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The Earth is Closing in on Us

1. The Earth is Closing in on Us
2. The shells have been falling non stop
3. MP’s call for sanctions against Israel over shootings
4. Calls for UK to act over Britons shot dead in Gaza
5. British peace activist, Tom Hurndell, was ‘intentionally killed’
6. Human Rights Worker’s Hebron Journal
7. Recent Israeli Military Operations in Aida Camp
8. More Military Operations in Nablus
9. Picking Up the Pieces


1. The Earth is Closing in on Us
April 11, 2006
By Leila el Haddad (http://a-mother-from-gaza.blogspot.com/)

The shells keep falling. They’ve gotten inside my head, so that its not just my house shaking but but my brain throbbing. It’s like someone is banging a gong next to my ear every few minutes; sometimes 5 times a minute, like last night. And just when I savor a few moments of silence, it starts again as if to say “you’re not going to get away that easily.”
We went to sleep to the rattling of our windows and invasive pounding and after-echo of the shells. We sleep as they fall. We pray fajir, and they fall again. We wake, and they are still falling. When they are closer, when they fall in Shija’iya east of Gaza City, they make my stomach drop. And I want to hide, but I don’t know where.
The Earth is Closing in on Us.
That’s the thing about occupation-it invades even your most private of spaces. And while the shells were falling inside my head, they also killed little Hadil Ghabin today.
A shell landed on her home in Beit Lahiya, shattering her helpless body and injuring 5 members of her family, including Hadil’s pregnant mother, Safia, and her 19-year-old sister.
My headeaches seem inconsequential when I think of little Hadil. Sometimes people here say they prefer death to this existence; you’ll frequently here at funerals: “Irta7at”…she’s more comfortable now anyhow-what was there to live for here?”
The Earth is squeezing us
I wish we were its wheat
so we could die and live again.
That has become our sad reality. Death provides relief.
Sometimes it feels like we are all in some collective torture room; who is playing God with us this night, I wonder? When I look up into the sky, and hear the shells, or see the faceless helicopter gunships cruising intently through the moonlit sky, I wonder, do they see me?
And when the shells start falling again, I can’t help but imagine some beside-himself with boredom 18-year-old on the border, lighting a cig or SMSing his girlfriend back in Tel Aviv “just a few more rounds to go hon.….give it another whirl, Ron, its been 2 minutes already.”
Sometimes, when I’m on edge, I might just yell out and wave my arms at them.
Do they hear me?
We decided to escape this evening to my father’s farm in central Gaza, where we roasted potatoes and warmed tea on a small mangal, as we listened to thikr about the Prophet on the occasion of his mawlid from a nearby mosque, under the ominous roars of fighter jets, patrolling the otherwise lonely skies above.
“Where are you heading off to?” asked Osama, the shopkeeper downstairs. “Off to the farm. We’re suffocating,” I replied, Yousuf tugging at my arm… “mama…Yallah! Yallah!”
“Wallah Laila, we’re not just suffocating…we’re asphyxiating. I feel I can’t breathe anymore. And my head is pounding and pounding. All I hear is BOOM boom now.”
The Earth is Closing in on Us.
And little Hadil is dead.
2. The shells have been falling non stop
April 10th, 2006
By Leila al Haddad from Gaza City
The shells have been falling non stop
we are being silenced and consigned to the realm of the irrelevant,
the over and done with
they are nailing the coffin on Gaza.
Gaza is like a neglected prison in zoo
where the zookeepers turn off the faucets
cast it aside.
occasionally, when the animals get really hungry,
they poke and prod at them
and throw them a bone.

3. MP’s call for sanctions against Israel over shootings
April 11th, 2006
From The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/04/11/usanctions.xml&sSheet=/portal/2006/04/11/ixportaltop.html)
Economic sanctions against Israel should be considered if the country refuses to put its soldiers before the courts in the UK over the death of two British peace activists, an MP has said.
Sir Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, claimed there was an element in the Israeli military which was “out of control”.
He was speaking about the deaths of Tom Hurndall, 22, and James Miller, 34, who were both shot in the Gaza Strip in 2003.
