HEBRON: A night in Hart iSheik under gunfire

November 6, 2000
HEBRON: A night in Hart iSheik under gunfire

Sunday morning
November 5, 2000

Dear friends,
Andrew and I (Dianne) returned safely this morning from an overnight
in Hart iSheikh. Two of the brothers of the extended family that
invited us have homes that sustained damage from the shooting and
heavy shelling. We spent the night in another brother's home directly
in back.

As we sat in the dark, mothers cradled babies. Some of the extended
family had already "escaped" to a relative's house; others huddled by
the windows, watching in nervous anticipation until 1 a.m. This has
become their usual routine this month, as they don't know when their
house may be hit. One family member estimated that 70% of the
people leave before dark
to the safety of a relative's house.

Last night, from the windows, we could periodically see explosions
lighting up different areas. They described, and we could discern in
three cases, how the army will shoot first glowing red tracer bullets
which are immediately followed by heavier artillery shells. As we
watched and listened, in these three cases, we heard and saw the
soldiers fire first with no response from the Palestinians. At these
times we could not
discern shooting from this area of Hart iSheikh where we were staying.

This contradicts the IDF's contention that they wait to shoot until
Palestinian shots are fired, and that they fire only on homes that are
sheltering gunmen.

This morning family members assessed the damage. Children went
outside collecting bullets, ammunition fragments, and a "500" shell.
Abu Muhammed went to the room in his house where his babies used
to sleep. Toys are still nearby. Some windows, which Andrew had
observed the night before, were freshly shattered; others had new
bullet holes. One bullet
had lodged inside a cassette player. His brother's wife showed me
their house upstairs. The family had blocked in most of their windows
with stone and cement. Those windows that had not been shielded,
had countless bullet holes. The daughters' dresses and sweaters,
hanging on a clothes tree, were full of bullet holes.

While Andrew was outside with the men videotaping the damage in
the neighborhood, I talked with the women. I told them that some
Israeli women from Bat Shalom want to visit Palestinian women here.
"We are ready to welcome them," was the answer.

From the broken window we could see across to the Israeli-controlled
area. Missiles and bullets had been fired from Tel Rumeida. The
Israeli military camp that was established there to protect the militant
settlers has expanded onto Palestinian rooftops. Missiles are shot
either from tanks in strategic places including Tel Rumeida, or from
helicopters overhead.

As one family member said. "We have nothing. We only have our
wives, our children and our houses. We don't have weapons. If we
had big weapons they would not bomb us. They bomb us because
they know we are weak and cannot fight back."

As we descended toward Baab iZawwiyye, a shop owner whose home
and shop had both been damaged, stopped to talk with us.

 "What would it take for peace?" Andrew asked him.

 "U.N. resolutions 242 and 338 must be implemented," he answered.
"The United States always vetoes security council resolutions that
affect us. The United States is always with Israel."

We are back home safe again. The families around us in
neighborhoods like Hart iSheikh and Abu Sneineh, cannot feel safe in
their homes.