at the age of 23 by an Israeli Army bulldozer while defending the home of a Palestinian family whose house was targeted for destruction. The Tank driver refused to stop and rolled over her, crushing her and then backed up once again over her body to the horrified shouts of her peace activist colleagues. This photo was taken on April 18, 2002. Rachel is shown wearing her dove headgear while working on a model of Earth for the eighth annual "Procession of the Species", a community artistic celebration combining art, music and dance to give nature a greater presence on Olympia's city streets.
Activist who died for conviction
Rachel Corrie: Her father Craig says he is proud of her
Rachel Corrie, the American killed by an Israeli army bulldozer, was a committed peace activist even before her arrival in the Gaza Strip a few months ago.
She was a student at Evergreen State College in her local town of Olympia in Washington State, which is known for its liberal sensibilities.
The 23-year-old arranged peace events there before joining, through local group Olympians for Peace and Solidarity, a Palestinian-led organisation that uses non-violent means to challenge Israeli army tactics in the West Bank and Gaza.
Her parents have paid tribute to her concern for human rights and dignity, remembering how she was "dedicated to everybody".
They spoke hours after Ms Corrie died in hospital on Sunday from injuries suffered when she was hit by an armoured Israeli army bulldozer in the southern Gaza Strip.
She was with other activists from the International Solidarity Movement trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian building in the Rafah refugee camp.
The Israelis say such tactics are necessary because Palestinian gunmen use the structures as cover to shoot at their troops patrolling in the area.
For Palestinians... this is not a nightmare but a continuous reality from which international privilege cannot protect them
Ms Corrie - who was wearing an orange fluorescent jacket to alert the bulldozer drivers to her presence in pictures taken by her colleagues on Sunday - had previously described the hazards of her work.
An email despatch details a confrontation on 14 February between another bulldozer and her own group, which she refers to as the "internationals".
"The internationals stood in the path of the bulldozer and were physically pushed with the shovel backwards, taking shelter in a house.
"The bulldozer then proceeded on its course, demolishing one side of the house with the internationals inside," she wrote in the email distributed by the International Solidarity Movement.
Ms Corrie was active in the peace movement at home
Her father Craig Corrie, speaking to the AP news agency from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, said: "We've tried to bring up our children to have a sense of community, a sense of community that everybody in the world belonged to.
"Rachel believed that - with her life, now."
He said that he and his wife were still trying to find out the details of what happened.
"Rachel was proud, and we are proud of Rachel that she was able to live with her convictions.
"Rachel was filled with a love and sense of duty to our fellow man, wherever they lived, and she gave her life trying to protect those that could not protect themselves."
Ms Corrie's mother Cindy said her daughter had spent nights sleeping at wells to protect them from bulldozers.
"She lived with families whose houses were threatened with demolition and today as we understand it, she stood for three hours trying to protect a house."
The grief at her death amongst the community in Olympia was shown on Sunday when several hundred people turned out for a previously scheduled peace vigil that turned into an impromptu memorial.
Mourners held candles and photocopied pictures of her with the word "Peacemaker", as well as banners urging the United States to stop aid to Israel and avoid war with Iraq.
The Vice President of Student Affairs at Evergreen State College, Art Costantino says on his online notive of her death that she was a "shining star, a wonderful student and a brave person of deep convictions".
Larry Mosqueda, one of Ms Corrie's Evergreen professors and a fellow activist said: "She was concerned about human rights and dignity. That's why she was there."
Statement March 16, 2003
Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie
We are now in a period of grieving and still finding out the details behind the death of Rachel in the Gaza Strip.
We have raised all our children to appreciate the beauty of the global community and family and are proud that Rachel was able to live her convictions.Rachel was filled with love and a sense of duty to her fellow man, wherever they lived.And, she gave her life trying to protect those that are unable to protect themselves.
Rachel wrote to us from the Gaza Strip and we would like to release to the media her experience in her own words at this time.
Excerpts from an e-mail from Rachel Corrie to her family on February 7, 2003.
I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see.It is most difficult for me to think about what's going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States--something about the virtual portal into luxury.I don't know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons.I think, although I'm not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere.An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me, Ali--or point at the posters of him on the walls.The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me "Kaif Sharon?""Kaif Bush?" and they laugh when I say "Bush Majnoon" "Sharon Majnoon" back in my limited Arabic.(How is Sharon?How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.)Of course this isn't quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: Bush mish Majnoon... Bush is a businessman.Today I tried to learn to say "Bush is a tool", but I don't think it translated quite right.But anyway, there are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago--at least regarding Israel.
Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here.You just can't imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and, of course, the fact that I have the option of leaving.Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown.I have a home.I am allowed to go see the ocean.Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others).When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting half way between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpointa soldier with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I'm done.So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.
They know that children in the United States don't usually have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean.But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you havent wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once youve met people who have never lost anyone-- once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn't surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed "settlements" and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing--just existing--in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the worlds fourth largest military--backed by the worlds only superpower--in its attempt to erase you from your home.That is something I wonder about these children.I wonder what would happen if they really knew.
As an afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah, a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60 percent of whom are refugees--many of whom are twice or three times refugees.Rafah existed prior to 1948, but most of the people here are themselves or are descendants of people who were relocated here from their homes in historic Palestine--now Israel.Rafah was split in half when the Sinai returned to Egypt.Currently, the Israeli army is building a fourteen-meter-high wall between Rafah in Palestine and the border, carving a no-mans land from the houses along the border.Six hundred and two homes have been completely bulldozed according to the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee.The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is greater.
Today as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, "Go! Go!" because a tank was coming.Followed by waving and "what's your name?".There is something disturbing about this friendly curiosity.It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks.Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what's going on.International kids standing in front of tanks with banners.Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously, occasionally shouting-- and also occasionally waving--many forced to be here, many just aggressive, shooting into the houses as we wander away.
In addition to the constant presence of tanks along the border and in the western region between Rafah and settlements along the coast, there are more IDF towers here than I can count--along the horizon,at the end of streets.Some just army green metal.Others these strange spiral staircases draped in some kind of netting to make the activity within anonymous.Some hidden,just beneath the horizon of buildings.A new one went up the other day in the time it took us to do laundry and to cross town twice to hang banners.Despite the fact that some of the areas nearest the border are the original Rafah with families who have lived on this land for at least a century, only the 1948 camps in the center of the city are Palestinian controlled areas under Oslo.But as far as I can tell, there are few if any places that are not within the sights of some tower or another.Certainly there is no place invulnerable to apache helicopters or to the cameras of invisible drones we hear buzzing over the city for hours at a time.
I've been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable.There is a great deal of concern here about the "reoccupation of Gaza." Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents, but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here, instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities.If people aren't already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I hope they will start.
I also hope you'll come here.We've been wavering between five and six internationals.The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O.There is also need for constant night-time presence at a well on the outskirts of Rafahsince the Israeli army destroyed the two largest wells.According to the municipal water office the wells destroyed last week provided half of Rafahs water supply. Many of the communities have requested internationals to be present at night to attempt to shield houses from further demolition.After about it is very difficult to move at night because the Israeli army treats anyone in the streets as resistance and shoots at them.So clearly we are too few.
I continue to believe that my home, Olympia, could gain a lot and offer a lot by deciding to make a commitment to Rafah in the form of a sister-community relationship.Some teachers and children's groups have expressed interest in e-mail exchanges, but this is only the tip of the iceberg of solidarity work that might be done.Many people want their voices to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself.I am just beginning to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against all odds.
Thanks for the news I've been getting from friends in the US.I just read a report back from a friend who organized a peace group in Shelton, Washington, and was able to be part of a delegation to the large January 18th protest in WashingtonDC.People here watch the media, and they told me again today that there have been large protests in the United States and "problems for the government" in the UK.So thanks for allowing me to not feel like a complete polyanna when I tentatively tell people here that many people in the United States do not support the policies of our government, and that we are learning from global examples how to resist.
Rachel Corrie, ISM Peace Activist,
Confronting the Israeli Bulldozer
in the Gaza Strip community
before being killed March 16, 2003
Israeli Army Enters Gaza Camp
At least four Palestinians are reported killed and 12 injured after Israeli troops entered a refugee camp in Central Gaza. The Israelis sent about 30 tanks and armoured vehicles into the Nusseirat camp early on Monday, exchanging gunfire with Palestinian fighters.
One of the dead was a 13-year-old boy, another was 17, Palestinian hospital sources said.
On Sunday, an American peace activist was killed after she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer in the southern Gaza Strip.
An Israeli military spokesman said that her death was an accident. The US government has asked Israel for a full investigation.
Palestinian sources said Israeli troops had thrust into the centre of Nusseirat and surrounded a house.
The camp is a stronghold of the Islamic militant group, Hamas, which has carried out scores of deadly attacks against Israelis. The raid is the latest of almost nightly assaults by Israel against militants in Gaza over teh past few weeks.
Witnesses said Rachel Corrie, aged 23, from Olympia, Washington, had been trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian building in the Rafah refugee camp.