Yesterday an inquest jury returned a verdict that Mr Hurndall had been “intentionally killed” by a soldier and last week an inquest found Mr Miller had been murdered by the Israeli Defence Force less than a mile away in Rafah three weeks later.
Sir Gerald told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “One possibility is to ask for those who are accused of these murders to be brought to Britain to be tried in this country.
“The second is to put them before an international war crimes tribunal.
“If the Israelis don’t agree to either of those then I think we have got to consider economic sanctions against Israel.
“The fact that she violates international norms is not justified because she has been a victim of international terrorism.”
But Hendon MP Andrew Dismore, who is also vice chairman of the Labour Friends of Israel group, said Israel had carried out its own judicial inquiries into the deaths and the country was a democracy.
He said: “I don’t think it is going to add a great deal to the position.
“Obviously we have to have great sympathy for the families of the two British citizens who have been killed but the fact remains that Israel is a democracy, it operates under the rule of law.”
He added: “Frankly if we are trying to get a settlement in the Middle East I don’t think talking about war crimes is going to take things a great deal further.”
4. Calls for UK to act over Britons shot dead in Gaza
April 11th, 2006
From The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,1751369,00.html)
The attorney general was last night called on to seek war crimes charges against five Israeli officers after an inquest jury found that a soldier under their command intentionally killed a British peace activist in Gaza.
Tom Hurndall, 22, died after being shot in broad daylight by an Israeli soldier who later said his commanders had issued orders allowing him to shoot even unarmed civilians. Sergeant Taysir Hayb was convicted of manslaughter by an Israeli court and jailed for eight years for shooting Mr Hurndall in April 2003 as the Briton tried to rescue children who froze in fear after the soldier opened fire.
Yesterday a jury at St Pancras coroner’s court in London found Mr Hurndall had been unlawfully killed and deliberately shot by the soldier “with the intention of killing him”. Lawyers for the Hurndall family said this amounted to a finding that the peace activist had been murdered.
Last week the same court found that a journalist, James Miller, had been murdered after being shot by an Israeli soldier three weeks after Mr Hurndall, and just one mile away in southern Gaza.
Andrew Reid, the coroner who heard both cases, announced he would write to the attorney general about how similar fatalities could be prevented, including examining possible prosecutions of Israeli commanders. In court Dr Reid said he would write to the attorney because the case raised wider issues of command in the Israeli military and because “two British citizens engaged in lawful activities” had been killed by Israeli soldiers.
Dr Reid said Israel’s army posed a danger to British nationals, especially those covering the continuing conflict with the Palestinians: “British citizens, journalists, photographers or others may be subject to the risk of fatal shots.”
The coroner said he would write to the attorney general about whether his powers under the Geneva Conventions Act, namely seeking the prosecution of those involved in issuing orders about when soldiers can shoot, could “prevent similar fatalities”. Dr Reid’s actions boost the Hurndall family’s demand that Israeli officers be tried for involvement in the killing of their son.
The dead man’s father, Anthony Hurndall, said: “The British government is obliged to pursue any source of a war crime, and wilful killing is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions Act.”
After the verdict a government source told the Guardian the attorney general would “not shy away” from acting, and that “upsetting the Israelis” would not stop the case being pursued.
Michael Mansfield QC, who represented the family at the inquest, said: “Make no mistake about it, the Israeli defence force have today been found culpable by this jury of murder.”
The family will seek a meeting with senior British ministers to press them to act, and do not rule out a private prosecution.
The jury criticised Israel for its “lack of cooperation” with the inquest, with the Israeli government declining to take part and even hampering a British police investigation. In court Anthony Hurndall accused Israel of “lies”.
The jury heard extracts from the journal of the peace activist, who travelled to Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement. Days before he was shot, Mr Hurndall, a photography student from north London, wrote how he had already been fired at: “I kept expecting a part of my body to be hit by an ‘invisible’ force and shot of pain … I wondered what it would be like to be shot, and strangely I wasn’t too scared.”
In a later passage he writes about being in the sights of an Israeli sniper: “It is in the decision of any one Israeli soldier or settler that my life depends. I know that I’d probably never know what hit me.”
Israel’s embassy in London expressed sympathy for the Hurndall family and said: “Throughout the investigation and trial, the Israeli authorities maintained close contact with both the Hurndall family and the British authorities, and at the conclusion of the proceedings a full account was given to them.”
5. British peace activist was ‘intentionally killed’
April 10, 2006
From Guardian Unlimited (http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1750915,00.html)

A jury has ruled that a British activist shot while acting as a human shield in the Gaza Strip was “intentionally killed”. Tom Hurndall, from north London, was wearing an orange jacket to mark him out as a peace activist.
The 22-year-old had apparently been trying to move young Palestinian children from the line of fire when he was hit in the head. He was left in a coma and died nine months later.
Speaking after the hearing, the Hurndall family representative, Michael Mansfield QC, said they were delighted with the verdict. However, he stressed there was still work to be done.
“Make no mistake about it, the Israeli defence force have today been found culpable by this jury of murder,” he said.
The family accused the Israeli authorities of a “cover-up”, calling on the British government to take action under the Geneva convention.
They said it should investigate, and if necessary extradite the five Israeli officers they believe made up the a chain of command which led to Mr Hurndall being shot.
If this did not happen the family would consider pursuing justice through the courts. Earlier, Mr Hurndall’s mother had criticised the government for not speaking out about her son’s death.
“We are astonished to this day that Tony Blair has never publicly condemned the shooting of Tom,” Joyce Hurndall said. “It is necessary for the Israelis to hear condemnation from him.”
She said the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, had never seemed to “expect an apology” from the Israelis over the shooting.
Initially, the Israeli army denied a soldier from an army watchtower had shot Mr Hurndall, but witnesses at the demonstration in the Palestinian town of Rafah said he had been hit by a rifle bullet while trying to shield the children.
Following a hard-fought campaign by the peace activist’s family, ex-sergeant Taysir Hayb was convicted at an Israeli military court of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison last year.
He was the first soldier to be convicted over the death of a foreign national during recent Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The inquest heard how Mr Hurndall, who had been taking photographs in Iraq before going to the Gaza Strip with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist group, had contemplated what it would be like to be hit by a bullet.
Ms Hurndall said she had received an email from Tom on April 11, just hours before the shooting. He reported being “shot at, gassed and chased” by soldiers during the five days he was in Rafah and described the danger that both he and the Palestinians were facing.
She also described what she thought had been her son’s last words. Around half an hour before he was shot, he had been talking to a Palestinian man, who had been telling him how difficult life was for residents in Rafah, she told the hearing.
“Tom put his hand on his shoulder and said: ‘We want to make a difference’,” she said. “Really, those were his last words.”
Mr Hurndall’s father, Anthony, told the hearing that his son and other activists from the ISM had gone out to try and block tanks that had been shooting into houses at random.
He said Tom had seen a group of ten to 15 children playing on a mound of sand, and noticed that bullets were hitting the ground between them. The children fled, but several were overcome with fear and could not move.
“Tom went to take one girl out of the line of fire, which he did successfully, but when he went back, as he knelt down [to collect another], he was shot.”
Mr Hurndall said the Israelis had initially admitted someone had been shot, but claimed it had been a gunman who had opened fire first.
After photographs of Tom having been shot in the head emerged, the Israeli military later admitted that Hayb – a sentry who had won prizes for marksmanship – had shot him using telescopic sights.
“They just lied continuously,” Mr Hurndall’s father said. “It was a case of them shooting civilians and then making up a story. And they were not used to being challenged.”
There had been a “general policy” for soldiers to be able to shoot civilians in that area without fear of reprisals, he added.
Although Hayb had been sentenced, the issue of the “culture” within the Israeli army had not been addressed, he said. “This goes much higher up the chain.”
The ten-strong jury at the inquest into the death of Mr Hurndall, a Manchester Metropolitan University student, also expressed its “dismay with the lack of cooperation from the Israeli authorities”.
Mr Hurndall was shot a mile away from where the award-winning cameraman James Miller had died three weeks beforehand. Last week, a jury ruled the Israeli defence force had deliberately killed the 34-year-old during the incident in May 2003.
