Rashida Ntotela | 10 Rabi ul Awwal 1437/22 December 2015
Since 2002, over 1500 volunteers from across the world have literally put their lives on the line for Palestinians, themselves perpetually in much more danger – acting as human shields in the name of Islam and brotherhood.
This week, Soweto based human rights activist Itani Rasalanavho, appraised Cii Radio, this time from his activist station in Ma’aleh Adumim – an illegal Israeli settlement in the Occupied West Bank, seven kilometres from Jerusalem.
Itani, like many others was propelled into this good cause by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) – A programme coordinated by the World Council of Churches, founded in response to a call from the local heads of churches in Jerusalem.
“The purpose of our presence is to monitor freedom of movement at checkpoints and agricultural gates throughout the small villages in Bethlehem,” Itani said.
Many families in Palestine are being displaced through demolition of their homes and communities or through forced evictions.
Huge portions of land have been confiscated from the locals since July this year, primarily for settlement expansion, Itani said.
“It is our duty to be available in those instances and provide our protection,” he said.
Israel has constructed hundreds of checkpoints and other roadblocks on Palestinian land, which restrict Palestinian travel between, and sometimes, within, their cities and towns.
Many checkpoints are manned by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers and sometimes guarded with tanks. Others are made up of gates, which are locked when soldiers are not on duty.
Journeys of short distances can stretch into hours when Palestinians are detained at checkpoints or forced to circumnavigate roadblocks or closed checkpoints.
“We travel to Bethlehem three times a week, by the time we arrive at 3.30 am, there are approximately a thousand men waiting to cross over,” he explained.
“The gates are opened at 4. 00 am, people who work in Al Quds, ( 7 km walk) have to be at the checkpoint at 4. 00 am.
“By the time we leave at 7.00 am, more than 4 500 Palestinians on average will be crossing the checkpoint.
“90 % of Palestinian men do not wear belts because they know that in a day they will have to take off their belts 6 or 7 times.”
This due to metal detectors that are stationed at the checkpoints, Itani said.
A special queue known as the humanitarian line is supposed to be open for children, women and the elderly, it has been closed for a couple of weeks now, said Itani.
Journalists and other eyewitnesses report that Palestinians have been denied access because they are smiling, or are deemed ugly, or simply because the soldiers don’t feel like letting them pass.
Palestinians are subjected to harassment, humiliation and death at these checkpoints.
We see about six children who are very sick every morning, however,” the Israeli government turns a blind eye to the locals,” he stated.
It becomes difficult for sick people to cross over to Jerusalem to access medical treatment – whereas alternative treatment in the West Bank is available, but expensive.
People above the age of 60 are entitled to cross without a permit, but access it is made difficult for them, and those with permits are also denied, he said.
The presence of the foreign observers aids easy access for Palestinians into the bantustans and enables them to pass freely without challenges, Itani reiterated.
Having regard to the fact that this is Itani’s second visit to the Zionist controlled region, he stated that it is becoming much more difficult for them to operate in the West Bank.
We do not have communication with the senior people in the military or any form of authority from the Israeli side, he said.
Very soon internationals will not be allowed near schools, he recounted a reliable source in the region mention.
The locals are mistreated because they have international friends, referring to the EAPPI.
The most common phrase that I have heard here is: “life is like a mirror, if you smile towards it, it smiles back”, he explains.
Palestinians are humble, loving and hospitable regardless of the conditions they endure.
“The level of patience from them is very high and it is amazing to watch as a South African,” Itani said.
They are resilient and have hope that freedom will come their way.
Cii News | 10 Rabi ul Awwal 1436/22 December 2015
Humans of the Intifada is a new Cii Online series that seeks to highlight the humanity, personal narratives and tragic circumstances of violence/death faced by Palestinians on the receiving end of the latest ominous escalation of Israeli State Terror.