There were eight international protestors at the site - four American and four British - all members of a group called International Solidarity Movement.
Ms Corrie was the first member of the organisation to be killed in the conflict in the Palestinian territories.
The Israeli army accused the group of acting irresponsibly by intentionally placing themselves in a combat zone.
Israeli forces use tanks and bulldozers to destroy buildings near the Gaza-Egypt border, which they say are used as cover by Palestinian gunmen to shoot at Israeli troops patrolling the area.
Groups of international protestors have gathered in several locations in the West Bank and Gaza over the last two years, trying to protect families whose homes are due to be demolished by Israeli forces.
West Bank closed
The death occurred as the Israeli army reinforced its closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip amid fears of attacks during a forthcoming Jewish holiday. Palestinians will be prevented from entering Israel during the festival of Purim, which runs from Monday to Wednesday, a military statement said.
Israeli radio said the order came from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz. It added that intelligence sources had warned of attacks being planned. Palestinian sources said that mroe than 10,000 workers from Gaza had been prevented from going to work in Israel on Sunday morning.planned.
U.S. Woman Slain by Bulldozer in Israel had been active in peace movement for years
By Paul Queary, Associated Press, 3/16/2003 16:16
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) In a matter of months, Rachel Corrie went from the orderly peace movement of this small liberal city to a deadly world of gunfire, violent political conflict and the bulldozer that crushed her to death.
Corrie, 23, a student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, died Sunday in Gaza while trying to stop the bulldozer from tearing down a Palestinian physician's home. She fell in front of the machine, which ran over her and then backed up, witnesses said.
In an e-mail earlier this month, Corrie had described a Feb. 14 confrontation with another Israeli bulldozer in which she referred to herself and other activists as ''internationals.''
''The internationals stood in the path of the bulldozer and were physically pushed with the shovel backwards, taking shelter in a house,'' Corrie wrote in the e-mail, distributed in a March 3 news release by the International Solidarity Movement.
''The bulldozer then proceeded on its course, demolishing one side of the house with the internationals inside,'' she wrote.
Just a few months before her death, Corrie had been organizing events as an activist in Olympia's peace movement and at Evergreen, a small campus know for its devotion to liberal causes.
Through a local group called Olympians for Peace in the Middle East, she joined the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led group that uses nonviolent methods to challenge Israeli occupation. Among their methods is standing in front of the bulldozers Israel sends into the area nearly ever day to destroy buildings near the Gaza-Egypt border.
Other protesters who were with Corrie in Gaza on Sunday said she was wearing a bright colored jacket when the bulldozer hit her.
''Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop,'' said Greg Schnabel, 28, of Chicago. ''She waved for the bulldozer to stop and waved. She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled, 'Stop, stop,' and the bulldozer didn't stop at all.''
Israeli military spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal said her death was an accident. The U.S. State Department had no immediate comment.
A tearful Craig Corrie, Rachel's father, remembered his daughter Sunday as ''dedicated to everybody.''
''We've tried to bring up our children to have a sense of community, a sense of community that everybody in the world belonged to,'' he said from his home in Charlotte, N.C. ''Rachel believed that with her life, now.''
Corrie was already a committed peace activist when she arrived at EvergreenState, a small campus is known for devotion to liberal causes, said Larry Mosqueda, one of Corrie's professors and a fellow activist.
''She was concerned about human rights and dignity,'' he said. ''That's why she was there.''
The move from organizer to front-line opposition in a war zone was a switch for Corrie, whom friends said was not usually inclined to the overt acts of civil disobedience that characterized such events as the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999.
''As long as I've known her she's always been very energetic and very focused about social justice,'' said Phan Nguyen, 28, a friend and fellow activist who has made several similar trips to the West Bank. ''It seemed natural that she would do something like this.''
In her e-mailed dispatch from Rafah, Corrie painted a picture of the perilous life of a human shield, recounting a Feb. 14 confrontation with the Israelis.
''We can only imagine what it is like for Palestinians living here, most of them already once-or-twice refugees already, for whom this is not a nightmare,'' Corrie wrote, ''but a continuous reality from which international privilege cannot protect them, and from which they have no economic means to escape.''
On the Net:
International Solidarity Movement: http://www.palsolidarity.org/
Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace: http://www.omjp.org/
Evergreen State College: http://www.evergreen.edu
Women From WashingtonState Shine for ISM Monday, 3 March 2003, Press Release: International Solidarity Movement
Women From WashingtonState Shine for ISM
Today's update focuses on two remarkable women from the US state of Washington. Rachel Corrie from Olympia writes an update on the Gaza Strip's hottest hot spot, while Susan Barclay writes a note of thanks to her supporters (yet still we wonder, is there a conspiracy of silence in the American press?).
