Eyewitness The Attack on Balata
March 2, 2002 The Palestine Monitor
After 12 sleepless days and nights the man in his 20s,
Nidal, his wife Najwa, who is a nurse, and their three
children were used to living with fear. The three-storied
house in which they live with members of their extended
family is in the Balata refugee camp, home to 20,000
For about two weeks now the camp has been subjected to
nightly shelling from Israeli tanks that surround the camp.
Nidal and Najwa, their twin 5 year olds and their
one-year-old baby have grown used to the nightly terror;
constantly afraid they and the hundreds of other families
have adjusted to the reality of the Israeli aggression
against their homes and lives.
However on the evening of the 27th of February things
went from bad to worse. "At around midnight" Nidal relates,
"the Israeli attack began".
"Laser beams and other lighting was used to provide a
good view of the camp so that what sounded like many, many
tanks could enter. Then they began to shell. They hit the
main electricity generator of the camp first and the camp
went into total darkness. All electricity disappeared, and
the children went wild. Grandmother who suffers from
hypertension got a heavy bout - 180/90, as Najwa is a nurse
she could check.
Heavy shelling and fighting continued throughout the
night, becoming worse when the Israeli soldiers tried to
enter the rest of the camp. The resistance was very strong,
so they did not enter until the morning. The children
eventually slept while we held them. When they woke up to go
to their nursery they were of course terrified as the sounds
of the shelling and shooting was deafening and seemed to
come from every direction, adding to the fear and panic...
and what can you answer your five year old son when he cries
why are they shooting? Dad I hear shelling... Dad here is a
plane and so on.
No adults slept that night... we all stayed up with the
sounds of tanks.... You could hear the screams and cries of
children all over the camp, from the moment the electricity
went out until first light... how could we sleep?"
During the invasions of Balata and Jenin refugee camps at
least 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 150 were
It was at this point, on the morning of the
28th that helicopters were brought in and shelled
various parts of the camp. Nidal continued "it was very bad
when the air force moved in full force and began shelling
houses indiscriminately, leading to the injury of many,
including women and children. In one shelling alone about 50
people were injured with one missile. These people who were
injured were doing nothing -- they were just standing or
sitting inside their homes. They were shelled with no regard
to who is being shelled or for what purpose."
The wounded were carried out to ambulances that the
Israeli army forbade from entering the camp; these delays of
essential medical care certainly leading to more
At this point it was discovered that an Israeli Special
Units group of soldiers had succeeded in entering the UNRWA
preparatory school inside the camp. There were rumours that
the 14 soldiers were trapped in the school by Palestinians
and were unable to leave.
"A plane came in and shelled every part of the camp, not
only in the vicinity of the school. This raised the injury
level to more than 100; once again civilians and many women
and children, and even some first aid ambulance personnel
It was some time in the evening that the Israeli army
moved from the eastern part of Balata and began to move into
"They would knock on the door of one house, and after a
few seconds there would be an explosion at the door so they
could enter. After entering they would either put all
members of the family in one room and lock it, or would
force everyone, irrespective of age, into the street. They
would then search the house -- some people have reported
stealing, the destruction of furniture and the breaking of
computers, televisions and glass. When they had finished in
one house they would tear down the back wall connecting that
house to the next -- either using explosives or other
equipment they have... and so on. It is unbelievable... they
just kept tearing down walls, one after the other, house
after house, like a game of dominoes.
My wife Najwa was in the clinic, helping the injured and
taking care of the dead -- she has not slept for 48 hours.
The children remained with their grandmother; I managed to
flee our house with difficulty, great difficulty. So our
family is dispersed. I heard through the grapevine that the
soldiers are in our house, but I cannot get in touch with my
family as the phone lines have been cut. I have no idea
about my children or my mother.
I did hear that Najwa tried to get home to breastfeed the
baby but she was not allowed; despite the fact she is a
nurse she wasn't allowed to approach the house. They are not
allowing anyone to leave the house either. I am where I am,
and the children where they are and none of us know what is
happening to the other members of our family.
I also heard they continue to play dominos with the
houses. The total number of homes destroyed so far is not
less than 300, and it continues until now. Perhaps my house
is next? We just do not know....
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298 5372, or see www.palestinemonitor.org