FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UPDATE, November 22nd: Father Peter and Sister Mary Ellen have moved on to Beit Lahia, in the north of Gaza, where Palestinians have been gathered for the last three days to protect the home of Wael Rajab, a house that took 20 years to build. This is at least the second location in Gaza in the last four days where this particular nonviolent tactic has been employed to prevent home demolition. Fr. Peter said he has been sitting outside the house with many people from the town, including doctors, teachers, and a civil engineer.
“It is clear that violence will only lead to more violence,” Fr. Peter said, “but perhaps this nonviolent form of resistance will help to end the vicious cycle.” Palestinians have explained that hundreds of villagers have decided to participate in this action because they feel that since the world community has chosen not to help them, they must help themselves. And they are dedicated. Many of the villagers, from young men to elderly women, have told the two Christians, “Even if Israel destroys our homes, we will stay.”
Father Peter and Sister Mary Ellen from the US have joined the people of Jabalya, Gaza, in their non-violent action to protect the home of Mohammed Wael Baroud, under threat of destruction. On Saturday hundreds of neighbours surrounded his house and climbed onto the roof after he received a call from the Israeli army informing him he had 30 minutes to vacate his home before it was destroyed by missiles.
“I am amazed at the courage and solidarity of these people. This is a living example of brotherhood between people against the injustice of collective punishment”, said Sister Mary Ellen.
Just two weeks after the killing of two non-violent female demonstrators in Gaza, the movement has gathered momentum after Palestinians recently halted two planned Israeli air strikes on activists’ homes. These two recent successes in the Palestinian non-violent resistance movement appear to have thwarted Israeli air strikes for the first time due to the sheer numbers of people mobilized.
The owner of the house Wael Baroud a leader in the Popular Resistance Committees armed faction, said “The whole world and the international community turned a blind eye and failed to protect us from the continuous Israeli attacks. We have to do something… We are ready to be killed and martyred for the sake of God and freedom. We don’t fear the Israelis. We are no better than the children of Beit Hanoun, who were slaughtered while they were sleeping in the latest Israeli massacre in Beit Hanoun.”
It is a contravention of the Geneva Convention for armies to fail to make a distinction between unarmed civilians and armed combatants. Israel practices the strategy of telephoning residents of targeted homes shortly before the homes are to be destroyed, giving them just enough time to quickly escape. This practice has been used in over 60 cases within Gaza, despite the fact that any act of collective punishment is a crime under international law.
Contacts in Jabalya:
Father Peter – 0546259547
Sister Mary Ellen – 0547947159