"Searching for the truth in Jenin"

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Posted by Mr. E from ? ( on Sunday, April 21, 2002 at 1:15PM :

In Reply to: "Searching for the truth in Jenin" posted by Mr. E from ? ( on Sunday, April 21, 2002 at 1:08PM :

some of those quotation marks & apostrophes don't seem to translate so well... here's the article, again.
Searching for the truth in Jenin

By Kathy Kelly April 20 2002

On April 17, we entered the Jenin camp for a third time,accompanied by

We had met Thawra the night we first entered Jenin.
She came into the crowded, makeshift clinic organized
by Palestinian Medical Relief Committee workers,
cradling Ziad, an 18 day old infant born on the first
night of the attack against Jenin. Like most of the
young Palestinian workers volunteering with the
Medical Relief Committee, she wore ahijab and blue
jeans. She had slept very little in the past ten
days, working constantly to assist refugees from the
camp. Her fiancée, Mustafa, was missing. Many people whispered to us
that they were sure he was killed inside the Jenin camp, but that Thawra
still hoped he was alive.

Today was Thawra's first chance to find out what had
happened to her home. She and her family lived on the
first floor of a three story building. Mustafa lived
on the third floor.

Entering the camp, we noticed spray painted images
that Israeli soldiers must have made the night before.
On the entrance gate to one building, in blue paint,
was a stick figure image of a little girl holding the
Israeli flag... Next to it was a star of David with an
exclamation point inside the star.

We passed Israeli soldiers preparing to leave the
house they had occupied. Five soldiers and an
Armoured Personnel Carrier positioned themselves to
protect a soldier as he walked out of the house
carrying the garbage. "Five soldiers and an APC to
take out the trash," said Jeff. "That's a sure sign
that something is radically wrong."

Most of the homes at the edge of the camp are somewhat
intact, although doors, windows and walls are badly
damaged by tank shells and Apache bullets. Each home
that we entered was ransacked. Drawers, desks and
closets were emptied. Refrigerators were turned over,
light fixtures pulled out of the walls, clothing torn.

I thought of the stories women told me, earlier that
morning, about Israeli soldiers entering their homes
with large dogs that sniffed at the children as
neighbors fled from explosions, snipers, fires and
the nightmare chases of bulldozers.

Recovery will take a very long time.

As we climbed higher, entering the demolished center
of the camp where close to 100 housing units have been
flattened by Israeli Defense Forces, we heard snipers
shooting at a small group of men who had come to pull
bodies from the rubble. Covered with dust and sweat,
and seemingly oblivious to the gunshots, the men, all
residents from the camp, pursued the grim task. With
pickaxes and shovels, they dug a mass grave. They
pulled four bodies out of the rubble, including that of
a small child. Little boys stood still, silently watching.
One of the many soldiers who stopped us as we walked
into Jenin City, several days earlier, told us there
were no children in the camp during the attack. That
was a lie. But now I wonder if it may have become a
strange truth. The concerned frowns on the little
boy's faces belonged to hardened men.

An older boy, perhaps 10 or 11 years old, helped carry
his father's corpse to the mass grave.

Jeff sat down on a rock and shook his head. "After
September 11, I drove toward New York City, and all
along the highway carloads of volunteer firemen sped
past me, coming from all over the country, to help at Ground
Zero. Here, bullets paid for by US taxpayers are
being fired on people simply trying to bury their

A family trudged single file, silently, uphill through
the debris, carrying their belongings on their heads.
Their faces were wracked with grief. One woman carried
an infant in her arms. No one spoke as they
approached the hilltop. At the top of the hill, in
front of a house that was still somewhat intact, a
large family was seated as though posed for a family
photograph, surrounded by devastation.

Thawra led us to what was once her home. The house is
still standing, but every other house in the area is
completely demolished. She quickly collected some
clothes, then went to the third floor and returned
holding Mustafa's blue jeans in her arms. Her eyes
welled with tears. We began to wonder if she had lost
all hope of finding Mustafa.

Outside her home, we met 8 year old Ahmad. He had
found six shiny, small bullets which he showed to his
neighbor, Mohammed Abdul Khalil. Mohammed is a 42
year old mason, also trained as an accountant. Having
worked in Brazil and Jordan, he now speaks four
languages. In Spanish, he told me that he built many
kitchens in this area. Mohammed nodded kindly at

A few feet away, Hitan, age 20, and Noor, age 16, dug
through the debris with their bare hands to retrieve
some few belongings. Hitan found a favorite jacket,
torn and covered with dust. She fingered the pockets,
then set it aside. Noor laughed as she unearthed a
matching pair of shoes. Then Hitan saw the edge of a
textbook and the sisters began vigorously digging and
tugging until they pulled out five battered and
unusable books. Noor held up her public health
textbook. Hitan clutched The History of Islamic

"You see these girls, they are laughing and seem
playful," said, Mohammed, again speaking in Spanish.
"It is, you know, a coping mechanism. How else can
they manage what they feel?" Hitan stood and pointed
emphatically at the small hole she and Noor had dug.
"You know," she exclaims, "underneath here, there are
four televisions and two computers! All gone.

Thawra stared sadly, then persisted with her search
for information about Mustafa.

I asked Mohammed if he knew a man sorting through a
huge mound of rubble next to where we stood. 'He is
my cousin. That was our home. He wants to find his
passport or his children's documents." Mohammed's
cousin then sat down on top of the heap that was once
his home, holding his head in his hands.

An army surveillance plane flew overhead.

"We are clear," said Mohammed. "We are not animals.
We are people with hearts and blood, just like you. I
love my son. I want the life for my family. What
force do we have here? Is this a force?" He pointed
to the wreckage all around us. "Do we have the
atomic bomb?" "Do we have anthrax?"

As we walked away, Jeff pointed at another bone
sticking out of the debris. We stepped gingerly
around it. Thawra dipped down to pick up a veil lying
on the ground, then paused a moment and placed it over
the bone.

-- Mr. E
-- signature .

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