Items 1-4 are from Rachel, and item 5 is given over to Susan.
Updates on the major projects ISM Activists in Rafah, Gaza Strip have been pursuing
1. Human shield work with the Rafah Municipal Water Authority (Leading to ISM activists coming under fire).
2. Direct action work aimed at stopping or hindering the destruction of houses by Israeli occupation force bulldozers along the border strip in Rafah. 3. Demonstrations in conjunction with community groups and individuals living in Rafah.
4. Investigation into human rights violations at the Mowasi-Tufah checkpoint, and in the case of men killed in tunnels near Salah El Dinn gate in Rafah, and in the case of the invasion of the agricultural El Hash-Ash area of Rafah on Sunday the 23rd.
These updates are followed by a brief calendar of events recorded since the tenth of February. Sorry, everybody, for the stress on your inboxes.
1. Human shield work continues with Rafah Municipal Water workers
February 25, 2003
Internationals in Rafah have been continuing support work with workers from the Rafah Municipal Water Authority since Sunday 16th February, following a break due to the Eid holiday. ISM-Rafah continues to send internationals to sleep at a third well in the immediate vicinity in order to protect it from destruction. The workers are currently building a barrier surrounding the "Canada Well (#P-144), in the Canada-Tel El Sultan area of Rafah. This well, along with the El Iskan Well (#P-152) was destroyed by Israeli military bulldozers on 30th January. On several occasions, the internationals have witnessed shooting from military vehicles on the settler road which passes along the northwestern edge of the sand-dunes and agricultural areas on the outskirts of Rafah. Bullets have not hit the ground or objects in the immediate vicinity of the workers or internationals, a change from previous human shield actions with the water workers.
According to the Rafah Municipal Water Authority, the Canada Well had a capacity of 180 cubic metres of water per hour35% of Rafah's total water supply. The two wells destroyed were the largest of six in Rafah, providing about 60% of Rafah's total municipal water supply.
The Municipal Water office has made attempts to compensate somewhat for the emergency, by connecting the municipal wells with a private agricultural well which is owned by local farmers. The municipality also redistributed the remaining water according to districts, implementing a strict program in which each district has access to water for six hours a day.
The Canada Well cost US $250,000 at the time of its construction in 1990. Its construction was funded by the Rafah municipality. The El Iskan well was implemented by the Canadian International Development Agencyat a cost of US $205,000 in 1999. The municipality reports receiving $40,000 from the World Bank through the Local Affairs Ministry to repair the two wells. All of this money was used in the construction of fences and protective structures surrounding the well site. The municipality estimates that $300,000 will be needed to repair the Canada well, and $100,000 is needed to repair the El Iskan well. The municipality is waiting for money promised by the Japanese, Canadian, and Norwegian governments in order to restore the wells to capacity.
ISMers come under fire on two separate occasions
Today at approximately , three internationals joined four men working for the Rafah Municipal Water Authority at the El Iskan Water Well (#P-152) on the outskirts of the Tel El Sultan, Rafah. This well is one of the two largest municipal water wells in Rafah, both of which were destroyed by occupation tanks and bulldozers on 30th January this year. This well is being repaired with funding from Norway and Canada. At full capacity, it provides twenty-five per cent of Rafah's water supply.
Workers at the well reported being fired upon on Thursday 27th February.
Saturday, a Municipal Water Authority spokesman reported speaking directly with the Israeli District Command Office. He declared that he had co-ordinated with occupation forces in the area in order to ensure the safety of the Palestinian workers.
Despite receiving this permission, and in spite of the presence of banners and megaphones, the activists and workers were fired upon several times over a period of about one hour. One of the bullets came within two metres of three internationals and a municipal water worker, close enough to spray bits of debris in their faces as it landed at their feet.
This well is located within sight of the Rafah-Mowasi checkpoint, settlement buildings and greenhouses, bunkers in the militarized zone surrounding the checkpoint, a low sniper tower to the south and a very tall sniper tower in the distance to the north. The activists were unable to locate the precise origin of the shots amongst the various occupation force buildings.
2. Internationals continue to take direct action aimed at hindering the demolition of civilian homes by Occupation Forces
Rafah continues to witness the destruction of homes and agriculture on a daily basis. The activists confront barriers to direct action work in most of these cases. These barriers manifest themselves in several ways.
First, limited numbers of internationals are attempting to respond to demolition which occurs without warning allover the edges of Rafah, a city of about 140,000 people. The most recent house demolitions witnessed were accompanied by the amassment of 20 tanks nearby in the border strip. There are currently seven international ISM activists working in Rafah.
