Letter to Amnesty International

Mr. Pierre Sane

Secretary General, Amnesty International

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Dear Mr. Sane,

I was surprised to hear on the news last night that Amnesty International has criticized the Swiss authorities over its handling of demonstrators in Davos, during the World Economic Forum venue.

This criticism coincided with the atrocities that Palestinian people are being subjected to in the occupied territories by the Israeli authorities, at least during the past four months, where more than 320 Palestinians were killed and over 20,000 injured of which most were children.

My surprise did not come as a shock to me especially when I see how, throughout the ages, human rights organizations deal with the conflict in the Middle East, always putting the blame on the Palestinians who have been struggling to get their independence back after more than 50 years of military occupation.  In the eyes of these human rights organizations, Israel has always been considered the victim, at a time when Israel uses all possible arsenal (which is internationally illegal) against Palestinian civilians.  Lately, there has been evidence that Israel used depleted uranium against Palestinians in its attempt to combat and subdue the Al Aqsa uprising, which was initially triggered by the hard liner Ariel Sharon on September 28, 2000.

I ask you dear sir, what have you and your organization done with this regard?  What actions have you taken against Israel for using heavy artillery against unarmed civilians?  What actions will you take against Israel for using depleted uranium against civilians?  What condemnation and punishment will you impose on Israel for its inhuman acts against humans?  Weren’t you the one who stated yesterday on TV that, in any democratic state, people have the right to demonstrate peacefully and they have the right to freely express their views?  Isn’t Israel considered a democratic country?  Then why is Israel entitled to suppress the peaceful demonstrations against its military occupation of a whole nation?  Or are the lives of demonstrators at Davos more precious than those of Palestinians?

Simply put, dear sir, how dare you put the authorities of ever-peaceful Switzerland under fire for trying to subdue demonstrators against economic reform and keep a closed eye on ever-violent Israel for trying to subdue demonstrators against a life-long struggle for a legitimate right to exist?

I appreciate if you could respond to this letter with full fairness, objectivity, and sincerity.

Thanking you in advance, I remain,

Sincerely yours,

Andre Dabdoub

Events of Two Days

Day 1: Saturday, February 10, 2001.

The time: 19:30

All is quite outside.  It has been quiet in the area of Bethlehem for the past month or so despite the casual skirmishes in other areas of Palestine.  This silence however was not to last long especially after the ousting of Ehud Barak in the Israeli elections of this past February 6.   On that day, Ariel Sharon was declared the new Prime Minister of Israel.  This, for the Palestinians, meant the end of any possible peace.

Indeed, the silence of the past month was broken by an unequal but heavy exchange of fire between Palestinians and the Israeli occupying army in the northern boarders of Bethlehem, less than one kilometer away from our house, where my elderly parents, my wife, my newly born son Nadim and myself live.  Next door to us, my brother and his wife and two children live. 

At the first sound of shooting, our usual emergency maneuvers started.  My parents, who live on the first floor, were called to join us downstairs where we live.  With their walking difficulties, my parents would require at least 10 minutes to go down the fifteen steps separating us.  By that time, Carol and I would have prepared the place to shelter all of us.  Nadim’s “personal” bag would have been ready, with a thermos of hot water, powdered milk, pampers, and anti-rash cream.  With a few gestures and furniture moving, we turned our most secured room into a comfortable shelter to ensure that my parents are at ease.  Candles, lighters, emergency lights, blankets and pillows were put on the side but within reach.

By the time we were done, my parents walked in limping and with a tired look in their eyes and on their faces.  This trip of theirs to come downstairs has become a major project and required lots of decision-making.  I remember the last time my mom came down to visit was on January 9.  Her legs can no longer tolerate such a physical activity.  The doctors, on the one hand, advised her very strictly not to go up or down stairs, and on the other hand life-threatening events such as shootings is forcing her to go exactly by the opposite of what the doctors had advised.

I look to the side and see Carol clutching little and helpless Nadim very close to her.  She is crying from fear—fear of the unexpected and of the helplessness she is in.  She does not know what to do—I don’t either.  I have two helpless elderly people sitting next to me on one side, and on the other side a terrified and fragile wife carrying even a more fragile life in her arms.  What a dilemma!!

I take Nadim in my arms and I start crying over the misery we live in and over what I could imagine would be Nadim’s future.

Three hours later, and after having some scattered and ricocheted bullets hit against our house, the shelling stopped, fortunately with no casualties but with lots of grief and exhaustion.

 

Day 2Sunday, February 11, 2001.

