Saturday, September 9, 2006

“What did the shops ever do to them?”

This morning between 2 and 4 o’clock Israeli military forces entered Balata Refugee Camp, south-east of Nablus city center. Soldiers traveling in two armoured bulldozers and four military jeeps proceeded to partially destroy of ten shops in the marketplace on the main street of the camp. The bulldozers pulled down whole shop awnings, crushed tiles and cement curbs lining the street, ripped a street sign from the ground, down a wall, cut an electric cable running overhead and destroyed an large arrangement of grape-vines outside a family home.

A local butcher expressed his frustration at the wanton destruction, “They do this because they know that we are all too poor to afford to rebuild our shops. The occupation is strangling our economy”. Pointing at the wrenched-up tiles of the shop porch and the ripped bits of metal sticking out above our heads in place of the bright red and white shop-front that usually greets customers, he continued: “It will take $1,000 just to repair the awning and another $500 for the porch. And I know that many other shop owners have worse damage. But there is no point in repairing any of it because we know that as soon as we fix it, they will come. They will come the next day!”

Despite this, the marketplace was this morning full of men clambering up ladders to tear down the old wrecked shop-fronts and take measurements for new ones. A team of electricians were busy replacing the cut cable and the rubble from the wreckage was neatly piled up at the sides of the street. “What did the shops ever do to them?” one of the workers exclaimed. “They are terrorists? No, this is the terror of the Israeli army.”

This sort of incursion is a regular occurrence in the refugee camps around Nablus, especially Balata. Occupation soldiers invade the camps nightly, though the use of armoured bulldozers is less common. On a ‘normal’ night, soldiers enter the camp around 2am and shoot at residents, occasionally arresting young men or invading and occupying homes. Last night’s incursion and destruction is yet another attack by the Israeli military on the impoverished residents of Palestine’s refugee camps.

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