A young Palestinian, only 18 years of age, was shot and killed, on December 02 at dawn, after dozens of Israeli soldiers invaded Deheishe refugee camp, south of the West Bank district of Bethlehem. The soldiers also kidnapped five, and injured many others.
Malek Akram Shahin, 18, was shot with a live israeli army round in his head, and was moved to Beit Jala Hospital, where he died of his serious injury, medical sources said.
Eyewitnesses said a large Israeli military force invaded the refugee camp from various directions, leading to clashes with dozens of local youths, who hurled stones and empty bottles on them.
The army fired dozens of live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs, causing several injuries.
The soldiers stormed and searched dozens of homes in the camp, and kidnapped five Palestinians, known to be members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
In addition, the soldiers interrogated many families, while searching and ransacking their homes in the refugee camp.
Medics said the Israeli army stopped them, and their ambulances, and prevented them from even walking towards wounded residents, while many families were calling for help after suffering severe effects of tear gas inhalation.
Shahin (18) was hit with a bullet that penetrated the forehead and settled in his head. Palestinian ambulances were denied access to the camp and the young man was left to bleed for long.
Medics said the explosive bullet smashed Shahin’s skull, and exploded inside his head, with the bullet and skull fragments shattering into “hundreds of pieces.
“The sources said the positioning of the shot, as well as the type of bullet used, clearly indicates that Israeli forces shot at Shahin with every intention to kill. The use of explosive bullets, also called expanding bullets or “dum dum” bullets, is illegal under international law, and considered a crime of war under the 1899 Hague Declaration and the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute, among others.
The bullets are banned due to the brutal damage inflicted on the victim, as the bullets are made to splinter apart and become lodged, instead of making a clean exit through the body.
Such bullets can cause damage to an aircraft, armored vehicles, and are designed to maximize tissue damage, bones, blood loss and shock.
Israel has repeatedly denied claims that its forces use such bullets, though Palestinian medical examiners have repeatedly documented their use.
In fact, the Israeli army has been frequently using those types of rounds against Palestinian civilians, including in the First Intifada of 1987.
Back in October, surgeons in the Hadassah Israeli Hospital in Jerusalem amputated the leg of child detainee,Issa Adnan Abdul-Mo’ty, 13 years of age, after various surgeries failed to save his right leg. He was also shot with a Dumdum bullet.
Earlier in November, detainee, Issa Jalal Sharawna, 17 years old, had his leg amputated, in Assaf HaRofeh Israeli hospital, as a result of severe injuries he sustained in early October, after he was shot by Israeli settlers.
Locals told Ma’an that after Shahin was shot, he was “left bleeding for a long time before he was evacuated to the public hospital in Beit Jala, where medics pronounced him dead.”
An Israeli army spokesperson had no information of his death, but said that Israeli soldiers had opened fire after Palestinians threw “pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails” at them.
The left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine later said that Shahin had been one of its supporters. The group said in a statement that he fell “during fierce clashes with Israeli troops who raided the camp to detain young men affiliated to the PFLP.
In a statement, the Front saluted the “heroic martyr”, praising his commitment to struggle and to confront the occupier and its storming of the camp.
“The continued targeting of the cadres and members of the Front in Dheisheh camp by the occupation forces, including the broad arrest campaign against them, will not extinguish the flame of the intifada nor the commitment of the Front, especially on the eve of the 48th anniversary of the Front’s founding,” it said.
“The occupation is continually carrying out heinous crimes against our Palestinian youth, who are leading the struggle and in the forefront of confrontation of the occupation; their attacks will not silence our youth nor prevent them from continuing to escalate the confrontation with the occupier and its soldiers and settlers.
Thousands marched during Malek Shahin’s funeral, honoring this beloved and brave revolutionary youth and pledging to continue the intifada.
“Following his death, a Bethlehem committee announced a halt to all business across the district and stores and government institutions were closed.At least 114 Palestinians have now been killed in just over two months of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory.