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Child Captives Freed

Nablus, Occupied West Bank

Soldiers who occupied an 8th floor apartment in the Sharif residential building and held eleven children and three adults captive left at 6:30AM today. The families want to thank everyone who wrote faxes, e-mails, and letters to the Israeli authorities in protest.

The following is a testimony of the events as they happened from the families:

On 07/04/06 at 04.00AM – Seven Israeli soldiers occupy the 8th floor apartment of Abu Amare and Huda Al Hajd Hamad family in Nablus because of it’s vantage point over al Aiyn refugee camp.

Soldiers brought down their neighbours from the 9th floor: Noor who is a 5 months pregnant mother, her husband and their one and a half year old infant.

The disturbance caused the Audah family on the ground floor to send 12 yr old Mohammed up to the 8th floor neighbour’s apartment to investigate. Mohammed knocked on the door, a soldier grabs him by the neck and throws him to the floor whilst two others point guns at him. Subsequently Mohammad’s family members follow; his 14 year old brother, mother and father are all taken into the 8th floor apartment – leaving three girls in the ground floor apartment alone with the cooker on and one girl aged three in the shower. It takes the family 20 minutes before the husband can convince the soldiers to allow him to collect the children accompanied by two soldiers. There are now 17 people in one room held captive.

The soldiers insist on silence, shout “shut up” and are abusive but do not beat anyone.

Twenty-five hours later, Noor who is pregnant starts crying. Soldiers tell her to stop, her husband fears they will beat her. She can’t stop. She gets more upset and is crying loudly. She says she cant breathe. She has pain in her abdomen, is extremely scared, and hasn’t been able to eat or sleep all day.

The families plead with soldiers to let her go to hospital, but they refuse. The commander accuses her of faking her symptoms.

An Israeli military doctor is called but the families want a specialist. He arrives and prescribes drugs. Noor says they are too strong for pregnant women.

At 3PM on the 8th of April a Commander arrives and Noor is finally allowed to be driven by her husband to hospital with their infant accompanied by jeeps.

There are now 14 people in apartment

Medical relief teams and international volunteers make multiple attempts at visiting the families. The volunteers talk to the soldiers through the door but the soldiers ignore them. The adults are forbidden to speak but 4 year old Bashar speaks through the door. He requests food and asks the internationals not to leave because the families feel safer when they are present.

At 5 PM soldiers enter the room the family are captive in and point guns at youth in the street below. The children are extremely scared. Their mothers demand that the soldiers leave room demanding that the human rights of children respected. The soldiers finally leave.

At 8 PM the internationals leave food at the door and tell the soldiers that they are leaving but will return to see if the food was taken for the families. After a few minutes the soldiers take the food and pass it to the families.

At 2 AM on the ninth of April the military operation that seems to be the purpose of house occupation takes place. An APC & jeeps drive into al Aiyn refugee camp. The military demand over loudspeakers that the family of Abu Mahde Marka exit their home. The snipers in the apartment are active with night vision equipment and a soldier with a 25mm gun enters the families room. The mothers again demand that he leaves – and he does. Then 7 sniper rounds are fired. The cases are left on the apartment floor.

At 6 AM this morning the soldiers leave- they say nothing to the families and leave the apartment messed up, furniture moved, dirt on the wall, the families clothes used to clean the floor, their Koran taken out of it’s case and left in bathroom

The practice of occupying a tactically important home and holding the occupants captive and isolated is known in the Israeli Army as a “Straw Widow” operation. The army uses the occupied home as an observation post and sniper position. Such homes are often reoccupied several times.

Although the Sharif building is now unoccupied, the army occupied several more homes in Nablus during a night of sporadic gunfire and explosions in the city and the adjacent Balata refugee camp.

Pictures to follow soon at www.palsolidarity.org