The coroner, Dr Andrew Reid, said he would be writing to the attorney general to see whether there was any further legal action that could be taken in relation to the deaths.
6. Human Rights Worker’s Hebron Journal
April 11th, 2006

This post is from a Brighton based activist spending April in occupied Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement, a network of international activists set up to support Palestinian non violent resistance against Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. In these posts I will be writing short accounts of aspects of the occupation and resistance.
I am currently volunteering with the ISM in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. Internationals from the ISM and the Tel Rumeida Project stay in Tel Rumeida as witnesses to settler violence and to non-violently intervene if settlers attack.
Tel Rumeida is one of the saddest places I have been in Palestine. It is a tiny district on the outskirts of the Old City separated from the nominaly PA controlled area of Hebron by a permanent checkpoint across a narrow street. It feels like it should be a lively and vibrant place but Shuhada street, once lined with shops, now looks like a ghost town. It is flanked by boarded up shops and a military checkpoint at each end. Shuhada street appears empty but in fact it is still home to many Palestinian families living above deserted shops who often feel too intimidated to walk in the street.
This is because Shuhada street and Tel Rumeida street (see www.telrumeidaproject.org/map_telrumeida.html ) live alongside some of the most violent and extreme members of the settler movement in the occupied territories. These Israeli Jewish settlers live next to the Palestinian inhabitants and have mounted a campaign of harassment against them with the desired end result of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Hebron.
International volunteers in Tel Rumeida escort Palestinian children to and from the local school. This is to provide protection from settler attacks. Settlers regularly beat and throw stones at Palestinian children, there were 12 incidents of this in December 2005 (see www.telrumeidaproject.org/monthly_summary.html for monthly reports). Although the Israeli army have a huge presence in Tel Rumeida they regularly ignore such incidents. Every morning and afternoon Palestinian children must walk through a hostile neighbourhood through IDF checkpoints and barbed wire to reach their school.
Simply continuing to live in Tel Rumeida is an act of resistance for local Palestinians. In the short time I have been here I have had stones thrown at me by Settler children and have seen people spat at by the settlers. But things can get much worse, often settlers riot in Tel Rumeida hurling rocks and terrorizing the community (see www.telrumeidaproject.org/riots_photos.html ).
On Wednesday Israeli holiday time began and will continue until April 21st. During Israeli holidays Palestinians are particularly vulnerable to attacks from settlers, who are often joined by supporters from the wider ’settler movement’. Some of the worst attacks on Palestinians have occurred on Shabbat. I hope that Tel Rumeida will be quiet throughout the holidays but I think the international community should be watching the events in Tel Rumeida in the coming weeks
The Wall Must Fall
7. Recent Israeli Military Operations in Aida Camp
April 8th, 2006
From: Abdel Fattah Abu-Srour, PhD
Subject: News from Aida Camp
Israeli occupation soldiers during this whole week continued their harassment to Aida camp inhabitants, with tear gas, rubber bullets, taking hostages and shooting 3 kids 11-13 years old (one of them is a deaf-mute child) with rubber bullets in the head and abdomen, and provocative actions through the loud speakers of their armored jeeps.
On Thursday, two workers on the popular committee went to a store to take out some of their equipment to start working in one of the job creation projects in the camp. It was an Israeli soldier who opened the door and the weapon pointed at them ordered them to come in. The director of the Camp, who is a UNRWA employee, with another employee went to check what happened (the building is just next to their office), they were also taken hostage… so another UNRWA employee called the UNRWA direction and 2 hours later, the UNRWA employees were released however, Mustafa Jamil Abusrour, and Mustafa Shawkat Malash were kept hostages.
We went to see and ‘negotiate’ the liberation of the hostages, and took a glance where the soldiers hide, and they were painted black on their faces. We asked if they had anyone responsible to talk with, the answer was “go home”. Around two hours later, a military jeep came in from the military point occupying the Mosque of Bilal Ibn Rabah (transformed into a synagogue after 1967 occupation and renamed Rachel’s Tomb) and passed back and forth, no body moved, and they didn’t say anything. Then the jeep went into the camp, and made several tours, and then on the other end of the camp we heard some shooting. It was tear gas and rubber bullets.