The time: 19:30

The shelling, as it was expected, started today as well.  The room of last night is still in its order since we anticipated that we were going to have another long night in that shelter.

In no time, my parents joined us once more downstairs.  This time, however, we were more prepared psychologically but that did not take the fear away from our hearts.

We sat there quietly listening to the news and as always hardly any channel brought up the story of the shelling of Bethlehem.  This made me very angry.  I mean, for two nights in a row, Bethlehem is shelled by Israeli heavy artillery, and no one says a thing.

I fall asleep in the chair for a very short while whilst it calms down.  When I open my eyes, I see my parents sitting in the sofa staring at the TV as if waiting for their unknown doom to come.  Carol is cuddling under the blanket on the floor next to Nadim--both sleeping.  And the sound of silence outside has outdone the sound of shells, which continuously hit a house merely 150 meters away from us.

At 22:30 my parents decide that it was time they went upstairs to sleep after a relatively long, tiring, stressful evening.

I hope the silence outside would continue, at least for tonight!!

Incursion of Bethlehem

Thursday, October 18 and Monday, October 29, 2001

By Carol Sansour

(IOF)

During the last incursion to Bethlehem by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) “who should seriously consider changing their name to Israeli Offense Force (IOF)” I have experienced a wide range of emotions. A wider range of ideas came to my mind. 

A Battle Outside our Door

On the night of the 18th of October 2001 we (my family and I ) knew that something bad is going to happen in Bethlehem, what we did not know is how bad it would be. As always, when there is shooting, whether in Beit Jala or in Bethlehem, I make sure that I take my little son Nadim and put him to sleep beneath the staircase since it is the safest place in our small basement-level apartment which is located not more than one kilo meter from Rachel Tomb (the new IOF headquarters in Bethlehem). In the beginning of this entire saga the shooting did not sound all that close but it defiantly sounded heavy. Sooner than expected it started to sound more and more like the whole Battle was taking place right outside our door.

I say “Battle” in spite of the fact that in my poor knowledge of War terminology I know that to have a battle taking place you have to have two parties fighting/combating or confronting each other. “Battling” parties have to have at least an equipped army and a strategy. One of the conflicting parties (in this scenario) has none. So it is not proper to call what started to take place that night and continued for another ten days a battle. However it is difficult to find another word to describe it for the out come of those ten days (be it tangible or not) can only happen during a battle or a natural disaster.

Injured Men in My Home

I knew that it is going to be a long night but again there was another thing that I did not know. It was a terrifying one.  Shooting did not stop neither did the bombing nor the shelling.  It was only logical that all of us end up spending the night under the staircase (which is a 2X2 square meter). Around 4:30 in the morning and after few minutes of complete quietness and silence outside (ear piercing silence) we heard a one-minute heavy shooting and then screams (one of the screams was a woman’s voice) somebody must be in need of help!! What can we do? Can one of us go outside and find out what happened and maybe be of help? The simple answer was NO. I have never in my life felt so selfish.  I was only thinking about US being protected and safe.

A taxi full of workers who had no idea about what was going on was heading towards Rachel Tomb.  Israeli Offensive Tanks were ready to manifest their power, shot at the taxi and its passengers seriously injuring the driver and wounding the rest lightly.  Two of the terrified workers managed to reach to our door where we took them in, called the ambulance and cleaned their wounds.  Under heavy shooting the ambulance was able to salvage the taxi driver an hour an a half later.  And the two workers managed to escape at around 8:30 that morning.     

Who Makes the Call?

It was obvious; the assassination of three Tanzeem leaders in Bethlehem was a good enough trigger for the Tanzeem members to breach the cease fire agreement that was in affect after the first “Battle” which took place in Beit Jala almost two months ago.  By shooting at Gilo Settlement (Slayeb, confiscated Palestinian land) Sharon had every excuse to fight another “Battle”.  He was waiting anxiously for that moment. He new it was coming; he even dealt its cards. He had a strategy his enemy did not. 

Good Stories

TV crews were desperately looking for stories that morning.  You know they needed new images. They have covered so much in the passed year; almost all images look the same to them. They had to be creative. I have heard about made up stories or exaggerated ones (Palestinians Celebrating the 11th of September) but this time I have seen them. A reporter would ask kids to burn tiers another would escort a Palestinian gunmen to our drive way and ask him to start shooting aimlessly so the reporter would get a close up.  When we see those images on TV they are presented as if the reporters where in the middle of things putting their lives on the line of fire (editors are actually the only ones to get the credit). I have learnt another lesson; most reporters are out there to get “Their” story, the story that is most suiting to their employers and not that that is the real story.

