By Neta Golan
British Chris and I beginning our attempted entry. We were stopped minutes later.
Jericho Tuesday March 14th
After a four-hour walk around two Israeli checkpoints and an illegal Israeli settlement, we arrived in Jericho to find that the neighborhood around the compound surrounded by Israeli jeeps and Palestinian children throwing stones at them. We asked the kids for directions. After sizing us up for a while a young Palestinian guided us through the side streets to the closest point to the compound as possible where journalists where filming the attack.
As Chris from Britain, C. from IWPS and I were approaching the city we could here shelling and a helicopter from a long way away. When we got to the site of the prison and governmental compound we saw that the it was “U” shaped and the external building that was visible to us was burning and completely destroyed. We were told it had been shelled by a helicopter before we arrived.
Destroyed external building
The prisoners and Palestinian prison employees had been cornered into a room inside the middle of the “U” by the Israeli military who were destroying the building around them after the British and American guards abandoned the prison.
While we were getting organized to attempt to join the prisoners that were being attacked, the external building was shelled by a tank at least four times. The military were calling on the prisoners to surrender on an amplifier system.
The sound that worried us the most was a very loud and very low rat-tat-tat-tat that we thought was some kind of heavy machine gun fire. Later we discovered that it was a rock compressor or “congo” machine used to break up rock. Behind the destroyed external building the rock compressor and a similar machine with a shovel on a long arm were being used on the wall of the room where the prisoners were.
We tried in vain to contact the people inside the compound by phone to tell them we were coming in. We knew we were running out of time so despite our tiny number we stocked up with medical equipment and some food, raised our hands to show that we were not armed and walked as quickly as we could in the direction of where the prisoners were. Soldiers screamed at us to stop but we continued. We were directly in front but still hundreds of meters away from where the prisoners were when soldiers that had left their jeeps on foot caught us.
After being caught I lay down to prevent them from easily removing me. Thanks to the nonviolent techniques we teach in training it took three soldiers about ten minutes to handcuff me with plastic handcuffs. They succeeded by one of them pressing his knee down hard against my throat and two other solider grabbing an arm each. I could see Chris on the floor up against a jeep behind me.
When I refused to move the commander left two soldiers to guard me on the spot. He told them in Hebrew “If any one comes out of the building shoot him. Shoot in order to hit. We are not playing games. The games are over.” He repeated: “Any one that comes out of the building shoot to hit!” The fact that they came out of their jeeps to chase us and stood right in front of where the prisoners were for such an extended period indicates that they knew that they were in no danger of getting shot at.
The solider guarding me and I were there at least ten minutes until Border Police came to carry me away. When the Border Police unit commander approached my guard he asked him in Hebrew if the “fat” ones were still in the building. He was told not to talk next to me and he switched to Arabic and asked the same question.
Four border police carried me into a jeep and then brought Chris in with his hands cuffed behind his back. We were sure they were taking us to a police station but they stopped at a checkpoint outside of Jericho and told us we could go.
On the way back to Jerusalem we heard that the prisoners and the rest of the besieged people had all been arrested. What people on the ground said was that the wall of the room that a prisoners and the others were in was demolished leaving them exposed to the Israeli soldiers, who ordered them to walk down one by one. That explained the too-strong machine gun-like sound that we heard: it was a rock compressor against the old stone walls of the building. The prisoners had no weapons. The Palestinians trapped inside the prison did not surrender and walk out of the building. The building including the room they were in was destroyed around them.
The room the prisoners were cornered in and arrested from.
According to AlJazeera.net, two Palestinian security officers including Ibrahim Abu al-Amin were killed and 23 other people were wounded in the raid. The Palestinian people and the Arab world were humiliated enraged and betrayed. The chances for a viable Palestinian Authority (not to mention state) and the trust in international mediators was destroyed while chances for retaliation attacks increased. The rift between the west and the Arab world has grown wider. All for the sole purpose of Olmert’s election campaign.