Beit Ummar, Bethlehem, Tue 3.3.09, Morning
06:30 AM, Bethlehem Checkpoint: no less than five checking posts were functioning when we arrived. At this stage the CP was practically empty. Later on lines were a bit longer, but passage was quick. The trouble was, as usual, at the other side. Over there lines were crowded, and people who had arrived before opening time at 05:00, came out of the CP at 07:00 – after waiting in line at least two hours in a cold rainy morning.
08:00 AM, Beit Ummar: we went to Abu Nassim’s house that had been occupied by soldiers for several hours (from around 19:00 to 23:00) the night before. According to Abu Nassim, the same thing had happened three consecutive nights the previous week too.
The house has three floors. At the ground floor, in two separate apartments, live Abu Nassim’s two sons with their families; one has three children’ the other, four. At the third floor there is a big balcony and one small room (approximately 5X5 ms); the toilets are outside at this floor.
The soldiers, eight according to Abu Nassim, entered the house at around 19:00 through a break in the wall that surrounds the house, carrying with them a lot of mud into the house (indeed, big mud cakes covered the stairs). The three families – all in all 14 persons – were ordered out of their apartments and led at gun point to the small room at the third floor and locked there. In order to heat some milk for a child or to go to the toilets they had to knock on the door and ask for permission. According to one of the sons, the door to his apartment had been broken by the soldiers, but already fixed by the time we got there.
Three internationals accompanied by two Palestinians arrived at the house about forty minutes after the soldiers. More activists – six Palestinians and five Israelis – joined them about thirty minutes later. One of the internationals said that when they got to the house all the doors were locked, but they had managed to climb up to balcony at the third floor from outside. They could not unlock the door to the small room; they heard children crying incessantly from there. They opened the door leading to the staircase and went downstairs. They talked to soldiers who were not communicative except for claiming that they had caused no damages. They refused though to show any written permit to invade the house. At this stage it was evident that the soldiers did not know how to deal with this new development. They left and came back accompanied by police who checked everybody’s identifying documents. The soldiers finally left at about 23:00.
And one cannot but wonder – if this brutal invasion, that had occurred several times these last two weeks, had “security reasons” why hadn’t the soldiers occupied the upper “strategic” floor but rather forced up there three households at gun point.