Why leave?

Five long days and nights have passed. The sounds outside our door were not getting any better on the contrary they were getting worst. Many people have died so far. But it was not enough for the Israeli Offense Forces.  Five long days and nights passed by without us being able to look outside our windows, have fresh air, eat a descent meal, use the toilet properly, take a hot shower, close an eye for sleep and, sometimes, just to leave the staircase. The only contacts we had with the outside world were through the telephone and the TV set.  Food was running out but that was the least of my worries.  Our well being and especially that of Nadim and my in-laws, was what occupied me the most. I would think of situations that we could face in the course of this “Battle” and I could not see how I would get out of them.  One of the scenarios would be what if my 82 year-old father in-law who was running out of his medicine gets his allergy attack and starts suffocating? How can I call an ambulance knowing that the (IOF) shoots at them? What if Nadim (another scenario) who is teething gets a fever or catches a cold from staying under the staircase for five long days and nights (it is getting colder each day now). What if and what if….?  I have concluded that we have to leave the house no matter what.

The Solidarity March was to take place on Tuesday morning.  And since the Israeli Offense Force is excellent at PR we thought that it would be perfect timing for us to leave our home during the arrival of the convoy to Bethlehem. 

Solidarity March

It took five long days and five long nights of hell for an aimless “Solidarity March” to take place.  Here I have learnt another lesson.  Bethlehem “the symbol of peace” “the place where Jesus was born” “the holy place” has no special status.  It is just like the rest of the Palestinian cities, Palestinian, subjected to all of what Sharon has in store up his sleeves for the Palestinians.  It was a loud wake-up call for the Christian Palestinian to realize that their belief does not count.  What counts is their Nationality.

Dispossessed

When we had agreed on leaving on Tuesday morning I was only thinking of how we are going to leave and where to. I had forgotten about having to pack.  Deciding on what to take with me and what to leave behind was another tough situation.  When you go on a trip you usually know-at least- its duration and its circumstances and accordingly you pack.  But what would you pack if you had no idea where you are headed for, for how long and if you were to ever come back home.  As a human being (even if some people do not view us as such) I am attached to what I posses and I belong to a place.  It was very difficult for me to pack, I have decided to leave everything behind and only pack the basics.

I was dispossessed for the five coming days.  With my family I was physically safe away from all the shootings and killings.  Mentally I was troubled.  I could not stop thinking about how I left my home.  I could not stop feeling guilty about all those whom we left behind, especially the Azza camp children who saw us leaving that morning.  I could not stop expressing my anger towards the superficial support we get from the Arab world and the rest of the international community.  I could not stop trying to figure out what strategy does our leadership has in mind.  And most of all I am still trying to imagine what would the next “Battle” look like.

Next Battle?

The story of a Bethlehem family under siege

Thursday, October 18 and Monday, October 29, 2001

It has been more than ten days since the Israeli incursion into Palestinian controlled areas (called Areas “A” according to the Oslo Accords) has ended on October 29, 2001.  In spite of this delay in reacting to the events of the incursions caused by much distress and disgust, I still feel I owe the world this story.  It is the story of the difficult times we went through during those nightmare days.

Where do I start to tell my story?  Then again, why would my story—whatever it may be—be more important and interesting than that of thousands of other Palestinians who have seen suffering ceaselessly from the day they were born?

Even as a Palestinian residing in Palestine, I am in no position to compare myself to those people who had to leave behind their homes (and in many cases their confiscated land and country) and accept unwillingly to live in tents and refugee camps either in their own country or elsewhere. 

Nor am I worthy to even make a comparison between my and their suffering.

Even my own father, at his wise age of 82—and who has seen the many wars, battles, and revolutions fought in and for Palestine—is speechless in front of the sufferings of many of the other Palestinians.

This would have been very true at least until October 18, 2001 since my family has been living in Bethlehem for more than two centuries, despite the many and endless waves of scattering and migrations that usually followed each war.

My family—I would say being one of the fortunate families of Bethlehem—managed, insistently, to remain in the same little town of Bethlehem when Palestine passed through the numerous political and military “change of hand”: be it the Turkish occupation until 1917, the British mandate until 1947, the Jordanian rule until 1967, the Israeli occupation until 1995, and finally the Palestinian quasi self-rule that is thus far still holding.