Secondly, with a few exceptions, house demolitions in Rafah are carried out by bulldozers and tankswhich fire into the houses or begin to demolish them as notification to the inhabitants of their arrival. Many of the homes destroyed are empty, because the inhabitants have fled with their belongings after experiencing gunfire through windows and walls and the partial bulldozing of their houses. The homes here are not targeted because of any connection with suicide bombings, but because of their existence along an area which the Israeli army finds strategically useful. Thus there is little predictability about which homes will be destroyed next, and no opportunity for direct contact with the army in order to negotiate or notify them of the presence of internationals in the homes.
Much of the destruction occurs at night. Many of the streets of Rafah are impassable in the dark due to sniper towers positioned along the perimeters of Rafah. In the dark, internationals attempting to carry out non-violent direct action rely on battery-charged lights, banners, and the accuracy of unknown local collaborators to make the Israeli military aware of their location.
Another factor in attempting to stop the destruction of a home is a variable factor: the question of whether the driver of a particular tank cares about injuring internationals in the process of destroying the welfare of the Palestinians living here.
On the afternoon of Friday 14th February, seven internationals responded to reports of house demolitions in the block O area, with support from Palestinian organizers. They encountered two bulldozers and a tank, which fired shots around the internationals that seemed directed at Palestinians in nearby alleys. The internationals stood in the path of the bulldozer and were physically pushed with the shovel backwards, taking shelter in a house. The bulldozer then proceeded on its course, demolishing one side of the house with the internationals inside. The driver then dropped a sound grenade out of the cab of the bulldozer, and continued to demolish the house, at which point the activists were able to escape, amid gunfire from the tank.
The next day activists responded to reports of house-demolition in the same area and approached a bulldozer while identifying themselves by megaphone and banners. They were unable to position themselves between the bulldozer and nearby structures, and were beckoned away from the frontline by Palestinians in the area.
On the 11th and 12th and from the 21st till 23rd, internationals arrived on the scene of demolitions (homes, greenhouses and a mosque) too late to respond. This is in addition to house demolitions which the internationals discovered several days after the event.
On the afternoon of 23rd February, six internationals achieved some success in interrupting the work of a bulldozer and a tank demolishing houses in the vicinity of Salah El Dinn gate.
The internationals arrived in the "Sha'ar" area near Salah El Dinn gate in the late afternoon, and found the bulldozer completing the demolition of a house and chicken-coop near the border strip. Palestinians in the area requested the internationals to do whatever they could to try to stop further destruction. The group approached the bulldozer and tank from the side, carrying banners and announcing their presence by megaphone. Although the tank moved into their path, the internationals were able to manoeuvre into the path of the bulldozer, at which point it moved to a nearby house and began to demolish a garden wall.
The tank again moved between the internationals and the bulldozer. The group split briefly while one member of the group moved onto the porch of the house from the back. The remaining internationals stood within several metres of the tank, which began to fire machine guns near them, close enough that one international was pelted with small brick fragments when bullets hit the wall next to her. The international on the porch led the way for the others to climb over the wall and into the house. They then proceeded to the roof. The bulldozer moved back to its previous work destroying a chicken coop and hitting the edges of other small civilian structures.
Two internationals remained on the roof, while the remaining four proceeded back toward the bulldozer. The tank again fired a stream of bullets in their path, but desisted as the internationals continued to walk forward, reminding the tank by megaphone of the clear absence of any threat to the vehicles, of international law, and of the right of human beings to housing and livelihoods.
As the internationals positioned themselves in the bulldozer's path, the tank and the bulldozer turned eastward and withdrew behind walls into the border strip some distance away. The four internationals followed the tank and bulldozer to the edge of the border strip, fearful for the homes of friends in the direction the vehicles headed.
The internationals returned to the partially demolished house and helped the family living there carry their belongingsbedding, furniture, family portraits, dishes, vases, all the elements of a family homeinto a house nearby. Four internationals remained overnight with the family in the house where the furniture was relocated.
The activists involved felt they had some success in this action, as they were at least able to delay the work of the bulldozers in demolishing houses.
On 24th February at approximately , on their way back to the Sha'ar area for another night, ISM activists received notification that the bulldozers had returned. Despite sprinting to the location, the internationals arrived in time only to see the last of this family's house completely churned into the earth, as the mother of the family wept, looking on.
Internationals continue homestays in the Sha'ar area.
Immediately adjacent to the Israeli military's Salah Eh Dinn sniper tower, from which two teenage boys were shot and injured today while playing in the street. The families in the area believe that they may be the target of house demolitions very soon, as collective punishment for their proximity to tunnels which run from Rafah into Egypt.
All of the homes which the internationals sleep in have bullet or shell holes in the walls. From the kitchen window of one apartment where a woman prepared tea for the group, the most immediate object in view is the eastern window of the sniper tower, about 100 metres away. The internationals observed several holes in the kitchen wallapparently from shots fired into the kitchen window. The internationals have attached banners and stood on the roofs of some of the buildings with megaphones in order to make their continuing presence known to Israeli occupation forces in the sniper tower, as there is a recent history of houses demolished in Rafah by rockets fired from towers at a distance.
Sleeping in houses such as these on the front line, with the constant sound of machinery moving outside in the border strip and frequent gunfire from tanks, internationals report seeing small children get out of bed in the night in terror to come sit close to their parents, and report experiencing nightmares of their own homes being demolished. Internationals here, who can walk in front of tanks on Palestinian land without being killed, feel some degree of impotence in the face of this massive destruction of civilian homes. We can only imagine what it is like for Palestinians living here, most of them already once-or-twice refugees already, for whom this is not a nightmare, but a continuous reality from which international privilege cannot protect them, and from which they have no economic means to escape.
The Palestinians and internationals in ISM-Rafah are still discussing strategy about how to use their members most effectively.
3. Demonstrations in conjunction with community groups and individuals living in Rafah:
In the last two weeks internationals and Palestinians in ISM Rafah have participated in two spirited demonstrations in solidarity with the people of Iraq, and against United States and British policy in Iraq and Palestine. The first demonstration took place on 15th February, in conjunction with demonstrations around the world, and was attended by about 150 people. Reports on this demonstration have already been released widely.
The second demonstration occurred on February 23rd, and was attended by thousands. ISM was invited to participate in the planning of this demonstration by the Rafah National Committee for Development and Services, but planning for the event was a coalition effort on the part of many community groups and individuals. These include the Fateh Youth Parliament, the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee, the Rafah Children's Parliament, the General Union of Palestinian Women, numerous Rafah area school groups and many others.
ISMers drafted a joint letter in conjunction with the Youth Parliament addressing the inalienable rights of all children, and the denial of these rights to children in Iraq and Palestine. They also called upon the international community to apply equal standards to all states regarding to compliance with UN resolutions. Copies of this letter were distributed in Arabic and English at the demonstration, and are available from:
The demonstration began at 11 and lasted about an hour. Children and representatives from community groups gave speeches in Arabic. Masses marched carrying signs and banners that said "Peace for children in Palestine and Iraq" and "The real terrorists are in the United States and Israel", among many other statements against war on Iraq, and in support of the Iraqi people. The internationals recognized symbols and banners from numerous school and community-groups, Fateh, DFLP, FIDA, PFLP, Hamas and many individual demonstrators among those marching.
One international delivered a speech in English, translated into Arabic by one of the Palestinian coordinators of ISM-Rafah. This speech decried the behaviour of the United States' and British governments, recognized the linkage between war on Iraq and increased destruction of Palestinian lives, and also recognized the mass mobilization of people around the world on behalf of peace, justice, and human rights. The international thanked the Palestinian people for offering a continuous example to the rest of the world of resistance against all odds.
As this speech was delivered, a British national burned a large British flag, and a US national burned a large US flag. Both activists then burned numerous images of US president George W. Bush. The woman who deliverd the speech burned a picture of the houses of Parliament in London. As the speech concluded they began to chant, with the crowd immediately surrounding them, "Hurriyah la Falasteen" Freedom for Palestinerepeatedly.
Other groups burned a giant papier-maché model of an F-16 bomber, an effigy of Ariel Sharon, as well as giant Israeli, US, and British flags.
4. Investigation and Documentation of Human Rights Violations
>From 11th to 13th of February, internationals working with ISM made initial investigative visits to the Mowasi-Tufah checkpoint, located between Khan Younis and the closed village of Mowasi. On their first visit, at approximately on
February 11th, internationals found a group of Palestinians waiting at a road block within site of the checkpoint. Some of these people reported that they had been waiting there since . Many of the Palestinians there were fearful of talking to internationals, due to the threat of reprisals from occupation forces. They reported that the Israeli occupation forces stationed at the checkpoint told them that the checkpoint would open at . This visit occurred on the most significant day of Eid, a major Muslim holiday during which most Palestinians in Rafah spend extensive time visiting their families.
