced the rest of the family, including two small children and two babies, into the street, while searching the house and shooting live ammunition inside. They later threatened the ambulances on the scene and the family with shooting and throwing tear gas to make them leave the area. An explosion was set in front of the house.

Late Tuesday afternoon the army pulled out of the camp, injuring more youth in the process. Many people had taken to the streets thinking the army had left, when some jeeps came back to evacuate an occupied house.

Wednesday 22nd of February

On Wednesday 22nd, the army conducted an arrest operation in Kufr Kalil, a village on the outskirts of Balata Refugee Camp, lasting from the early afternoon till after midnight. The Amer family house, where four fighters from the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades were hiding, was surrounded and the two resident families, about 22 persons including children, were called to leave the house and kept under the trees in the area. Four surrounding houses, each home to 2-3 families with many children and babies, were occupied by the army and the families were kept inside, forbidden to turn on the light or to use their phones to contact family members outside the house. The operation ended with the arrest of the four fighters.

Thursday 23rd of February

Thursday around 3 a.m. the refugee camp was re-invaded and army bulldozers again blocked most of the entrances.

Thursday morning Ibrahim Saideh, 19, was killed in ad-Dahiyyeh, a neighborhood overlooking Balata Refugee Camp. The youth was hit by two live bullets in the abdomen and back, damaging his liver, intestines and one of the main veins.

At 1.30 p.m. on Thursday, Naim Abu Saris, 29, was killed by a live bullet in the heart, shot by a sniper from an occupied house, while being on the roof of his house. The army claimed he was armed, but eye witnesses deny this. No confrontations were going on in the area of his house at that time.

During the morning an area close to the Balata Camp cemetery was sealed off and house to house searches were conducted. The Israeli Army surrounded the house of Mohammad Amar Abu Hamis, 32, where he and two other fighters of the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, Hammoudeh Ishtawi, 32, and Hassan Hajaj, 21, where hiding. Around 11.45 a.m. the army set of an explosion in the house, without prior warning to the civilians in the area, which caused a fire. The smoke also affected the families in neighboring houses, two of whom had to be evacuated with the help of medical volunteers. The army forbid the medical team from checking on the residents of other affected houses and prevented the Palestinian firemen who arrived to the area shortly afterwards from approaching the house, attempting instead to put out the fire with water brought in cooking pots and buckets by women from the neighboring houses.

At 12.30 more explosions were set of. Reportedly, there was an exchange of fire between the army and the surrounded militants, resulting in the injury of two Israeli soldiers.

At about 2 p.m., after a quiet period, an explosion followed by live fire hit a group of medical workers, international volunteers and journalists who where observing the events around the house from the end of the narrow alleyway next to the cemetery. Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (PMRC) ambulance driver Jareer Candola was hit by shrapnel in the hand and the leg, cutting nerves and veins under the knee. Ihab Mansour, a medical volunteer with the Scientific Medical Society, was hit by either shrapnel or a live bullet in the head and lost consciousness. Another PMRC volunteer was lightly injured by shrapnel in the chest and two IWPS volunteers from Holland and the United States also suffered light injuries by shrapnel, one in the shoulder and the thigh, the other in her arm. The army blocked the rescue efforts, causing a delay of at least 30 minutes. The ambulance transporting Ihab Mansour was then stopped again on its way to the hospital and Mansour was arrested from the ambulance. At the time of writing he is reported to be under arrest in critical condition in Beilinson Hospital inside Israel.

At around 3.30 p.m. the army evacuated the area and the camp after dragging the bodies of the three militants out to confirm their death. As the army left, residents and medical teams rushed to the scene to recover the bodies, which were all severely mutilated by the explosions.

Throughout the invasion at least 12 persons were arrested, two of them from ambulances.

Number of injuries during the invasion

Dr. Samir Abu Zaroor from Rafidia hospital gives the following data on the injuries throughout the invasion. These numbers are not complete; due to the large number of casualties some cases were transferred directly to other hospitals in Nablus.

About 100 people were injured during the invasion. Their ages range from 12 to 63, though the majority of casualties were young boys and men between 15 and 25.

