30 March 2002, Easter Weekend

We are members of the international and Palestinian community trapped in the Siege of Ramallah.

On early Friday morning, 29 March 2002, Israeli forces re-invaded the city of Ramallah.  The Israeli forces have occupied Ramallah completely and have established tank positions throughout the city, in all civilian areas. We can hear explosions, tank shelling and heavy caliber gunfire throughout the night and day. Israeli snipers are shooting regularly in civilian neighborhoods at times when they are not under any form of fire. As we write this, there are US-made Apache attack helicopters overhead firing on the city. Israeli bulldozers are creating permanent positions for the tanks in and around private houses. There is the constant sound of tank movements throughout residential areas.

Israeli forces have attacked the Presidential compound, and are now holding
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat hostage with no electricity, water or phone lines. Members of President Arafat’s bodyguards have been killed, and others are still injured and being denied medical care. Conditions in the city are now deteriorating rapidly.

Some of us have had experience in other sieges, in Sarajevo, Dili, and elsewhere. There is a familiar pattern of emergency rapidly developing. This is the beginning of a humanitarian crisis. Immediate intervention is required to prevent a disaster.

No Movement Possible: Inhabitants of the city are under complete curfew. There
is absolutely no freedom of movement, even for ambulances, doctors or international agencies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). There is no medical access. Palestine Red Crescent medical relief workers have not been permitted to provide medical services to the local population. Israeli forces are firing on anyone walking out on the streets.

On Thursday, based on fears of an Israeli re-invasion, more than 500 inhabitants, including foreign nationals, lined up in the mud and rain at the Qalandiya checkpoint—the only exit point from the city allowed by Israel—begging Israeli soldiers to allow them to escape. In response, Israeli soldiers fired over their heads, exacerbating the panic and causing most to simply return to Ramallah.

Israeli Forces Using Human Shields: Israeli soldiers are occupying an increasing number of private residences and detaining the residents collectively in single rooms, with little or no access to telephone lines, news coverage or even food and water. In some cases, tens of civilians (including entire families) are being held in one room. Meanwhile, Israeli occupation soldiers have taken up armed positions in the houses or apartments of these residents. Civilian detainees include foreign nationals.

No Access to the City: The ICRC, the UN and other humanitarian agencies are unable to access the city or to access the civilian detainees and other prisoners.

Food Resources Limited: There is no food entering Ramallah and no one is allowed to restock. There will shortly be a food and drinking water crisis. Some parts of Ramallah are already without water altogether. Israeli soldiers are also eating the food of residents while taking up positions in their houses.

Electricity Being Cut: Large parts of Ramallah are without electricity and heat. The weather has been raining and unseasonably cold - residents have been struggling to keep warm. The lack of electricity also means that residents are without television and any news reporting of the situation outside their homes. Many residents of the city rely on cellular phones for communication and without electricity they are unable to recharge their phones. Therefore, the population is being held in isolation and there is increasing fear and confusion. Also, some telephone landlines have been cut.

Prisoners Being Taken: Israeli forces are taking Palestinians prisoner, in the streets and in house-to-house searches. Israeli troops are calling upon all male residents between the ages of 16 and 40 in some neighborhoods to “surrender”. The wounded are being treated roughly and being denied medical access. Now, their fate is unknown. There are reports of summary execution of some  prisoners. The ICRC does not have access to them to ensure adherence to international law, and specifically the Geneva Conventions.

Gratuitous Vandalism and Destruction: There are on-going spiteful acts of destruction. Most commonly, Israeli tanks are driving over and flattening cars whether on the streets or parked on pavements in front of residences. Personal
property inside houses is being destroyed in house-to-house searches.

We, the besieged people of Ramallah, appeal to all people of good conscience around the world to mobilize immediately.

We particularly appeal to the people of Israel, in whose name these actions are being taken, for help. To keep the option of peace alive, we appeal to you to ask your Government to immediately lift the siege.

We appeal for the safety of all individuals.  We appeal for freedom of movement within the city and outside access to the city.

We appeal for food, medical supplies and access to medical treatment,
electricity, water, phone lines and other necessary facilities.

We appeal for access of humanitarian agencies, including the ICRC, to all
detainees, prisoners and hostages, including Palestinian President Yasser
Arafat, to ensure their well-being.


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