On the day following that infamous Thursday of October 18, 2001, however, my life—and undoubtedly that of my family—drastically changed and I became—allow me to use this term—a “more proud” Palestinian; more proud of sharing with the rest of the Palestinians the real suffering that I had known and seen firsthand before but not actually lived.

At best, I could easily associate with and understand the suffering of—at least—my next-door neighbors of the Azzeh (a.k.a. Beit Jibrin) refugee camp; what I could not do was to FEEL what they felt.  I could see how their miserable houses and personal belongings could be so uncomfortable for them; what I could not do was FEEL this absence of comfort.  I could imagine how their displacement from their lands and homes in Beit Jibrin (a village next to Ashdod, north of Gaza) back in 1948 led them to suffering and insecurity; what I could not do was FEEL this displacement, this suffering, and this insecurity.

The heightening tension in Bethlehem following the Israeli assassination of three Palestinian activists in Beit Sahour on Thursday, October 18, 2001 led to the expected revenge attack of Palestinians on the Gilo settlement—established on Palestinian land, to south of Jerusalem, abducted by Israel in 1967. 

What followed was an unprecedented Israeli violation of all international aspects of any dignified civilization: human, sovereign, religious, social, educational, economical, and cultural rights.

That midnight’s incursions of the Israeli tanks—reported to have been around 30 tanks and troop carriers—into the Bethlehem area would be the start of a ten-day siege of the cities of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour.

Our two-floor stone house—built in 1956 in what was then the uninhabited northern outskirts of the city—is located at the southwestern most side of the Azzeh refugee camp.  (My parents reside on the first floor, and we reside on the ground floor).  The house stands on one of four corners of the junction of the Jerusalem-Hebron road (recently named Yaser Arafat Road) and Moradeh Street.  This junction (known as the Murrah junction) is the second most important and busiest one in the city; as it is the bottleneck of all traffic going from the southwest of the city and governorate to the east and northeast, without having to pass through the narrow streets of the old city center.

By the time the clock reached 02:00 in the morning, we learned from the local TV channels that the Israeli tanks and troop carriers had reached two main points in the northern part of the city (which is under total Palestinian control), less than 100 meters from Rachel’s tomb.  The first point was the Intercontinental Jacir Palace Hotel vicinity, not more than one kilometer to the north of our house.  The second point was the vicinity of the Paradise Hotel, around 1.5 kilometers to the northeast of our house.

Inside, Carol and I sat with my two elderly and not-very-healthy parents watching the news on TV as the heavily loaded Israeli troops entered the city from the north under very heavy machinegun and tank fire.  From where we sat, we could hear the terrifying roaring of heavy vehicles echoing in the silence of this little peaceful city of Bethlehem.  Nadim, our 10-month old son, was already sleeping… but not in his bed.

The evening before, and upon hearing about the assassination of the three Palestinian activists in Beit Sahour, Carol had this feeling that the following few days would be harsh.  So she immediately started preparing the tiny space of less than four square meters under the staircase, which we believe is the safest place in the house and to where we seek refuge when there is heavy shooting from the Gilo settlement to nearby Beit Jala, which is quite often. 

In that compact space we managed to put a mattress, some pillows and some blankets.  We also equipped it with a small bag that has the accessories most needed for little Nadim in case of emergency, mainly diapers, drinking water, a thermos, milk, warm clothes, toys, a pacifier, medication, etc.  In spite of the limited space available—because of the extra presence of the central heating boiler and water pipes—we have allocated a place for two kitchen chairs to be added as and when necessary in order to accommodate my parents when required.

As we all sat in the living room watching the news, Nadim was sleeping soundly under the staircase, not yet aware of whatever was happening outside.  Occasionally, Carol would go and sleep next to Nadim to get some rest herself.

The clock was approaching three in the morning.  We were all tired but could not sleep since our bedrooms are quite exposed to the street where the tanks were parked.  My parents, who had been sitting in our living room sofas continuously for more than six hours, were getting more and more uncomfortable, sleepy, and restless.  They merely wanted to lie comfortably in their bed upstairs.  I was ceaselessly trying to encourage them to hold on a little longer at least until the break of day before they can go back to their room for only then we could evaluate the situation outside.

Adamantly, and still hearing the heavy shooting outside, my mother said, “I don’t care what will happen.  I just want to go and sleep in my bed.  Whatever happens will happen.”  And she started getting up using her cane.

My father, not very encouraged about this whole move, gave in and, clutching his own cane in the one hand and the arm of the sofa in the other, he slowly but painfully started pulling himself up.

