A former EA reflects on a military incursion during her time in Jayyus
by Hanna, Jayyus team, Group 48
An early phone call
I just went to bed when the phone rang. I look at my phone clock, it shows 1.40 AM. I hear a familiar voice.
“Hello Hanna, I am sorry for calling so late, but the military is in the village.“
I jump out of the bed and wake up my colleagues. With sleepy eyes we put on our EAPPI-vests and go out into the darkness to meet the Israeli soldiers.
It is quiet when we walk through the village, but now and then someone whispers from a window: “Hey, where are you going? The military is over there.”
We arrive at an alley. Four soldiers are standing in the shadows. I shine the flashlight at my colleague and we talk loudly about everything as if nothing special is happening. We show our presence. We want the soldiers to know we are there.
Inside a house, we see more soldiers. After about 20 minutes they come out and start getting into their jeeps. At that point we approach two soldiers.
Us: Hello! Is there a problem?
Us: Okay, but then why are you here?
Soldier: WHY ARE YOU HERE?
Us: We live here, do you also live here?
Soldier: You live here?! No photos – we will take your cameras!
The jeeps drive away. We talk a little with those who live in the house where the military was. They tell us no one was arrested. Instead, a new officer wants to introduce himself in the village and tell the villagers that this is now his area. He chose to do this at two o’clock in the morning. The family tells us this is normal.
Tear gas in the village
While we are talking, the phone rings. The military has started shooting tear gas.
We hurry to see the military jeeps down in a valley. It is quiet, except the occasional tear gas shots into the village center. We see no stone throwing, but the Israeli soldiers shoot tear gas randomly into residential areas. My colleague walks up to a soldier and asks what is happening. The soldier tells him to back off or he will shoot. We move away and observe as the military continues to shoot tear gas. The officer, accompanied by an entourage of 10 soldiers, continues to enter houses. The tear gas reaches us. It becomes difficult to breathe and tears are falling from our burning eyes.
When the soldiers proceed, we follow. We reach the village center. An elderly man has difficulty breathing. A seven day old baby vomits, eyes filled with tears. We call an ambulance for the baby, but there are still many who are ill from the tear gas, especially children. A friend tells me that the tear gas awoke his family from their sleep and terrified his daughter.
The military presence in the village continues. The soldiers close the main street. We observe them as they post guards outside the villagers’ homes and enter their houses. The officer must introduce himself to more families. By now, no one in the village is still sleeping, even if it is dark and quiet in every house. Everyone wonders, where are the soldiers going next? Will they come here? Or will they go to my cousins or neighbors?
Finally, at 4:10 am, the soldiers leave the village. The villagers hurry into the streets. Some rushing to go to work, others asking if anyone has been arrested. They are happy to hear the answer is no. What a relief! Last time they were here, two young men were arrested.
I stand with my neighbor and his phone rings. “My brother has a snake in his room!” He yells excitedly and runs away. I cannot help but smile that as little as a snake has replaced the fear and the tension of the military incursion.
It is almost 5:00 am when I crawl back into bed. My body is exhausted, but my mind is reeling.
How can I explain this to people at home? I want others to understand what is going on here. But for now I need some sleep, soon I have to get up for work again.
The military incursion described above took place in Jayyus on 21 June 2013.