Update on the Ground
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JIM LEHRER: The Middle East story: Trying to make peace amid death and destruction. We start with two reports from the region, by Jon Snow and Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.
JON SNOW: Dawn over Bethlehem and still the siege — Israeli troops, the only movement. Tanks with their barrels trained on Manger Square; others moving around the perimeter of the Church of the Nativity. A cloud of black smoke after one of the tanks rolled over a parked car. Down the road in Hebron a suicide bomber prematurely detonated himself killing no one but himself. At the nearby cemetery, another Palestinian was being buried in that hour — the victim this time of an Israeli sniper. The Israelis, too, were burying their dead from yesterday’s suicide bomb, including the niece of Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.
In Gaza, as yet uninvaded by the latest Israeli offensive, they were demonstrating for Arafat; but his Ramallah compound is a shambles — his next-door conference room, trashed. Back in Bethlehem, the curfew has lasted every day with only the slightest relief yesterday. Today, it lasted all day.
GEORGINA REEVES, International Solidarity Movement: The shops did have some supplies as they hadn’t been opened. Some of the shops were well stocked but because everybody came out and stripped the shelves there’s now very, very little food available inside Bethlehem even if one can get into the shops.
JON SNOW: We’re about 500 meters back from the Church of the Nativity which is up this street here. This is normally a town of some 30,000 people but now it’s effectively a ghost town, and those people are still here. They haven’t fled. They’re inside buildings like these behind shuttered windows. Yet despite the lockdown, there is still some Palestinian defiance. They shot down an Israeli inflatable spy drone here this afternoon.
LINDSEY HILSUM: As the armor rolled out of Jenin, our team drove in. Even the bulldozers are bullet proof here, designed to demolish houses and tear up the roads. Curfew had been lifted so they were leaving… for a while. People emerged on to the streets. Everyone is being cooped up for nearly a week, even the children. This was their first sight of the destruction the Israeli army has wreaked on their town. The soldiers still won’t let anyone into the refugee camp, which borders Jenin. They used bulldozers to get inside the camp’s narrow streets.
YUSSRA MUSTAFA MSCASCAS, Jenin Resident (Translated): When they burst through the door, I begged the soldiers don’t kill us and I hugged my husband. They told me shut up, sit here and don’t move. Then they took us to a room and started searching inside the house and destroying everything.
LINDSEY HILSUM: The mayor of Jenin was out talking to his committee. The Israelis cut the town’s water supply so he’s trying to get the pumps going again.
LINDSEY HILSUM: “I sent a delegation to see the soldiers,” he said. “But they were just stripped, told there’s no negotiation and sent back with their hands in the air.” Casualties of war: This elderly woman broke her hip running away from the soldiers. Jenin hospital is caring for 17 wounded. There may be many more stranded in the camp. This teenager was brought in this morning. When he heard the curfew had been lifted, he came out to buy food for his family, and was shot. He didn’t say much on camera, but he whispered to our translator, “They succeeded in shooting me with two bullets this time; but when I grow up, I’ll succeed in blowing myself up and killing many, many Israelis.” At the cemetery, there’s no time for proper funerals. They scribble the names of the dead on the paving stones and bury them in multiple graves — seven so far– another ten today. By 1:00, the streets were emptying, the brief respite over. As our team left, Israeli troops in armored vehicles were massing, ready for their return to Jenin.