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Israel makes the war at children
The Kids of Market Street

As I was walking down Market Street on this chilly morning of December, far was I from thinking that, a few minutes later, I would be in the middle of my worst nightmare. So much so, that it took me several months before even being able to recount it.

22 March 2004 | - : Israel Palestine

Intifada (Alaa Badarneh)

Market Street is a narrow street filled with dilapidated small shops, each one holed like having been hail-damaged. The street separates Balata camps into two halves. Lively and inquisitive kids assail foreign visitors with questions, practising the few words of English they have learned: “ What’s your name? Where are you from?"

Women were shopping and were greeting me with a "Assalam Aleykm!" ("Peace be with you") when, out of a sudden, coming out of nowhere, bullets were whizzing over our heads, deafening grenades were exploding all around us. Astoundingly, all these people were thrown into horror, into terror.

The peaceful and quiet street that was Market Street a few seconds earlier, had gone into a dreadful and ghastly place. Small girls running away as fast as their little legs could make them. Boys running towards the iron made monsters that was spitting out blackish smoke, were shouting "Jais ! Jais!". Mothers trying to grasp at least one of them in their run, were screaming "Omar, Ahmed, Raed…" But the kids were deaf to their supplications and were already flying away like fire balls.

Would they had wanted to listen to the women that they were unable to: they yielded under stress of necessity: defend the camp, stand up for their jailed or murdered father, brother, uncle or grand-father was for them the absolute necessity.

They could not refrain from it, they could not help it, they had to go because the pain tormenting them inside had to come out: as if the tanks had brutally stirred it all up.

What was wrong with the soldiers? Were they mad? They were waging war against children: shooting at them like birds. Throwing asphyxiating bombs under the houses. And all of it for no reason whatsoever. Opposite them was not even the shadow of a fighter. Nothing was there to justify of their action against the poor people who had been thrown out of their homes in 1948.

What these barbarians shut down into their mammoth tanks were looking for in a street full of kids such as this one , was as clear as incredible : didn’t the Israelis Air force colonel; Yiftah Sepctor, admit one day, that the soldiers sent to the Palestinian territories were free to kill children ? Had hunting children, with heavy war artillery, using machine-guns against catapults become a normal activity for the occupying army? It looks like it.

Speed up towards them, drive back, slow down, stop…their driving clearly showed that they only wanted to attract the innocent kids in a deadly game…Harass them, provoke them : until the children reach such a state that they could not understand anything anymore and would give themselves up to the Israeli muzzles. A pervert and criminal game between an army and some kids.

And if the eldest were between 12 and 14 and were the main target, younger children of 4 or 5 were not left over. Aiming their weapon, soldiers shouted through speakers: "come on… come on…you son of a bitch…".

Those kids were lost and did not know what they were doing anymore. But the soldiers very well knew what they came for. So, they went on provoking them, spoiling them.

They shot the children, humiliated the parents! In the middle of all that.
In the chaos, there was a Palestinian photographer haunted with the need to immortalise the violence of the powerful inflicted on the powerless. Unmindful of himself, he would take position where danger was the worst.

There too, was an elderly man sitting on his doorstep as if he was staring at nothing, as if he froze to what was occurring before him. At the back, I could notice a coster-monger who was watching his oignons and oranges fall; with the dazed attitude that take the defeated. These man had become their own shadows: ghosts unable to defend the dignity they had left.

A young women dressed with a traditional dark blue gown, with a white scarf covering her head, was sweeping the pavement without looking up at the "jais", as if they were not there. It looked like it was her way of resisting to the violent war : keeping up with her daily tasks, she was showing them that she was in her rights and that whatever they wanted to inflict on her, she would simply stand up to them and would not leave.

There was about 20 kids injured on the middle of the afternoon. At that point, I saw a boy, his head was bleeding and he collapsed unconscious in a pool of dirty water. I immediately understood that the boy who was bending down on him in a fright was his twin brother. In chock, i fell on my knees and cried powerless. Screams of pain rended the air.

Nour Emran
(Marcin Suder)
His name was Nour EMRAN. He had turned 12. He died a few days after in Rafidia’ Hospital [1] and did not come out of coma. His brother had been shot at in the back: enraged he had thrown stones towards the tank and was injured as he was running away.

Under the shots of the soldiers that was targeting the ambulances, the young first-aid had a hard task One of them humbly told me :"This is our life". And seeing my stupefaction, he added :" You did not see nothing yet…they will come back."

When there was no more shots, Market street was not. Children were haggard. In a state of chock, they were looking around, not understanding.

It must be denounced and there is no other way of saying it: shooting at children is murder.

Balata camp is an enormous jail keeping in 35000 prisoners half of which are children. It’s surrounded with hills that settlers and Israeli military camps- that have been set by the State of Israel - deface. From the heights, these illegal occupants dominate the Palestinians. At any time of the day and of the night, they activate their guns, kill civilians, destroy houses. This is unacceptable.

We must protect this people that Israel bully and abuse. We have to go on telling the world about it, this way we might get its attention.

The Palestinians, crushed down, who welcome us wishing us "Assalam Aleikm" are too, entitled to security, peace and justice.

Silvia Cattori

Translated from French by V. Itani

[1The following day, I went to visit Nour, who was in a state of coma, and to the wounded, in company of the photographer Martin Studer who took the annexed photo.

All the versions of this article:
- Les enfants de Market Street