About 6 hours later, the 2 hostages were released and the soldiers went out of the building… it seemed that they used it as a hiding place to surprise the kids and to keep watch over the building of the new illegal wall and new Synagogue to the east of Aida, south of the mosque Bilal ibn Rabah.
The most provocative day was today (April 8th) after they assassinated a “wanted” Palestinian in Bethlehem, the jeep entered the camp, near the girls school (few meters from the illegal apartheid wall), and the other one near the intercontinental hotel. According to someone living in that place, one of those arrogant soldiers starts shouting in a shameless tune:
“Come out to me inhabitants of Aida! Come out and take your dose”
The soldier next to him was telling the one who was shooting what to shoot, once tear gas, another time rubber bullets. Some of the kids gathered a bit far, and threw stones at them, but they were not even close to the jeep, but the shooting and tear gas continued.
At around 4:30 p.m, a mother of twin girls who were in the theatre rehearsals called at the center, and asked me not to let the girls leave the center, because the army was just shooting tear gas near the school where their house also is located. Life continues… and we continue to write… and you continue to read… how long will that continue…. how long before those who have some authority in this world exercise their authority to force such gangsters and bandits to stop their crimes against the humans we are, and against humanity itself? Can anyone help us with an answer?
Wishing you a better day and a better night, and a better week than the one had…
Abdel Fattah Abu-Srour, PhD
Director of Al-Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Center

8. More Military Operations in Nablus
April 11th, 2006

At least 15 people have been arrested and 10 people injured in an Israeli Military operation this morning, according to international human rights workers based in the area. The situation regarding house occupations is unclear.
The Israeli military entered Nablus in the early hours of the morning. At about 4.30am they began military operations in the district around al-Najah University and on 24th Sreeet. Fifteen were arrested, more than 10 injured, 3 by rubber bullets. A Palestinian journalist, Jafa Ishtayi, was beaten by a soldier with an M16 rifle.
Since the Israeli election the Israeli military have entered Nablus almost nightly and frequently during the day. Yesterday 4 people were injured by rubber bullets in an afternoon military invasion.
For more information call:
Mohammed Ayyash: 054 6218759
9. Picking Up the Pieces
March 22, 2006

IWPS House Article No. 84 (http://www.iwps-pal.org/en/articles/article.php?id=881)
Jenin refugee camp, in the northern part of the West Bank, is home to approximately 14,000 people, crowded into an area of about 1 square kilometer. The refugees came mostly in 1948 from the Haifa area, a coastal town in what is now the state of Israel.
At the entrance of Jenin refugee camp there is a huge horse sculpture. It is made from an assortment of scrap metal, the remains of an ambulance and two cars which were attacked and exploded when the Israeli army invaded the camp in 2002. Everyone was killed, including a doctor, reportedly one of Jenin’s best. Being a medic in Palestine is a dangerous job.
Our first stop was to the rehabilitation centre for people with disabilities. It is the only centre of its kind in the northern part of the West Bank. The centre works particularly with children, both those who have been born with a disability, such as cerebral palsy and those who have been injured physically and mentally during the Intifada. They provide a wide range of services, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychological interventions/treatments, medication and family support.
The newly opened prosthetics department is on the ground floor. It was one of the many times I fought back my tears. Seeing the artificial limbs was a very stark image of life under occupation. Rows of feet lined up on the shelves, an assortment of sizes from small children to adults. This image stabbed me. Hanging on the wall outside were crutches and on the workbench limbs in progress.
Up until a few months ago when the department opened, they relied on a specialist coming every two months from Ramallah or Bethlehem. The measurements would be taken, the new limb made, but by the time the specialist returned two months later (due to long curfews, travel restrictions or heavy work load), the limb would often no longer fit and so the process would start again.
Upstairs in the centre was a well equipped play room and what had been a computer room, before the contents were destroyed and vandalised by the Israeli soldiers. On the corridor walls were pictures, drawn by 11 and 12 year olds. The first one was of the camp pre-invasions, all the rest were of during the invasions. I was deeply moved by the stories told, of the horrors that became reality for those children, as they were attacked by one of the most powerful armies of the world. Pictures of bodies lying bleeding in the street. Pictures of apache helicopters and fighter plane bombing their houses. Pictures of soldiers firing their weapons.
