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Live Report from Ramallah

The Israelis Took Over My House

by Maha Sbitani

Yesterday at 5:00am I was awakened by what sounded like huge trucks. When I looked out the window I saw several tanks. A half hour later the Israeli soldiers rang the bell–we did not answer–then I heard them coming up the steps after breaking down the main door. They pounded the door to the house. My husband opened the door and was confronted by huge guns pointed at us. They pushed the door open and distributed themselves throughout our house and office.

Over 50 heavily0armed soldiers were now in the office and home (which are adjacent). We asked what they wanted and they told us to shut up and sit down. I explained that I was American. They said that they did not care what I was. I insisted that they leave the house and told them as an American I protest to what they are doing. They said, "This in no worse than what your country is doing in Afghanistan." I told them to use the steps and the roof if they insisted on staying and to get out of the house and office. They said, "Shut up and sit down, we will do what we want, wherever we want."

I got my passport out and asked for the commanding officer.

The officer said that they are thinking about leaving. When I asked "when," he said "soon". Then this soldiers started ripping the curtains and breaking things. I asked them not to do that and gave them an ashtray to put out their cigarettes instead of the floor. One took the ashtray from me and threw it in the hallway. At that point I realized they were out of control. I went to the phone to call the American Consul. Three soldiers attacked me one pushing one twisting my arm and the other taking the phone away from me.

As I went to the office to get my computer they kept on pushing me, poking me with their guns and telling me to get back in the house. I started screaming at them: "I cannot believe you are doing this. Don’t you realize I am American?"

The commanding officer asked them to leave me alone and gave permission for me to get my laptop. They started laughing and calling me "Bush".

As I was getting my laptop I heard a crashing noise, I ran back to the house and found my husband on the floor with three guns pointed at him. I screamed for the commanding officer, who finally came and pushed them away. The soldiers were everywhere and doing whatever they felt like doing, including urinating on the floor.

I went to the kitchen to get coffee and found olive oil spilled all over the place. They were just being vulgar and uncivilized, and became extremely annoyed when I complained about the barbaric behavior.

The commanding officer took me in my bedroom where four soldiers were sitting and asked me about some buildings. I told him that most of the houses around us are full of children. One said, "Area A has no children".

I kept on trying to make phone calls from different phones only to get more physically abused and have the phones taken away from me and the batteries remained. Then I asked to go to the bathroom and had a mobile in my robe pocket. I called some officials while the soldiers broke in the bathroom and tried to take the phone. Within a half hour, they got a phone order to clear out of the house and office, leaving the places in shambles.

As soon as they left I tried to talk to the Consul General by cellphone, but only reached his voice mail. I left a message informing him of what has taken place. I also called his office and insisted that I talk to him personally. They put me on the phone with the American Citizens Services section, Ms. Victoria Coffineau (Chief of section). She told me I was one of dozens of American citizens making such complaints. The details of the disturbing phone call and response will follow soon to help other Americans in understanding what our offices abroad are about and what we actually get for our tax dollars. And how we allow ourselves to be treated by so called allies.

That number of tanks is growing by the second. I have to get the message to you while I can. I will try to write later. They are trying to kill Yasser Arafat. I can see it from my window.

God help the innocent. And help Americans in seeing the truth.

Maha Sbitani is a Palestinian-American living in Ramallah, next to Yasser Arafat’s compound.