Under the staircase, Carol could not sleep from the too-much shooting and Nadim was waking up every now and then at the sound of sudden heavy shelling close by.  He would cry out loud from the unfamiliar but loud sounds that would disturb his sleep.  Which is quite understandable!!

As for me, well, I had no other option but to join Carol and Nadim under the staircase and maybe—just maybe—get some sleep.  And so I did, but I could not easily sleep as the thoughts in my mind were going at the speed of light. 

I was continuously thinking of the outcome of all that was happening.  Would I live to see the end of it?  And if I did, how was I supposed to manage to take care of us all especially my helpless son and parents.  If we were to run away, where would we go?  Would we be able to leave the house to start with?

My thoughts then went further back.  I started comparing the events of the six-day war of 1967—whose images I had built like pieces of a puzzle from stories I heard from people who lived and saw that war, especially that I was then a little younger than Nadim is now:  too young to remember.  Are these two events, with a gap of 34 years, comparable?  What did people do then?  How and where did they hide?  But then again, the kind of weapons used then was surely different—lighter??!!!—from the one used nowadays!!!

Suddenly I started wondering where the shooting and shelling were directed?  Poor people, I thought: my next-door neighbors of the Azzah refugee camp.  I may have a shelter to protect my family, but they don’t.  How do they manage with all the shelling and shooting especially that the camp is fully exposed to the roofs of both the Intercontinental and the Paradise hotels where Israeli snipers had taken their positions?  What do these people do with their babies and their elderly?  Shells my rebound off the stones clad all around our house, but in the adjacent camp, most of the houses are built of bricks.  How would these bounce off the shells—very highly unlikely—and Oh God what about the casualties?

I must have fallen asleep for a very short while because I thought I was dreaming of very heavy but short shooting, the doorbell ringing, and sounds of people shouting outside (I could definitely hear the distinct voice of a women shouting), only to wake up at the low  but scared voice of Carol telling me that the someone was at the door and that there are cries outside; a sign that someone could have been hurt.  I looked at my watch; it was close to five in the morning.  There was still shooting outside, heavy and very close at times. 

I started wondering who it could be at this time of day.  I was not bothered by the early morning knock as much as I was worried about the foolishness of whoever was outside under this heavy shooting.

“Be careful, please,” Carol pleaded in a whispering voice as I started to get up from under the staircase.  “It could be the Israeli army wanting to occupy the house to make a military post on the roof,” she added.

My heart started pounding and I started thinking very quickly as I headed slowly towards the door.  The ringing increased and the person outside seemed to have lost any patience that could have initially been there.

From the top of the stairs, my mother appeared and asked in a whispering voice, “Who could it be?  Watch through the peep hole before you open, and if in doubt, do not open.”

The pounding of my heart increased as I thought to myself that the person ringing the bell could be a Palestinian militant from the resistant running away from the Israeli army and is looking for a place to hide.  That was not the worry.  The worry was that if spotted entering a house, the Israeli military would not think twice before demolishing the house on the heads of its occupants with the justification that a terrorist (according to the definitions set by the Israelis) is in hiding in that house.

If on the other hand, I decide not to open the door, I would be earmarked as a traitor or turncoat; descriptions that only bring disgrace—if not anything else more serious—to one’s self.  There is a story—of a greater extreme though—of two sisters in the nearby town of Beit-Jala who were killed by Palestinians following the earlier incursion of Israelis back in August.  It is said that the killing was because these two sisters offered tea to the Israeli forces while “stationed” in the town center. 

As I looked through the peephole, I could see a young dark man of not more than forty years of age, standing very close to the door.  He looked frightened as he was looking around him as if hiding from some eminent danger.  He was holding a mobile phone in his hand with which he seemed to be fidgeting in a failed attempt to dial a number without even looking at the numeric pad.  He was dressed in civilian clothes and not armed.  Most important was that he seemed to be all in one piece; there was no sign of injury or blood.  Once relaxed about the person’s overall posture, I slowly opened the door and let the stranger in.

He was still standing in the doorway trying to say something when all of a sudden another young man not more than 20 years of age jumped from behind and, jolting the door with his strong hands, pushed the first stranger in.  I immediately shut the door for I did not know what to expect next.

Looking at them, I realized that they must have seen a ghost.  They were both pale and shaky.  Yet they had no signs of injury.

“Please, call the civil defense immediately,” said the older stranger with a stutter in his voice.

“Why, are you hurt?” I immediately asked, trying to see if there was any blood on them or any indication that they might have been hurt.