At a voice over a megaphone spoke from amongst the structures surrounding the checkpoint. And a small group of five men proceeded forward to a yellow sign approximately half way between the roadblock and the checkpoint. After a period of 5-10 minutes a voice from the megaphone ushered these men forward through a corridor of cement blocks. The internationals could clearly see machine guns pointed in the direction of the roadblock from bunkers adjacent to the checkpoint.
A slow stream of women and men, apparently in their 40's and 50's, accompanied sometimes by small children, came out from behind the checkpoint through a similar corridor that runs between the checkpoint and a massive concrete wall to the south. The Palestinians at the checkpoint reported that only children under ten, women over 35 and men over 40 are allowed to enter or leave Mowasi. One young woman reported that she lives in Mowasi, but has been unable to return there for three months. She was among those waiting at the checkpoint since .
The internationals observed that groups of five peoplealternately women and menwere allowed through the checkpoint at intervals of 10-25 minutes. They witnessed one group of women turned back entirely after a man came out from the roadblock to speak to them, which precipitated some shouting over the megaphones.
On subsequent visits to the Mowasi Tufah checkpoint internationals reported attempting to enter Mowasi, and being denied entry by the Israeli soldiers stationed there. They described the security inside of the checkpoint as equivalent with that of an international airport.
23rd February Israeli occupation force invasion of El Hash-Ash Area
On the afternoon of 23rd February ISM activists in Rafah received reports of a siege in the El Hash-Ash agricultural community on the North-Western side of Rafah. Internationals were unable to respond immediately to this report, due to immersion in direct action against house demolitions described above. Reports received at the time reported seeing Israeli soldiers on foot in El Hash-Ash, with the entire area under the control of the occupation forces, and gunfire and demolitions in progress. At approximately , the group received notification that the occupation forces had withdrawn from the area.
On 24th February, three internationals went to the El Hash-Ash area in order to document the destruction there and interview people who had been present the previous night. The area they entered appeared largely agricultural, with small one-and two-storey dwellings interspersed among the remains of greenhouses.
As they approached the area, they saw large shredded sheets of clear plastic flapping from the mangled metal skeletons of dozens of greenhouses, leaving the vegetables inside completely exposed. In most cases, the metal frames of the greenhouses were bent beyond recognition and lying on the ground, crushing the beans, tomatoes, peas, and cucumbers which had been growing inside. In other cases, the plants had been torn off their training strings and crushed on the ground. A small, one-story concrete-brick house with a corrugated metal roof was also partially demolished.
A man living in the area reported that he was ordered from his house by soldiers in tanks, along with approximately 150 other males over the age of 14 who live in the area. The men were herded, by means of machine guns firing around them, out of the El Hash-Ash area and under a sniper tower at the edge of the nearby Gush Katif settlement. They were held there for more than three and a half hours until about . Several of the men were beaten, including six who were hospitalized.
While the men were held, 25 large greenhouses were destroyed by tanks and bulldozers. Residents in the area report that these greenhouses supply the sole livelihood for 300 people.
Residents had no idea why this attack had taken place.
One man said, "Maybe they want to expand the settlement." Others stated that there has never been any resistance activity in this area. "This was our living."
Events Surrounding the Deaths of 2 Men in Tunnels beneath the Block O area
On 14th February, Rafah activists received word that two men were trapped or possibly killed in tunnels beneath the Block O area on the night of 13th February. After witnessing the continued presence of a large machine drilling holes into the ground on the border strip, witnesses also observed ground-shaking underground explosions. Activists concluded that the tunnels had collapsed due to Israeli occupation force anti-tunnel activity.
On 14th February, the activists received an indirect request from the men's families to act as human shields in order for the bodies to be brought from underground safely. These requests were retracted when it was reported that the Palestinian Authority had negotiated with the Israeli army to allow the family to recover the bodies themselves. That night family members reported that five men entered the tunnels in an unsuccessful attempt to recover the bodies, and that one of these men was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces.
16th February, a team of ten men entered the tunnels from holes created at the surfaceby the Israeli military, and were successful in recovering the bodies. They were subsequently all arrested and transported with the bodies by tank to the Israeli-controlled side of the Rafah-Egypt border checkpoint, according to their testimony to ISM activists on 18th February.
The men involved in the recovery of the bodies report that they were slapped and interrogated by IOF officers during their detention, and forced to sit overnight outside the buildings at the border checkpoint, in a circle surrounding the bodies, which they said was difficult, due to the fact that the bodies were in a state of decay. They report finding fragments of a tear-gas canister in the tunnel near the bodies, which they carried out of the tunnel, and which they report were confiscated by the soldiers who detained them. They report that when they found the bodies their skin was discoloured and bubbled, and that their chests were distended. The detainees were released on 17th February, as were the bodies of the two men killed, Zeyad Al Sha'ar and Mohammed Hamed Kishta. Activists in Rafah continue to seek more information about the cause of death of these two men.
