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Escalation at Nablus Checkpoint
11:24am Fri Feb 7 '03
When ISM activists Maria, Margaret (Maria's mother) and Linus (all from Sweden) and Danish reporter Tommy
approached the Azmut checkpoint east of Nablus they saw 4 Israeli soldiers holding between 40 and 50 Palestinian men, women and children captive at the checkpoint. It was 1
pm. The captives were from the villages of Azmut, Salem and Deir Hatib and were trying to travel to Nablus for provisions or education. The activists would later learn that some had been held at the checkpoint since 6 am.
While two of the soldiers guarded the prisoners the others fired at the villagers who were traveling to and from their villages in the surrounding fields.
As soon as the soldiers at the checkpoint saw the internationals they
fired live ammunition at them forcing them
to retreat. Daunted but unconquered the four returned to the checkpoint
by an alternative route and again the
soldiers fired at their feet and over their heads. The four
internationals then stopped where they were but when
the soldiers returned their attention to the Palestinians they resumed
their approach. Again the soldiers fired at
them and this pattern of advancing and halting was repeated several
Finally, the soldiers picked three men from the captives and sent them
to the internationals to tell them that if
they advanced any further they would shoot them in the legs. So they
stayed were they were while the soldiers
returned to their sport. They seemed to be shooting to intimidate the
Palestinians in the fields rather than kill
them but Maria did see one man fall to the ground.
At around 2.30 pm the soldiers forced ten of the women return to their
villages with Margaret and Linus as their
escorts (one of the women complained that she was from Nablus and wanted
to return but the soldiers
forced her on). As they left the soldiers fired over their heads. Then
two of the soldiers ran after them and hit
one woman several times with his rifle, despite Margaret's attempts to
"This is our country!" the woman pleaded in English as the soldier hit
her. "We only want to go to our homes."
"Do you really think it's right to beat a woman?" Linus said to the
"You're not a woman so I can beat you instead!" said the soldier who
advanced on Linus, although he refrained
from hitting him.
When Maria saw the soldiers chasing the women she ran after them. When
one of the soldiers saw her he
pointed his gun at her.
"I want to kill you!" he said.
"Do you?" she replied.
"Go ahead then shoot me," Maria said without flinching so that the
soldier backed down.
At about 3.30 the soldiers began firing very close to Tommy and Maria.
Tommy got angry at this and advanced on the soldiers shouting that he
was a journalist. Maria walked behind
As Tommy approached, three of the soldiers attacked him while the fourth
began to shove Maria around
shouting at her to "Go back!:"
Then he went to join his companions in beating up Tommy. The commanding
officer was the most vicious of
the four soldiers and head butted Tommy with his steel helmet.
While they assaulted Tommy, Maria gave water to some of the woman. (She
had noticed that the soldiers had
been treating the women worse than the men.)
At around 5 pm the soldiers began to give the women their IDs back and
force them to go on to Nablus. Many
of the women had left young children in the villages and needed to go
back to them and several of them were
crying but the soldiers forced them onwards by shooting over their
heads. The women begged Tommy and
Maria to accompany them for their protection so they did so, leaving the
men to mercy of the soldiers.
They then left the road and walked through the fields to their
villages. Tommy and Maria walked with the women
through the dark until they arrived at the sewerage-filled moat that
separates their villages from Nablus and then
they returned to Nablus.
Tommy is currently staying with the ISM in Nablus and is suffering from
Azmut Checkpoint is the same checkpoint where Lasse and Susan were
threatened two nights ago. Neither
the US or Danish governments saw fit to protest their treatment to the
I am raising this issue because I received several emails during and
after the previous Azmut incident
expressing not only admiration for the courage of the ISM activists who
endured the ordeal but also the readers'
feelings of helplessness when they read about such atrocities.
I would like to take this opportunity to impress upon all our supporters
that they are by no means helpless and
that the success or failure of the ISM depends not only on the heroism
of our activists in Palestine but also our
supporters around the world.
We are convinced that these assaults on ISM activists are not merely a
case of military indiscipline but of a
deliberate campaign to intimidate our activists with the ultimate aim of
driving them from areas such as Nablus
so as to give the army a free hand in the area. By refusing to protest
such violence against their nationals the
governments of the West are not only failing in their responsibility to
protect these peace activists but are also
serving as accomplices to Israel's campaign of terrorism against the
indigenous people of Palestine.
In the coming weeks America and its allies are expected to launch their
war against Iraq. Many analysts
believe that the Israeli's will seize the opportunity that the war
presents to escalate its campaign of terror
against the Palestinians with the aim of driving as many of them as
possible from the Gaza Strip and the
Occupied West Bank (ethnic cleansing).
Please do not feel helpless under these circumstances. Please either
individually or in groups lobby your
governments to end their conspiracy of silence regarding Israeli
violence towards their nationals so that people
like Tommy, Maria, Margaret, Linus, Lasse and Susan can continue their
ISM Media Coordinator
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