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22 August 2002 Edition

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Irish peace activist injured in Jenin

Irish peace activist in the Jenin Palestinian refugee camp, Caoimhe Butterly, was on Tuesday injured, along with three Palestinian teens, as Israeli troops moved into the camp. Two of the Palestinians are described as critical after they were shot in the chest as soldiers opened fire on stone throwers while Butterly was reported to be lightly wounded in the leg by shrapnel. The following is an article she penned last week.

For the past four months that i've spent in what remains of jenin refugee camp, I've spent the majority of that time living between the homes of two families. The first, the Aloo Shahee family, has been marked by tragedy from the April invasion onwards. The mother of the family, Miriam - a dear friend - bled to death over a period of four days from a head wound sustained during the initial shelling of the camp, as did her 17-year old son, Muneer, who died three days into the invasion. Their home was partially destroyed and the home of Miriam's daughter, Maha, was completely destroyed, in the continuous reinvasions and almost nightly raids by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the camp.

Two of the sons of the family were recently beaten severely, arrested and are being held in administrative detention (equivalent to internment without trial)in israeli prisons. A cousin of the family, 16-year-old Lulu, was shot in the back by an Israeli sniper a month ago and is now paralysed from the chest down.

The israeli Army continues to target the family's home on a regular basis - searching it and threatening the family with home demolition because of the family's political affiliations.

The second family - the Sabah family - is presently waiting, (after a raid on their home at 2am five nights ago, in which the 75-year-old father was beaten and then taken, shackled, to a military base for the night while his wife and daughters were harassed and their home trashed) for the return of the army and the promised demolition of the house.

The Sabah family is related to a prominent Hamas activist who was recently assassinated in a village near Jenin, the third very violent execution of a local activist this week. I was friends with two of these men and happened to be working on a Red Crescent ambulance when they got the calls to collect the bodies - one, Ziad ,had had dogs set upon him before soldiers broke every limb in his body and then shot him in the head; the second, Nasser, had been wheelchair-bound and died either when the house he had been staying at was blasted by tank shells or when the israelis then bulldozed the house on top of him, decapitating him in the process.

The Sabah family had their home demolished in the first Intifada after their eldest son killed an Israeli soldier, for which he is now serving a life sentence in Ashkelon prison. The family then built their present home, in which live the elderly parents, their daughters, five grandchildren, and the very pregnant,young wife of their second son, who is presently in hiding after visiting soldiers to the home told his father they would kill him on sight.

Although the house was badly damaged by a missile during the April invasion, and a large part of the neighbourhood was destroyed, with neighbours, family members and friends killed, the family is determined to stay in the camp. They are attempting to rebuild what they can of their lives and spirits, despite the continual desecration of any attempt to do so by the unrelenting daily violence in Jenin by the Israeli occupation forces.

The family were told that the army will return within the next week to blow up the house. Tanks have been rolling past the house for the past three nights, spraying the outside of the house with machine-gun fire. When I went outside two nights ago during a lull in the gunfire, trying to put myself in between their guns and the open window, they were firing into where the family was lying on the ground as the bullets penetrated the walls above them. One of the soldiers who recognised me from previous encounters screamed out: "You want to be a hero, I'll make you a hero - the next bullet is going through your skull." It didn't, obviously, but the comment is indicative of the general attitude prevalent in most Israeli troops stationed around Jenin - they've dehumanised Palestinians to a truly frightening degree and anyone from outside seen to support their just right to resist; both by military means and their continual, daily denial to be broken - by their will to live and stuggle and determination to remain incredibly loving and generous and spiritual in the face of it all; is treated with both contempt and, increasingly more so, some violence.

The Sabah family do not want - obviously - their home to be destroyed and understand very well this particular form of collective punishment and example-making by the IDF. If the Israeli Army returns I've decided, with their consent and support, to chain myself to their home to try to halt the demolition, as generally during such operations arguing about the upholding of international law regarding collective punishment does fail to even slow down the process of a demolition. One of my worries is, however, in trying to get in between the Israeli tanks and the inhabitants of the camp when they come in shooting to enforce curfew or to arrest people. I've become recognisable by both face and name to the troops and have been moderately beaten up a few times in the past months with continual verbal death threats if i don't "get out of Jenin" - which I don't take particularly seriously.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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