Brief Calendar of Events
Tuesday 11th February
Underground explosions in Yibna and Rafah due to Israeli Army anti-tunnel bombs.
Group monitored, photographed, and demonstrated presence with banners. Tufah visits. Internationals witness aftermath of house demolition in Block J and another large explosion in block J-Yibna area. Abu Holi check point reported closed after army killed a man there. Principle day of Eid festival.
Wednesday 12th February
Continued underground explosions. Abu Holi closed several hours. Unsuccessful attempt to enter Mowasi-Tufah. 2 houses demolished in Block-J Eshroot area at . Four tanks, two bulldozers and back-hoe returned between 9 and . No further demolitions reported. Eid festival continues.
Friday 14th February
Reports received of two men trapped or killed in tunnels. Internationals respond to house demolition in Block O. Bulldozer partially demolishes house with internationals inside.
Saturday 15th February
International day of protest. ISMers participate in protest in Rafah. Tank blown up in Northern Gaza strip by resistance forces. Five person team enters tunnel in unsuccessful attempt to recover bodies. One arrested according to reports from family.
Sunday 16th February
ISM resumes human shield work in Canada/Tel El Sultan, Rafah after break for Eid holiday. Ten men arrested and corpses confiscated after recovery from tunnels.
Monday 17th February
Palestinian ISM activist witnesses assassination by military plain-clothes commandos and two tanks on road between Abu Holi and Gaza. Man killed is later confirmed by international media to be Riyad Abu Zeid, a Hamas leader. Unconfirmed numbers injured. ISMers see smoke rising from settlement/Mowasi area for much of the morningunable to identify source.
Wednesday 19th February
11 reported killed in Gaza during night of 18th February. During day, four "Qassam" rockets reported by international media to be fired from North Gaza strip toward Sderot. Hamas claims responsibility. Water work continues.
Thursday 20th February
Checkpoints closed all day.
Friday 21st February
One man reported killed by army at Erez checkpoint, another killed at settlement in Northern Gaza strip. Medicines Sans Frontiers group report being fired upon while trying to cross Abu Holi checkpoint, despite prior permission from military. Mosque destroyed in Block J was abandoned previously due to earlier attacks.
Saturday 22nd February
Water work continues. Internationals, responding to reports of house demolition in Block J, witness further underground bombing. Reports are received that one house was demolished prior to their arrival. Heavy shooting in Block J during the night. Reports later confirmed by various sources that Israeli soldiers on foot entered at least one house in Hi Salaam area during the night.
Sunday 23rd February
Large scale demonstration in solidarity with the people of Iraq. El Hash-Ash area invaded and occupied. 150-200 men held under gunfire containment for 3-4 hours. 25 greenhouses destroyed. Internationals intervene in house demolition near Salah El Dinn gate. Eight deaths reported in Beit Hanounincluding possible deaths by stabbing. Five houses reported demolished in Tufah area. Internationals unable to return to Rafah due to closure of checkpoint.
Monday 24th February
All checkpoints in Gaza strip reported closed during morning. Water work continues. Abu holi checkpoint alternately open and closed during day. House protected Sunday is destroyed during the night of 24th February.
For information on the above reports please contact Rachel at 067-857049
Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Thank you message from Susan Barclay
To each and every one....
I just wanted to write a very quick note to let people know that I am indeed free, and beyond happy. I just wanted to say an immediate, incredibly sincere THANK YOU to all the people who worked so very hard to support me. I can not tell you how much it means. I have been very busy and will be meeting with my lawyer tomorrow to discuss various legal possibilities and then I hope to find the time to write an account of exactly what happened. THANK YOU AGAIN.
At the time of writing, Susan's story still has been conspicuous by its absence in the American press, although other media concerns in the US have taken up her story. The British press has not overlooked her case, as you can see if you check out the following:
Please e-mail any American newspapers that you know of, and ask them why this story is not of any interest to them? Do they wish to be complicit in human rights abuses of their own citizens? At the very least, the story should have appeared in the Washington state press, some of the e-mail addresses of which are:
Seattle Post-Intelligencer email@example.com
Seattle Times firstname.lastname@example.org
The Olympian email@example.com
Make your message short with the subject 'Susan Barclay is free.'
Obviously, don't mention ISM or any media co-ordinator's name.
David Watson Media Co-ordinator Beit Sahour Occupied Palestine Phone: +972-2-2774602 Cell: +972-67-862 439 web: http://www.palsolidarity.org