Injuries included:

  • 14 cases of severe bruises and fractures caused by jeeps driving into people
  • 28 cases of injuries by beating
  • 4 cases of injuries caused when people fell while running away from the army
  • 37 injuries caused by plastic coated steel bullets (so called rubber bullets)
  • 21 cases of live bullets

Severe cases included:

  • a 17 year old boy shot with a live bullet at short range into his left shoulder, breaking his shoulder and damaging a main artery, which caused heavy bleeding;
  • a youth, who suffered multiple fractures in his thigh by a live bullet and will be permanently disabled;
  • a man, 26 year old, hit by live bullets in the throat and the head, who was transferred to Ihloff Hospital in Tel Aviv in critical condition;
  • a 63 year old taxi driver, who was injured by bullet fragments in his left shoulder and a live bullet in his head;
  • a youth who was transferred to Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem who was shot in the throat.

Restrictions on medical access

Apart from the injuries directly inflicted by the Israeli army, the several day long siege and curfew of the camp and its population of about 30 000 people created a more general humanitarian crisis. Families were running out of bread and milk for the children and some patients out of medicine. Women in labor, sick children and chronically ill people, suffering from Asthma, Diabetes, high blood pressure or needing dialysis, were all cut of from the normal medical infrastructure, the army often preventing or delaying their access to medical treatment. In addition, severe restrictions were imposed on the movement of ambulances and medical volunteers. Ambulances, medical teams and the UN clinic in the camp were attacked several times. The most severe case, resulting in the injury of two medical workers on Thursday 23rd, is described above. Following are other cases of preventing or delaying access to medical care and attacks on medical workers that where witnessed by IWPS volunteers or reported to them by Palestinian medical workers. More cases may have occurred.

Sunday 19th of February

At around 11.30 two injured, Mahmoud Rajeh and Saleh Abu Alfa were arrested out of Ambulances on their way to the hospital. A PMRC ambulance was later called to Huwara Military base to pick up Rajeh, while Abu Alfa was arrested and transferred to Beilinson hospital inside Israel.

At around 12.30 two jeeps cornered an ambulance carrying an injured person and a women with labor complications. The jeeps pushed the ambulance from the front and the back, fired a shot in its direction and forced it to stand between the jeeps for about half an hour, while youth were throwing stones at them.

At around 1:00 pm two ambulances were held stopped by several jeeps outside Balata camp. According to the ambulance team they were detained for about 40 minutes and a young man with a bullet wound in the shoulder was beaten inside one of the ambulances. The soldiers forced the ambulance personnel to undress his wound to prove he is injured, making the wound start bleeding again. The ambulance was held until the family, with the help of the ambulance team and the IWPS volunteers, brought his ID card. After his ID was checked, the ambulance continued its way, only to be stopped again by the next jeep on the road.

At around 1:30 pm two boys, aged between 11 and 14 years, were injured in their legs with live ammunition. One had a flesh wound, while the other had his femur crushed by the bullet. The soldiers did not allow the ambulance to reach the injured, who had to be carried about two kilometers out of the camp by medical volunteers using a stretcher and a mattress.

Around 6 p.m. a boy hit by a plastic coated bullet in the head also had to be carried out of the camp to reach the ambulance.

Monday 20th of February

At approximately 7:15 am, a military jeep shot in the direction of the ambulance from a distance of about 200m preventing it from approaching the area close to the main entrance of the camp.

At approximately 11:15 the army attempted to close the UN medical clinic by shooting warning shots and percussion grenades. They also prevented patients from entering the clinic.

At approximately 11.35 a team of medical and international volunteers was shot at with tear gas.

At approximately 15:40 Israeli soldiers denied entry to a medical team attempting to deliver food and medicine into the camp. The Israeli soldiers also threatened to shoot them.

Tuesday 21st of February

Around 1 p.m. soldiers in a Jeep with the number 611 323 shot tear gas at an ambulance delivering medical supplies and pointed their guns at a team of medical and international volunteers accompanying patients including a small child to the UN clinic.

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Witness/es: IWPS and Palestinian Medical Relief workers.

Report written by: Clara and Vera
Edited by: Grace

Contact details: IWPS withholds this information as a courtesy to those involved – we will do our best to furnish you with all the relevant information you might need to begin action.

For the photos please see the report on our web site.

The International Women’s Peace Service, Haris, Salfit, Palestine.
Tel:- (09)-2516-644. Mobile:- 067-870-198
Email:- iwps@palnet.com Website:- www.iwps.info