PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Western activists stay in Gaza to "bear witness"

Activists from the pro-Palestinian non-governmental organisation ISM are providing their accounts of the ongoing conflict from inside the Gaza Strip. Here's one of them, along with photos.

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Activists from the pro-Palestinian non-governmental organisation ISM are providing their accounts of the ongoing conflict from inside the Gaza Strip. Here's one of them, along with photos.

There are currently ten members of the International Solidarity Movement(ISM) in the Gaza Strip. Their objective: "to fight Israeli oppression". Their belief: non-violent resistance. They come from Canada, Australia, Spain and the UK "to bear witness" and in the hope that their presence might dissuade the Israeli army from attacking. A few months ago, they accompanied Gaza fishermen working under the constraints imposed by the Israeli navy. These days, during Israel's operation "Cast Lead", they follow Red Cross paramedics as they evacuate Palestinian families. Though 400 foreigners were allowed to leave the Gaza Strip on 2 January, members of the ISM refuse to abscond.

The Anti-Defamation League, a US-based group that combats anti-Semitism, says that the ISM met Hamas in August, was in contact with suicide bombers, and helped to hide members of the terrorist organisation Islamic Jihad. There's even an American website called "Stop ISM" which condemns the NGO for "propaganda". ISM however refutes any link with terrorist organisations, although they don't deny the possibility of having been in contact with people close to Hamas "unknowingly".

Sharon Lock, an Australian activist, is one of the ISM members. View her account and photos.

"We thought the situation couldn't get any worse. In fact, it gets worse every day"

Sharon Lock is a volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement. She's been blogging from the Gaza Strip since she arrived there on the "Free Gaza" boat in August.

On Monday night we rode with the Red Cross ambulance. Along with the other ISM members we thought that our presence might stop Israel from targeting the service.

 

So far, nobody's been killed while we've been on board. However, five doctors were killed on Tuesday. One of them was Arafa, whom we know. He was putting someone injured and a dead body in the ambulance, and just as he was closing the door, he was hit by a shell. He died two hours later. He had five kids... it's terrible, but this kind of thing is happening every day. The same night, we evacuated a family with several young children. They were ok but they'd been through three nights of violent attacks. There was nothing left of their home. We took them to the hospital and gave them a room. But afterwards, they've got nowhere to go.

Since yesterday, everyone's gone into shock over something else: several schools where families were sheltering were targeted, and attacked. Over forty are dead. They thought they were safe there. And it was the Israelis who called their homes, to tell them to go to these schools. Other families are staying in basements. And you see others in the street, who've fled with their belongings.

Around 400 [foreign workers] have left Gaza, and we could have gone too. But we decided to stay, to bear witness and give our own accounts of events. We believe that people are safer if we're here. We hope that Israel will be more worried if we stay... For now, we don't really have a plan. Some of the ISM members want to go to Jabalia, others are scared to sleep in schools. But in this situation, it's hard to know what to do."