Another night of fear and worry in Abu Dis – “This is not a normal situation”
Many people from Abu Dis didn’t sleep last night -there were army everywhere, clashes in the streets and tear gas all around, but also a widespread fear that the army would invade people’s homes as they have been doing night after night. The situation underlyingly is very bad, the pressures on Palestinians worse than ever since the announcement by Trump that he would move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the demonstrations that followed.
Some weeks ago, the Israeli army sent people dressed as Palestinians in a car into Abu Dis who then jumped out and arrested some of the youth. A couple of weeks ago, an Israeli in a car marked with the Israeli army logo drove into Abu Dis. The press have said he was “a settler who had lost his way, returning from riding horses” but it seemed clear that he was a soldier. The youth began to chase him out of town – he was taken from his car and rescued by the Palestinian police – and the Israeli army came in shooting at the same time as young people set the man’s car on fire.
The Israeli army have since that time arrested many young people, sent threatening messages into the streets and pasted them on the walls in Abu Dis, and have told people that 200 young people were involved and that they will all be arrested. So in the nights when the sounds of the army are loud, like last night, people know that there are more arrests going on and wonder who will be next.
Meanwhile, the Bedouin village of Jabal al-Baba has been under huge pressure since November when the Israeli army gave the whole village an eviction notice. The villagers feel they have been to some extent protected by the international focus they managed to get on their situation, partly because some of the houses are on lands owned by the Vatican. However, the army return very often and tell them they should move to other places where they will build them new houses on the lands of Abu Dis and Aizaria, because their houses will be demolished soon.
The pressures and fear are happening across Palestine – we hear that a similar thing to Abu Dis happened in Jenin, where two uniformed soldiers were found ‘by mistake in Jenin Camp’ – the youth chased them, they were rescued by the Palestinian police and then by the Israeli army, who are now punishing the young people.
It’s good (if they follow it up) that more people in the West are realising that things in Palestine are upside down – this can be seen from the recent debate in Parliament about child prisoners, the fact that Amnesty are taking a strong line about the Israeli settlements and that the case of Ahed Tamimi has become well-known in recent weeks. Visitors to Abu Dis know how hard people are trying to live a normal life and think of things other than just military occupation, but the report from Abu Dis today shows that it is hard to have a full day or even a night away from the worry.