“No, but I think the taxi driver… was killed.  I think he is martyred.  He has been shot at,” he responded after a long and fearful pause, as if he did not want to admit what had happened.

“What taxi?  What driver? How was he killed?  Tell me the story!” I ordered as I reached to the cordless phone and dialed 101 requesting an ambulance to go to the designated area where the taxi was.

I then went to the stairs where they both sat and impatiently waited to hear their story, which was straight and simple, but one that cannot be easily comprehended. 

Apparently, a taxi coming from Hebron carrying passengers, namely workers, passed through Bethlehem from the south and headed north towards the Israeli checkpoint linking Bethlehem to Jerusalem.  Half way through, and a less than one kilometer to the south of our house at the main junction of Bethlehem and Beit Jala (known as Bab Al Zeqaq or, if translated, “The Gate of the Alley”), the taxi stopped for another passenger from Bethlehem, who I found out later was the one who rang my doorbell.  Amongst the five passengers in the taxi was one woman.  Obviously, none of those in the taxi—strangely enough, not even the passenger from Bethlehem—had any idea about the Israeli incursions into Bethlehem the night before.  Otherwise, they would be in their homes hiding.

The two young men continued telling their story.  No sooner had the taxi crossed the junction with traffic lights outside our house, continuing north towards Rachel Tomb, a very heavy shower of bullets could be heard.  Inside the taxi, the passengers could hear the noise of shattered glass but they did not know what to make out of it.  Everything happened within seconds.  The taxi kept its pace until one of the passengers noticed that the taxi driver had been hit by one of the bullets that shattered the windshield.  He immediately jumped forward and pulled the hand break bringing the taxi to a halt.  By that time all the passengers were tucked down inside the taxi.  The only exposed person was the driver who was bleeding from his face. 

After a few seconds, the deadly silence that engulfed the taxi and its terrified passengers gave way for the five passengers to sneak out and go into hiding, but without the driver.  And so they did, not knowing the fate of the poor driver.

Retreating a distance of not more than 25 meters from where the taxi stopped and heading to the south on Yasser Arafat Street, the passengers could now enter Moradeh street to the east sparing their lives from the bullets of the snipers that were literally surrounding the area.

Two of the five passengers managed to go into our driveway and seek shelter.  No one knew what happened to the other three.  The driver was still injured in his taxi.

As they finished the story, I felt that one of them was holding his arm as if it hurt him.  When I pulled up his sleeve, there seemed to have been some blood dripping from two places on his arm.

“That is from the shattered glass I suppose”, he said with a smile.

I immediately rushed to the first aid kit and pulled out some alcohol and cotton and cleaned his arm.  His friend also had some injuries in his arms to which I attended too, apparently from the same shattered glass.

Then we all sat in silence looking at each other as we heard occasional shooting.  At times, the shooting was far, then it would get close.  Carol and Nadim were still under the stairs trying to sleep, and my parents were tucked in their bed.  I suppose they were thinking about the irony of spending the last years of their lives the way they were instead of enjoying themselves like all normal elderly people do all over the world.

The hour was almost six thirty.  We were all tired and sleepless.  Then one of my guests noted something that I had not crossed my mind.

“We have not heard the sound of any ambulance since you called them almost an hour and a half ago, right?” he asked.

“I don’t think I heard it.  No!!” I replied hesitantly.  “But I suppose they might want to do rescue the driver without noise for fear they might get shot at”, I continued with a voice full of hope.

“Why don’t you call the civil defense once more and see if they did send the ambulance,” suggested the other guest with a tone of doubt.

I immediately complied and dialed 101 and waited for what seemed like ages.

“Yes, good morning.  My name is Andre Dabdoub and I called you about an hour and a half ago regarding a shot taxi driver at the Murrah junction, and I just wanted to see if there has been any dispatch of an ambulance to the site of the incident.”

“My good citizen, the ambulance was immediately dispatched after your first call.  Since then, the Israeli snipers have shot at it three times and my team cannot seem to reach there.  We are trying very hard, believe me,” the head of the civil defense unit answered desperately.

As I hung up the receiver, I heard voices of people outside the house, mainly coming from the side of the garden that overlooked the street where taxi was parked.  I went to the salon window and saw a group of seven men trying to reach the taxi from our garden since the garden is protected by a northern concrete wall.

If someone manages to pull the driver out of the taxi on to the pavement and into the garden, it would be easy to carry him to any car from Moradeh Street, off Yaser Arafat street.  The only problem is that the one-meter wide pavement between the taxi and our garden wall is fully exposed to snipers’ heavy machine guns.