It was Maundy Thursday according to the Gregorian calendar. Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank towns were not celebrating because of an ecumenical agreement in occupied Palestine to celebrate Easter according to the Eastern Orthodox calendar. The other reason why Palestinians were not celebrating Easter was the impending Israeli invasion of Palestinian territory. This time, it was expected, they would hit hard. They sure did.
St. Andrews Church and compound lie along the Ramallah main road. Israeli tanks and armored vehicles rumbled down the road shaking the ground.
The following nights and days were sheer terror. Tanks, shells, machine gun fire and Apache helicopter rockets showered the town in every direction. A curfew was imposed on the whole town. High buildings were occupied and Israeli snipers were stationed on rooftops to shoot at anything that moved. Ramallah turned into a battle-field, its citizens huddled together in their homes, terrified.
Five families live inside St. Andrews Church compound including Pastor George Al-Kopti, recently appointed to look after the small congregation in Ramallah. The oldest is an 82 year old crippled man, who recently was diagnosed with total kidney failure; the youngest is “Lana” a four years old girl.
For five days and nights there were house to house searches, breaking into offices, businesses and shops. Seven hundred people were arrested and taken into army camps for interrogation. Twenty five people were shot dead and buried in a mass grave without proper funerals. The wounded numbered in the hundreds and many were left to bleed to death because medical help was not allowed to reach them. Most of Ramallah and Al-Bireh where 120000 people live were without electricity, water or telephones for days because Israeli tanks literally ploughed the roads damaging the infrastructure and knocked down electricity and telephone poles.
On Monday April 2, the curfew was “supposedly” lifted for two and a half hours in the afternoon for people to stock on food supplies. “Kindy” a fourteen year old teenager living in the compound went out with his father to try and buy whatever food stuffs they could find in the few shops that were open. Shots were heard and “Kindy” ran, soon to feel a sharp pain in his right leg. Blood was pouring. He was shot in the calf of his right leg. His father pressed the wound while neighbors called an ambulance. It took about forty five minutes for an ambulance to arrive because of the high demand and because of the hindrances placed in their way by Israeli tanks blocking all the roads (Ambulances were stopped on their way to rescue injured people or take the dead bodies, the doctors and nurses were asked to take off their clothes and stand in the rain for a while). “Kindy” was treated and returned home after some three hours, grateful that his wound was one of the least serious, other people were not as lucky, they were killed.
Another family who had taken refuge in the compound because their home was too close to President Arafat’s headquarters, tried in vain to reach their home. Their neighborhood had been declared a closed military zone. When they tried to reason with the soldiers, they were faced with pointed guns and fingers ready at the trigger, “Juman” the ten year old girl was traumatized to see the soldier aim at her.
Into our sixth day of confinement, our food supplies are almost depleted, bread, milk, fresh vegetables and fruit are commodities we dream about.
In addition, eyewitnesses saw soldiers damaging the gates of banks, offices stores jewelry stores, houses and steal other precious things. On the other hand soldiers tried to cause as much damage as they could: pavements, trees, streets, new buildings and cars were smashed to the ground.
To hide their brutal and savage actions the military command ordered the journalists, T.V. reporters to leave Ramallah and forbade the peace activists, he religious leaders of Jerusalem to enter Ramallah.
We ask for your prayers for the end of this nightmare, which will not come to an end unless the Palestinian people achieve their freedom, their full human rights and independence.