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Saturday, March 30: Update from IMC-Palestine

Please visit IMC-Palestine for breaking news. CIMC has just learned the Israeli troops are going house to house in Ramallah,and rounding up Palestinian men aged 16-60, and detaining them in a local Ramallah local school (Mugtarabeen) yard. Clashes with Israeli troops are continuing throughout the occupied West Bank.
- Tanks and APC's (armored personnel carriers) are stationed in Beit Jalla near the Lutheran Church. Reports are coming in that the Israeli army has increased troop presence at the base near Beit Sahour and people are preparing for the worst. In Bethlehem we are hearing occasional gunfire. - The Italians who made it through the Bethlehem checkpoint today have swelled the numbers of the International Solidarity Movement here to over 400 and they are spreading themselves out in homes throughout Dehaishe, Ayda and Azza refugee camps.

- In Ramallah, American citizen Adam Shapiro and Irish national Caoimhe Butterly have just got out of the Presidential compound. We at IMC Palestine are ecstatic that these brave individuals fought long and hard to get ambulances in, finally winning in the end.

As of 15.00 today, March 30, more than 50 foreign civilians accompanied physicians and Red Crescent personnel in a civilian mission to get urgent medical aid into the Presidential compound.

Medics and civilians left from an area under total siege and marched past tanks deployed in the Manara. Shortly before reaching the President's compound they were stopped and Israeli forces refused to allow them to proceed. The group protested that the Israeli military were in flagrant contravention of the Geneva convention, as well as international humanitarian law, by choosing not to allow medical assistance to the injured. The delegation insisted that they would take medical personnel and supplies in. Finally it was agreed that two doctors, two ambulances and four foreign observers would be allowed access inside the Presidential compound.

The two internationals who were inside the compound expressed their great relief to see that eventually pressure had succeeded and that medical aid was eventually allowed in. One body has been removed and the injured inside have now received medical attention.

The international delegation who accompanied the medical group comprised of Huwaida Arraf, Jose Bove a French national and an Italian member of Parliament. They all expressed their solidarity with the Palestinians struggle for freedom and voiced their condemnation of the war policies of Sharon's government.

The foreign civilians who entered the compound went in as a symbol of the international outcry over the brutal attacks on the Palestinian people and as a symbol of the intervention that is immediately sought from the international community.

Adam Shapiro has now left the compound in exchange for one doctor and one medic. Caoimhe Butterly has remained due to her concern that medics are not being allowed free access and that her continued presence may help facilitate further assistance.

Inside the Presidential compound the foreign civilian delegation met with President Arafat. Both the President and the other Palestinians inside are in good spirits and expressed their heartfelt gratitude for the international solidarity. President Arafat stated that "Occupation is the real terrorism, and the Palestinian people will continue to struggle for their freedom. Our people will be free." The foreign delegation supported the President's statement.



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