Photo: AP
Scene from Beit Hanoun street
Photo: AP
Photo: Reuters
Children in Beit Hanoun lamenting loss of relative
Photo: Reuters
Photo: AP
Masked Fatah activist
Photo: AP

Beit Hanoun: Women act as human shields

Gaza Strip town under siege for five days now as part of Operation Autumn Clouds. All access roads blocked. Men leaving city accompanied by women who act as their 'human shields.' Residents report severe humanitarian crisis. UNRWA: IDF not allowing food and water into Gaza Strip. IDF denies reports

GAZA - On the way from Erez Crossing to Gaza City is the town of Beit Hanoun. Entrance to the town has been blocked for five days already, since the beginning of the IDF's Operation Autumn Clouds. All access roads look the same – a sand roadblock, and behind it, and IDF tank. Behind the sealed entrances, the incessant sound of heavy shooting is pervasive.


Two Palestinians were killed there Sunday, and since Wednesday, 48 have been killed. United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reported that in the last two days, the IDF hasn't allowed any water or food to enter the town.


A group of men and youth make their way out of Beit Hanoun. About ten women and young girls accompany the men.


The men were released a few minutes prior from the yard of the agricultural college. The IDF gathers all the boys and men of the town in the college. There, they are investigated and then either released or sent to jail in Israel for further investigation.

Injured man evacuated from Beit Hanoun (Photo: Reuters)


Hamed Abu Arbeed and another six or seven men and boys were allowed to leave the college and the town. The town's women escort them on their way out.


The townspeople are well-aware of the "brave role" the women play in the battle. "We are their human shield and our role is to ensure that the IDF doesn't harm these youngsters on their way out," tells one of the women. "The Israelis always say they make mistakes and unintentionally kill, but they shoot in order to kill. Many men and boys have been killed this way."


The women's friend says that in Beit Hanoun there is no water, electricity, or milk to feed the children. "People are already pumping the dirty rain water full of mud and trash, but they don't have a choice. They have to drink," she recounts. The women swear not to break under the pressure and to continue supporting the men and gunmen.


One of the boys said that the soldiers operating in the town are exhausted. "Soldiers entered our home and they immediately laid down on the sofas and on the floor with their equipment and shoes," he said.


One boy told that the spokesman of Hamas' military arm Abu Ubaidah, one of the stays of the current fight, said in a radio interview that an IDF officer operating in the area called him up and asked him to instruct his people to stop the fire.


'Proud of the mujahadeen and won't surrender'

Hamed Abu-Arbeed was released from the agricultural college in the town. His brother, an activist in Hamas' military wing, was killed in the current operation after an IDF drone fired a missile at him. His cousin, a civilian, was killed after being injured by a shell that hit his house.


The women ask if they can turn back. After the men nod their consent and thank them for their help, I continue with Hamed and the other men to a safe haven a few hundred meters from Beit Hanoun.


"We are proud of the mujahadeen and we won't surrender. The fighters inside are putting up an amazing resistance. Israel's operation has failed. It has failed because the firing of rockets is continuing inside and outside of Beit Hanoun. Between the airplanes, the helicopters, and the tanks, the fighters are firing rockets," said Hamed.


He says that what is going on in the town if very similar to the fighting that occurred in the Jenin refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield.


"Soldiers are going from house to house. Bulldozers are rolling over houses. But this hasn't hindered gunmen from evading the siege impose on them and fighting from an area that is much more comfortable for them. One hundred and thirty fighters succeeded in evading a very harsh siege and this is a victory for the Palestinian resistance," explained Hamed.


Hamed recounts that residents of Beit Hanoun didn't see soldiers during the operation except for those searching houses.


"In terms of the soldiers taking part in the war, we didn't see them. We saw tanks, bulldozers, and helicopters. We saw, in effect, a war machine and not fighters because the Israeli army is a coward. The entire goal of the operation is to topple our elected government and to punish the Palestinian people for its decision (to elect Hamas)," he asserted.


Hamed doesn't place responsibility for the operation on the Palestinian gunmen who fire rockets at Israel and claims that Israel is using the rocket firing as an excuse to hurt the Palestinian people.


IDF: There is good humanitarian cooperation

The IDF says that reports of the civilian death toll are exaggerated, but young boys in the field gather to point out that here a brother was killed, there a father. "They are shooting all the time. The situation is crappy," said one of the boys.


The IDF reported in response to claims of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, "In the past days, hundreds of trucks carrying foodstuffs, basic necessities, and medical equipment have been transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip. Among other things, 42 thousand kilograms (92,400 pounds) of flour have been transferred."


Head of the Coordination and Liaison Administration Colonel Nir Peres said in a conversation with Ynet that the IDF coordinates humanitarian aid operations with the Palestinians.


Peres said that the military allows Palestinians to repair electricity outages in the hospital in Beit Hanoun and allows entrance to ambulances to evacuate injured. He claims that, despite the extent of the operation, the Palestinians themselves have expressed their satisfaction with the level of cooperation.


Peres said that the ambulances can leave Beit Hanoun freely to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. According to him, the IDF also allows water and food to enter the Gaza Strip. Peres also emphasizes that despite the tension during the holiday last week, dozens of trucks carrying food, gifts, and sweets were allowed entry.


פרסום ראשון: 11.05.06, 22:53
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