'This is worse than occupation'

Fares Salih il-Ghoul, an 80-year-old Palestinian, talks about 40 years of occupation.

    Il-Ghoul: It's a prison

    But the Israelis came after us. They were conducting house-to-house searches. They stole my clock and a radio and whatever else they could find. I remember I had one Egyptian pound on me and they took that too.

    These were their reconnaissance forces. After staying there for 10 or 15 days, we returned to the Shati Refugee Camp.

    We were forced out of our village, Hirbiya, near the Gaza Strip, in 1948.

    Heavy fire

    My brother and I tried to escape to Jordan through the north of Gaza. We saw the Israelis and tried to hide.

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    We saw a Palestinian fedayeen [fighter] who tried to show us the way out through some forest, where some other people had sought refuge.

    But they began to shoot at us, heavy fire that we were not accustomed to.

    We sought shelter with some peasant women. They surrounded the area looking for us. We went to get some water from nearby Jabaliya, and people were telling us they were looking for us - for anyone that was trying to leave. 

    I was wearing white sandals and a jalabiya (traditional robe). My brother fled to his relatives. In the morning they surrounded us and asked for my documents. I didn't have them. 

    They took us to an open field and they brought someone else there too.  They tied my hands behind my head. There was a group of us. 

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    The person next to me fell down and died. The soldier pushed him with his foot. He said: "Why is he asleep?" I said: "I don't know." And he said: "See what happens if you try to escape - you'll be shot at and die."

    He told the other solider to take me behind a nearby school and shoot us. There was someone there, too. He was already dead. His blood was gathering on the ground. They had shot him just minutes earlier.

    They asked me to confess that I was a resistance fighter, then they shot near me and dragged me off to a detention centre with 50 others. 

    They put us in a meat truck and kept driving around. They had taken some men from the Zeitoun quarter in the old city and shot them just before, two buses full.


    They took us to the same area. But they didn't shoot us. They kept circling with us for three hours. They took us back to downtown Gaza.  I found 500 people there. 

    They surrounded us with guards. There was some Egyptian prisoners with us too. One of the Egyptians began to yell at the Israeli. He was shot immediately.

    The head of the unit asked why he shot him, he lied and said "he tried to escape". So he said "see what happens if you try to escape".

    Soon after, they began issuing "Israeli ID cards", and our population and birth registry all came under their control. We began to require permits to go everywhere. 

    "I said 'no there won't be room for you in 5 years. This is our land'"

    Fares Salih il-Ghoul

    They recorded who was at home at the time of the census and issued ID cards on this basis. If you were out - even on an errand, or for example attending university or working somewhere, you lost your right to the ID card, and thus your right to return to or reside in Palestine. 

    In 1974 they finalised the census; they asked people to bring their birth certificates and so forth. I went to register and gave them the papers they requested.

    The female soldier, her name was Dahlia, looked and asked: "Who are these all for?"

    I had 20 applications - for my entire family. She said: "Why this many?"  I said: "Because we have a chicken farm; we replace every single martyr who dies resisting your occupation."


    She asked me to go in. The soldier in charge said: "What did you tell her?" I said: "That we have a chicken farm."

    He said: "Are you saying there won't be room for us in 10 years?"

    I said: "No there won't be room for you in five years. This is our land."

    Soon after, they began to loot houses. 

    Then they banned the Palestinian flag. They would force old men to go and take it down from electric posts and mosques and beat them with it. 

    After a year or so, they laid siege to our refugee camp. 

    First, they surrounded us and sealed us in with barbed wire. Then they began making rounds with their Jeeps.

    My house was in front of the fence and the camp was besieged for nearly a month.

    Palestinian women outside of the camp would pass bread and food through the fence for the residents. 

    It was really intense and the head of the battalions was there at times.  If they saw someone leave the camp during the siege, or even peep their head outside a window or rooftop, they would shoot at them immediately, beat them, and detain them in front of their family.

    There was no such thing as permission to go outside. The resistance was very weak at the time and after a month or so, they undid the siege but life went on regardless.

    They would go into the houses to terrorise people, shooting as soon as they went in.

    They killed many, many people and would shoot anyone who as much as peered out of their house.

    People were then deported and accused of resisting the occupation.

    Residents were really in bad shape at the end and here we are today, 40 years later, still under occupation.

    Worsening situation

    The situation now is worse than before.

    They closed the prison [Gaza] and took the key with them, and the sea, the air, the borders are all controlled by them.

    If they stayed, it would have been better - at least then the world would acknowledge the situation for what it was - an occupation clear and simple. 

    Now, any minister needs a permit to travel. What kind of government is this? When they want to release some steam and placate the international community, they will only open the border for a few days.

    This is worse than occupation, it's a prison. 

    How many decisions has the UN passed? They have not abided by any, but not one country still dares to open its mouth.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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