By the ISM Media Team
Starting on June 27th, 2007. Following the Israeli Occupation Forces’ (IOF) invasion of Nablus, from late Wednesday evening until early Friday morning, in which hundreds of Israeli troops in dozens of armored vehicles and bulldozers invaded the city and the Balata refugee camp, taking over numerous buildings and homes, blocking entrances to hospitals and schools, taking over radio stations, and eventually demolishing three homes in the old city, Human Rights Workers (HRWs) inspected the old city, visiting sites of IOF-demolished homes.
Several houses in the old city were demolished using explosives. The residents of the homes were not given warning of the impending demolition, and in some cases were prevented from leaving the home. One resident, a Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) medic described climbing out the 2nd story window and hanging onto the ledge in order to escape the collapse of the floor resulting from the demolition of the adjoining house.
The father of a family whose home was demolished by explosives described how the IOF invaded the home around 5:30 pm on Thursday, collecting family members in one room and interrogating the sons on two occasions. The 2nd interrogation session took place in a bathroom, where the sons were badly beaten. Two young men of the family, ages 20 and 24, were arrested. The house was demolished shortly before midnight.
The neighboring house, sharing a wall with the demolished home, also lost a 1st story ceiling-2nd story-floor due to Israeli explosives. Additionally, the weight-bearing wall was badly damaged, further endangering inhabitants sharing this wall. The mother of the family explained they had only just finished re-building after the last invasion. She further explained that had her sons been standing a few meters further away, they would have been killed in the collapse of the floor.
In the Safadi home, 3 sons were arrested. The house was thoroughly trashed: Israeli soldiers burrowed into the kitchen floors in search of tunnels and weapons, and additionally ransacked the rooms of the home. While occupying the house, snipers were installed in windows strategically overlooking the alleys outside. The family was used as human shields while the IOF occupied the house.
The Asali household suffered similar injustices. IOF soldiers also dug into the floor, opening a well and exploding a shared-family storage room on the ground level. Soldiers occupied the home from 8 am Thursday until the IOF left Friday morning, again placing snipers in the windows. Upstairs rooms were completely ransacked. Six Palestinians were kept captive in the house, as human shields, during the entire time of occupying the home.
At 3 of Nablus’ hospitals —Al Watani, Rafidia, and Nablus Specialty Hospital—at least 2 Israeli military vehicles blocked entrances from Wednesday night until Friday morning, with soldiers preventing doctors, hospital staff and patients alike from entering, despite the urgency of doing so.
According to Al Watani hospital staff, the army shot at the hospital with machine guns on 5 different occasions. IOF additionally delayed delivery of critical supply trucks like those bringing oxygen, as well as those with supplies for dialysis machines—most patients cannot survive long periods without dialysis, and further prevented delivery of food.
The day after the army pulled out, HRWs visited the home of one Nablus old city resident who was held captive in one room of her home, along with approximately 40 other family members and neighbors, from Wednesday evening until Friday morning. In another room upstairs, approximately 50 neighbors were held, and a further 15 were kept in yet another room of the house. All were held under similar conditions. During their captivity, residents were neither given food or water, nor were they permitted to use the toilet, instead having to hold themselves or urinate in the room in which they were kept captive. Numerous elderly, children, and one pregnant woman suffered greatly under these circumstances. One elderly man was unable to take his vital medicine for nearly two days as it needed to be taken with food. Both the elderly woman and man developed severely swollen legs from remaining seated for nearly two days, needing to be carried out of the room when finally released from captivity.
While occupying the home, soldiers urinated in the rooms as well as ransacked the house. Upon eventually leaving the home, one soldier tossed a hand grenade into the 2nd story window of the house still occupied by about 100 unarmed civilians, fortunately not resulting in any deaths but nonetheless adding to the damage done by the soldiers.
This house-occupation was not an isolated instance. Numerous homes in the old city were appropriated and occupied, residents crammed into small rooms together and held without food, water, or visits to the toilet.
The army was allegedly looking for “wanted men” (resistance fighters). The action of occupying homes and holding residents captive equates to using the civilians as human shields during the military invasion, a practice which is internationally recognized as illegal.
In one instance on Thursday evening, soldiers took captive a Palestinian Medical Relief (PRM) volunteer who had been part of a group escorting civilians to their old city homes. Initially detaining the medic by asking for his ID, the soldiers further detained him by keeping the ID. Soldiers took the medic into the home they were occupying, holding him inside for over 30 minutes before he reappeared blindfolded and handcuffed at the door of the building. He was then made to squat in front of the building for approximately another 20 to 30 minutes while soldiers changed shifts. During this time, international HRW attempted to secure the medics release, citing the soldiers’ violations of international law in arresting and using the volunteer medic as a human shield. The HRWs inquiries and requests were met with refusals to release the medic and by the soldiers’ statements that they were not obligated to disclose the reasons for the medic’s detention. After numerous attempts to negotiate the medic’s release, HRWs had to leave the scene. It is unknown whether the PRM volunteer was harmed during his initial or later detention, though there is a high probability he was interrogated and beaten, as in other instances.
The targeted arrest and detention of medics is common and is a form of collective punishment for these volunteers providing essential emergency services to wounded Palestinians. Volunteer medics typically are young Palestinian men, who the IOF routinely accuse of having involvement with militant groups. When not arrested, medics and ambulances are still routinely denied access to emergency areas, denying the wounded emergency attention, a tactic which can result in the deaths of the injured. On Friday morning, one paramedic, age 23, was shot in the shoulder while on duty.
During this latest invasion of Nablus, at least 60 reported cases occurred as a direct result of the IOF army presence and actions. A further 15 routine but serious medical cases required the attention of the PRC whose movement was greatly restricted by the presence of the IOF. Injuries resulting from rubber bullet wounds numbered 48 in the span of 16 hours—these were only the injuries which were reported to and attended by the PRC. Among these cases, one 23 year old man was shot 4 times in the back and once in the chest with rubber bullets. There were also two reported cases of injury by live bullets. It is worth mentioning that these were all cases which the PRC was alerted to and do not include the injuries unreported to the PRC.
Following a brief absence during the day on Friday, the occupying army re-entered the old city Friday evening and again Saturday evening, as happens on a regular basis in the Israeli military-surrounded city of Nablus.