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"Seven Hours of Terror" in the Little Town of Bethlehem: January 28, 2008

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On the morning of January 28, 2008 I received the following email from a friend in Bethlehem:

I was going home from the [Bethlehem] Bible College and there was Israeli soldiers and lots
of jeeps preventing me to go in the way of my home, so one person asked me to stay [in his home] there for a while, until this Israeli attack finish ... so I am here now for almost 2 hours hearing shooting and bombs all over AND I WAS TRYING TO CALL HOME AND THERE WAS NO ANSWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the end my mom called me and told me that many Israeli armed soldiers entered our home and THEY PUT ALL MY FAMILY IN ONE ROOM AND THEY TOOK THE WHOLE HOUSE UNTIL THEY WILL DESTROY A HOUSE NEXT TO [ours]
So at this moment one or more family will have no home in this very cold weather or shelter and my family and me don't know when this thing going to finish…I wish I had a picture to show you how scary it is.

I immediately phoned my friend but due to all the background noise could not hear him well, but his anguish was most palpable. I then phoned his brother who was in the home seized by the Israeli soldiers and was told:

"We are being held hostage in one room. Five minutes ago three soldiers searched me. There are many on the roof and they have been shooting, but we have no idea who they are looking for or how long this will go on. Pray for us and tell everyone you know to pray for Bethlehem."

At 11:30 AM EST I phoned again and learned:

"We are still trapped in this room with no windows. Four very loud explosions happened since last phone call-vibrations knocked our walls, things broke. There is still nearly constant gun fire. Maybe it stops for a few minutes, but then returns. Pray."

At 1 PM EST I made another call and my friend whispered, "It is still going on...we are barricaded in this room and I have to go to the bathroom and I can't get out...I can't talk now."

At 3 PM EST I called Bethlehem again and my friend said:  "Seven hours of terror finally over. The soldiers are finally gone and now I can tell you that about 2:30 here I heard my dogs barking in the kitchen and right outside on our porch were two Israeli soldiers with a German shepherd dog and I was very scared and called my parents who came right over. There were maybe three jeeps outside and 5-6 soldiers came into my house and as I was phoning my brother not to come home they came into my room and checked my entire body and all over the room. They ordered my family not to leave the room for any reason and about every five minutes over seven hours all we heard was bullets and four or five huge explosions. Now that the soldiers are gone I went to check our roof, that part where is also a part of our house and the soldiers had broken the windows to shoot out of. There had been well over twenty jeeps outside-they had filled the street, they didn't come down the way from the Church of the Nativity, but from the other way, the way you didn't walk when you were here…All we know is that the house that was destroyed was somebody that was wanted by Israel, we don't know why."

In an email received 1/29/08, my friend reported that  "one person was killed, three families became homeless in this very cold weather, a few cars were damaged and the roads too…please keep praying for comfort to the family of the guy who was killed."

During our last phone call on the 28th he told me he would email some photos, but they haven't arrived yet and every time I have phoned him today, I receive a recorded message from the operator saying the phone is out of service.


"Since 1967, 18,000 houses Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem. … Altogether around 50,000 people have been left homeless (Human Rights Watch, Razing Rafah, October 2004… More than 628 Palestinian homes have been demolished during the second Intifada as collective punishment and “deterrence” affecting families of people known or suspected of involvement in attacks on Israeli civilians. On average 12 innocent people lose their home for every person “punished” for a security offense – and in half of the cases the occupants had nothing whatsoever to do with the acts in question. To add to the Kafkaesque nature of this policy, the Israeli government insists its aim is to “deter” potential terrorists, although 79% of the suspected offenders were either dead or in detention at the time of the demolition (B’tselem Summary 2004:1,3).…The majority of house demolitions are conducted for 'Administrative' reasons and are generally because the house was built without a permit. However permits are almost impossible to obtain by Palestinians living under Occupation." http://www.icahd.org/eng/faq.asp?menu=9&submenu=1

My friends seven hours of terror in Bethlehem were due to punitive house demolitions which "is an administrative procedure carried out without trial and without proof in court of the guilt of the person because of whom the action is taken…During the current intifada, until recently…Israel treated the action as an imperative military action. Most of the house demolitions took place at night without any prior warning and without giving the occupants a demolition order, as required by Section 119 of the Emergency Defense Regulations. The occupants were given a few minutes to remove their possessions to avoid having them buried in the rubble…Whatever the legal basis, punitive house demolitions flagrantly breach international law which allows destruction of property only when necessary for a military operation (article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention). According to the official commentary of the International Committee of the Red Cross, “military operation” is defined as “the movement, maneuvers, and actions of any sort, carried out by the armed forces with a view to combat.” Punitive house demolitions do not meet this definition…International law also prohibits collective punishment, i.e. the punishment of persons for acts committed by others (article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 50 of the Hague Regulations). House demolitions are a clear case of collective punishment in that the primary victims are relatives of the persons suspected of committing an offense." http://www.btselem.org/english/Punitive_Demolitions/Legal_Basis.asp

In a letter of appeal from American Israeli, Founder and Coordinator of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions/ICAHD and a 2007 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Jeff Halper wrote:

Given the tragic destruction and violence of the past few months, it is extremely important that we the Israeli, Palestinian and international peace forces respond with a resounding "NO!" to the continuing Occupation and policies of repression.

The rebuilding of demolished Palestinian homes, whether destroyed by court order or under the guise of "security," is one appropriate response. ICAHD's resistance to Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes, combined with our ability to bring hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians together to rebuild, is effective in exposing the workings of the Occupation. It also keeps alive that spark of common struggle for a just peace that will allow for reconciliation someday. House demolitions have become the hallmark of the Occupation. Indeed, since 1967 Israel has demolished over 12,000 [the current figure is now 18,000] Palestinian homes, leaving some 70,000 without shelter and traumatized. The systematic demolition of Palestinian homes is an attack on an entire people, an attempt to make the Palestinians submit to a mini-state or worse, an "autonomous" set of islands -- under Israeli control. We need to struggle against the Occupation so that both our peoples will eventually enjoy the fruits of a just peace." http://icahd.org/eng/support.asp?menu=7&submenu=1

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Eileen Fleming,is a Citizen of CONSCIENCE for US House of Representatives 2012 Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org Staff Member of Salem-news.com, A Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" (more...)
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