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Accompanying Ambulances in Bethlehem

Bethlehem: Today I joined twenty internationals in an attempt to accompany a Red Crescent ambulance to get food and medicine to the injured into the Church of the Nativity. Ambulances are going out but not to where they’re desperately needed, such as the nearby refugee camps (Deheishe, Azzeh, Ayda) and Manger Square.

Departing from the main Bethlehem Hospital we encircled the ambulance as it slowly made its way down the street. Signs we carried read, “4th Geneva Convention, Article 3 – The Wounded and The Sick Will Be Collected and Care For,” “Peace” and the Red Cross symbol. We got about 50 yards from the Church before we were confronted by Israeli soldiers and tanks who fired either live ammunition in the air or threw a sound grenade at us.

A tank positioned its turret and gun directly at us. Normally this would not have scared me but recently the Israeli soldiers have been shooting internationals and journalists. I felt very scared at this point. I had to look down at the ground to control my fear. I hope that if the tank fired on us would be quick and painless.

We sent a negotiator who spoke Hebrew down to where the soldiers were to try to get permission for our group to go in o the Church. We were told no one could go in. We were also told by the soldiers that “the injured were being cared for, and food and water were being supplied to those inside the church” – a blatant lie. People inside the church have said that Palestinian resistance fighters did come in but they agreed to put their guns down when they were in the church.

After several more attempts at convincing the soldiers to let us into the church and then being denied, we retreated. As we retreated we began giving out food to families along the streets we were on. One father came out and said, “On Easter instead of my children finding Easter eggs in the yard they found bombs.” We saw very few Palestinians anywhere, only an occasional brave soul risking a peak out of their window or door.

About three blocks from our hotel we began to encounter Israeli jeeps and tanks riding past us. We heard through several journalists that the road to our hotel was completely blocked off by the Israelis. We sat waiting for about 20 minutes until we saw a convoy of tanks and bulldozers moving away from the direction of our hotel. We began walking towards our hotel. Near the Baba Skak intersection I saw Dan Rather talking to a TV crew.

I wanted to run over tom him and shake him by his shoulders, pleading him to portray this conflict accurately. Instead I held up my sign to get the TV crews attention. The crew came over to me and filmed me and my sign (“4Th Geneva Convention, Article 3 – The Wounded and The Sick Will Be Collected and Care For”). I feel I must work diligently for every bit of TV coverage I can get.

We made it back to the hotel as the never ending sound of gunfire exploded around us.

Beth Daoud is one of four Coloradans currently in Palestine as part of a larger international presence acting as human shields in Palestinians refugee camps, accompanying ambulances and getting the word out to the world. More of their experience can be found at http://www.ccmep.org/palestine.html

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