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Just another night in Balata

by ISM Nablus, 3rd November

In a shockingly common scenario, the Israeli occupation forces shot a Palestinian child dead in Nablus’ Balata Refugee Camp early this morning and wounded two other Palestinian civilians. Fifteen year-old Brahmin Smakreh was shot and killed as he tried to help his brother Ahmed who was lying in the street after being wounded by the Israeli military.

The unsurprising tragedy began last night at 9:30pm when a small Israeli force entered the Balata refugee camp, reportedly looking for two wanted men. The soldiers fired a number of shots but did not injure anyone and left after about an hour. Balata residents, who are subjected to frequent military operations, returned to the streets.

Then at 1:30am this morning, a much larger force of soldiers invaded Balata in a numerous jeeps, humvees and tanks and laid virtual siege to the camp. The Israeli army occupied a Palestinian house to set up sniper positions, blindfolding the family and forcing them to huddle in one room. The soldiers fired heavy caliber weapons into the main street of Balata and engaged in many clashes with resistance fighters.

Palestinian paramedics were called to the camp after Israeli soldiers severely beat a Palestinian man, 30 year-old Nazem Qatawi, while searching for the wanted men. The Israeli military refused to allow the ambulance or medical teams into the camp, so the ambulance waited nearby.

After Ahmed Smakreh was wounded on the street in front of his house, his younger brother Brahim tried to cross the street and drag him to safety. But before Brahim could reach his brother, he was shot by an Israeli sniper.

Palestinian paramedics received the report of additional casualties and again requested permission to enter the camp to evacuate the wounded. According to the paramedics, the Israeli army responded by firing live ammunition directly at the uniformed paramedics and their Red Crescent ambulance.

Around 4:30am there was a series of explosions followed by a much larger blast as the Israeli army blew up a car on the main street of Balata. The massive explosion knocked out electricity to the entire refugee camp, blew out windows of the neighboring houses, and started a fire that threatened the nearest house. The paramedics called in the Nablus fire department but the Israeli military would not allow any fire trucks to enter the camp.

By 5:30am the Israeli soldiers left Balata camp without arresting anyone. Palestinian paramedics and firemen immediately entered the camp to put out the fire and attend to the civilian casualties. Once the fire was extinguished and the wounded evacuated, electricity crews began to fixeding the electrical wiring to restore power as quickly as possible to the beleaguered citizens of Balata.

The funeral for the murdered boy, Brahim was held at 10:30 this morning. His brother Ahmed and Nazem Qatawi are recovering from their injuries in hospital.