Jenin camp was very badly hit during the 2002- 2004 invasions, and the whole city and surrounding areas were under long curfews. The first 2 weeks of the invasions were the worst in terms of the numbers killed, 57 or 63 according to differing sources of the day. Much of the camp was razed to the ground. 420 homes completely destroyed. 800 homes partly destroyed. Given the size of Palestinian families that means thousands of people left homeless. For some of the older generation that was at least the third time in their lives they were made homeless, first in 1948, followed by 1967 and then again in 2002. Many of the houses were destroyed as the armoured Caterpillar bulldozers ploughed through the narrow streets of the densely populated camp, decimating everything in its path in order to reach and destroy the houses of fighters. An extremely blatant example of collective punishment and clearly violates international law (4th Geneva Convention, Article 33 prohibits collective punishment, prohibits reprisals against people & property. Hague Regulations, Article 50 outlaws collective punishment)
Our host, Basem, spoke not only about the camp but also about his village, Yabad, which is now surrounded by 5 illegal Israeli settlements and the Apartheid Wall. A journey which could take as little as 13 minutes took him 6 hours during the invasions. In order to transport a sick neighbour to hospital he had to drive cross country, through the olive trees, unable to use the roads in what had been declared a closed military zone.
The short journey through the camp to our next stop, the “Freedom Theatre” revealed to me something of the extent of the destruction during the invasions. All the new houses, of which there were countless, were the ones that had been rebuilt after being demolished by the Israeli army. The remaining houses were littered with bullet marks.
The “Freedom Theatre” has new premises. A hall with a stage and some lights. On the wall some photos of Arna mer Khanis (an Israeli woman married to a Palestinian man) and the Palestinian and Israeli children she brought together in theatre projects. Too many of them are now dead. Alongside the photos a “Free Tali Fahima” poster. Later, Basem showed us the remains of a house, which had been destroyed the third time over, nothing more than some rubble & timber. One of the homes in which the “Freedom Theatre” had formerly performed.
After lunch we visited the “Not to Forget” women’s centre. Farha, the chairperson welcomed us and explained how during the 2002-2004 invasions, a group of women formed a society to help the women and children of Jenin camp. The centre grew out of their work. All the women are volunteers and most of them have lost someone during the Intifada. They provide lots of activities for children, such as art and dance classes as well as summer camps. Over a thousand children are benefiting from their services, having a chance to rediscover something of childhood. For the women they provide training such as computer classes and education around the elections, as well as embroidery groups enabling them to generate some income. Farha explained how many women in the camp have psychological problems, arising from having their sons or husbands in prison, financial problems due to high unemployment, losing family members as martyrs and the difficulties resulting from long curfews.
Whilst we were there six girls, around 10 or 11 years old, gave a dance performance. The serious, focused mood of the first few dances dissolved into something lighter and ended with all of us joining the dabka, the traditional Palestinian folk dance. Watching these girls smiling, laughing, eyes twinkling, and the young man who was teaching them with such energy and joy, was a beautiful experience. I was moved by their spirit and their ability to pick up their lives. Throughout the West Bank there are countless examples of the attempts by the Israeli government and military to erase the Palestinian people and culture. I am learning all the time of the countless forms of resistance. Keeping the traditional dances alive and vibrant is one such form.
Refugee camps can conjure up the image of masses of people living a temporary life in tents. Whilst there may be a mental insecurity, triggered by (the then) frequent invasions, there is not a sense of impermanence. People are living in houses. There are shops. Schools. Clinics. Mosques. The land is rented for long periods. It is obvious the problems faced by the refugees will not be resolved quickly, if ever. The enormity of the refugee problem is slowly dawning on me. Basem spoke of how many of the old people keep safe the keys to their houses and deeds to their land, in what is now Israel. Clearly the idea of “a land without people, for a people without land” is inaccurate, to say the least. By continuing to live in the camp, rather than moving elsewhere the people of Jenin camp are maintaining their status as refugees, and with that their right of return.
Text by: Alys
Editing: Grace, Lina